Lightweight Miter Clamps
Preassemble trim with cam-action miter clamps for strong joints from VACPAD. Lightweight and plastic, these clamps are easier to use on location.
When I’m installing trim on one of my projects, sometimes I like to preassemble the casing for doors and windows on a worktable and then install the trim as a single unit. In these cases, I often strengthen the joints with the help of biscuits and hold them together with miter clamps until the glue dries. I own and have used both simple and inexpensive spring clamps as well as spendy, hefty metal cam-action miter clamps. Cam-action clamps hold on to the two pieces of material that make up a 90° miter with sharp pins. Turning a cam pushes out one of the jaws, which squeezes the miter closed.
I recently purchased another set of cam-action miter clamps called VACPAD, which were designed and manufactured by Dino Kouros, a finish carpenter/inventor in Chicago. VACPAD clamps are made out of plastic, which has a few advantages, especially when I’m working on location rather than in my shop. They are much lighter than my other metal clamps, which is nice if I have a limited work surface and need to stow them in my pouch as I install them. When working with softer wood, they are less likely to mar the surface. And I don’t have to worry about them getting rusty or corroded after being stored for long periods in unconditioned spaces.
The pins on the VACPAD clamps are actually the tips of GRK trim screws, which means they can easily be removed or replaced quickly without any specialized tools. The pins are offset to the edge of the jaws, so when working with narrower material, the pins will be positioned closer to the work surface. Flipping the miters over allows you to work with thicker material. These miter clamps are designed to handle material from 1⁄2 in. to 1-1⁄8 in. thick and up to 3-1⁄2 in. wide. It feels like these miters don’t apply as much force as my metal clamps, but I have never had any problems because of that. And for nearly half the price of my metal clamps, I’ve been more than happy with their performance. A set of four clamps costs $160.
—Brian Campbell, a carpenter in Minneapolis
Photos courtesy of the manufacturer. This article originally appeared as “Miters Made Easy” in the print edition.