Like an Extra Set of Hands
Keeping parts square to each other during assembly is critical, and the industry has developed a range of machines and hand tools that can help a shop do that.
When it comes to clamping up cabinet doors and drawers, Doucet Machineries (doucetinc.com) offers one of the widest selections of equipment for both high production and small custom shops. Doucet makes separate rotating clamp racks for cope and stick, mitered and mortise and tenon joinery. The rotating racks allow a woodworker to assemble one or two doors, then rotate them out of the way and assemble the next couple. The racks come in various configurations with up to eight ‘arms’, so by the time a shop has filled them all and rotated them a full circle, the first ones are cured and ready to be removed. Doucet also makes single (non-rotating) clamps for smaller shops, and a very safe, simple drawer assembly clamp that has double action air cylinders. It supports the drawer bottom and is ideal for assembling half-blind dovetailed drawers.
For large production runs, Global Sales Group (globalsalesgroupllc.com) carries a full range of the new Castaly 8, 16, 20, 30 and 40 semi-automatic clamp carriers, along with Castaly’s 12-, 16-, 20- and 30-section automatic machines. These can be used to assemble edge-glued panels, doors and other furniture parts. Global also carries Dotul clamp racks, ranging from a unit with eight manual clamps for custom work to 8’ and 10’ adjustable platen stile presses.
Akins Machinery (gannomat-akins.com), part of Wurth Baer, offers three models of Gannomat case clamps to fit various production requirements. These machines feature an adjustable pressing force and plenty of options.
Hermance Machine Co. (hermance.com), another division of Wurth Baer, also carries the Dotul line, along with Uhling, Gannomat and Italpresse case clamps. The Italpresse SP/1-A is an automatic through-feed case clamp with a motorized conveyor belt that allows automatic loading and unloading. The operator can view cabinet dimensions through an electronic readout and the machine offers adjustable pneumatic clamping, speed and pressure. It can be used in manual, semi-automatic and automatic modes.
Biesse (biesse.com) makes the Cosmo, a self-adjusting electro-mechanical clamp. It’s essentially a large box with two moving interior walls (one vertical, the other horizontal) that are made up of fingers that can by-pass each other. It’s a plug-and-play solution, with no programming required other than setting the duration of the clamping time. It’s not a huge machine and it assembles one part at a time, but the operator can perform other tasks while it’s engaged and be assured that the box, drawer, or cabinet is perfectly square as the glue cures. It can handle assemblies up to 98” wide and 51” long.
Turning the tables
Castle USA (castleusa.com) makes a face frame assembly tables. They come in 4’ x 8’ and 4’ x 12’ sizes and have quick clamps with center-mounted switching for easy access from both sides.
Ritter Machinery (rittermachinery.com), part of the Choice Machinery Group, makes 5’ x 12’ and 6’ x 12’ face frame and door assembly tables. They each have five adjustable hold-down cylinders on a single arm, and they’re available with additional arms, or with fewer cylinders. Ritter also makes 4’ x 8’ and 3’ x 6’ raised panel clamping tables.
Soukup America (soukupamerica.com) offers Robust hydraulic frame presses for assemblies that require precision corner squaring. The company’s FP series are electrically powered hydraulic frame presses for assembling and gluing parts with either open or closed tenon joints.
One of the oldest and most familiar names in this field, JLT Clamps (jamesltaylor.com), offers seven families of manual clamping tables for assembling face frames, edge-glued laminations, stile-and-rail cabinet doors, mitered doors, drawers, and more.
Rangate (rangate.com) carries six models of the Barth Multipress that run the gamut from a basic frame with three rack-and-pinion clamps to the large RPG L25 press with a perforated backplate that accepts differently shaped assemblies.
Martin Woodworking Machines (martin-usa.com) in Charlotte, N.C. also carries the Barth line, along with Gannomat and several other leading European machinery brands such as Martin, Robland, Bi-Matic, Weber, Aigner and Al-Ko.
Martin’s Woodworking Machinery (mwmachineryny.com) in Dundee, N.Y. carries a full line of JLT clamps plus Framemaster and Ritter assembly machines and the Northtech Drawer Box Clamp. This device has a fixed left side and a manually adjustable right-side clamp. It can handle drawers up to 10” x 25” x 40”.
SCM Group North America (scmgroup.com) carries Action assembly machines for cabinets, doors, furniture, and windows. The introductory unit, the Action E electro-mechanical cabinet clamp, is designed for assembling cabinets. This semi-automatic machine is suitable for shops with low productive volumes (up to 30 cabinets/shift). At the other end of the line, the massive Action H is a hydraulic clamp for high-volume producers of doors with frequent size changes.
Stiles Machinery (stilesmachinery.com) offers three models of American-made Uhling case clamps. The HP2000 is compact with a clamping capacity of 50″ x 42″ x 24″, and it can also be used as a drawer clamp. The HP 3000 offers a clamping capacity of 55″ x 96″ x 24″, large enough for multiple unit clamping. The HP 4000 offers fast manual positioning and a clamping capacity of 100″ x 50″ x 24″.
When it comes to assembling one cabinet at a time or holding a couple of cases together during an install, there are several smaller clamps and systems that can help. For example, Bessey Tools North America (besseytools.com) has one-angle and miter clamps, which can be operated with a single hand, and a handy cabinetry clamp for face frames.
The Lee Valley Tools’ catalog (leevalley.com) includes right-angle assembly clamps for miters and butt joints, plus clamping squares that are used to hold drawer and cabinet parts at 90 degrees to each other during assembly.
Sjobergs (sjobergs.se/en) is known primarily for workbenches, but the company also offers hold fasts, bench dogs and the Smart Vise, all of which help secure parts during assembly.
Woodcraft Supply (woodcraft.com) carries specialized assembly tools, including WoodRiver corner band clamps, spring miter clamps, clamping squares, and the Miter Max Corner Clamp, an outside corner clamp that was developed for installing door and window casing.
Woodstock International (woodstockint.com) stocks a twin-screw miter clamp with a push-button system for adjusting the clamp heads.
Out on the jobsite, the Centipede series of portable workbenches from Bora Tool (boratool.com) can support large workpieces and even countertops. There are also folding tabletops in this system that have a complete dog hole grid, so even unusually shaped parts can be held securely during assembly.
Kreg Tool (kregtool.com) has the Mobile Project Center, billed as a workbench, sawhorse, assembly table and clamping station all in one. A built-in T-track and included bench clamp (that features the company’s Automaxx auto-adjust technology) provide multiple ways to hold workpieces.
And Rockler Woodworking & Hardware (rockler.com) has several proprietary products specifically designed to make assembly a little easier. They include the Clamp-It cabinetmaker’s bundle (a selection of specialty clamps), four-packs of Clamp-It Clips that slip over the outside corners of a frame and keep things aligned during assembly, and the company’s new Small Corner Clamping Jig that can hold thin parts at a precise angle while glue cures or keep a joint tight while the woodworker installs fasteners.
With all those machines and tools available, it’s no wonder woodworkers are known for being square.
This article was originally published in the June 2022 issue.