The Tool You Need
Clamps (not nipple)

When my father was alive,  he would always buy me and my 2 sisters something odd for Christmas.   Not odd in the sense that it was really strange, like a mummified otter tail, but odd in the sense that no other father would buy these things for his daughters.

One year we all got the What-A-Saw.  An “as seen on TV” saw that I still  use to cut down our Christmas tree today.  I love my What-A-Saw.  The year after that it was a small machine that when you plugged it into your car lighter it would become an air compressor to fix a flat tire.   Skip to the next year … a chisel set.  Another year it was a device that suctions onto your counter and cores and peels apples.

You may be noticing a theme here.  Tools.  We always got odd tools.  They may not have been what every little girl wanted but I loved getting them.  I still have and use every single tool he gave me (aside from the apple peeler which quite frankly, didn’t work very well).

But without a doubt, the most useful tool my father gave us were a set of hand clamps.  And if you do not own them you must go buy a pair right now.  At the very least put them on your Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza/Just Got Outta Jail/Birthday list.

Here are just a few ways I’ve used these delightful clamps.  Yes.  I did describe clamps as delightful.d

Array of Clamps


Holding wood together after gluing it.

Chair clamp


Clamping curtain pleats in place.  I washed my curtains and hung them up wet with clamps to help hold their pleats in place as they dried.

Curtains Clamp


Clamping a straight edge of wood in place to create a makeshift table saw.

Straight Edge clamp


Holding the ends of wood while you’re cutting it to stop the wood from hanging down and therefore binding the sawblade.

wood clamp 2


Setting up my tomato press I had to clamp a 2×4 onto a table.  Worked like a charm.



Used it to hold wood in place, when I needed an extra hand while hammering.

wood clamp


You might do NONE of these things I mentioned, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find delight and usefulness in hand clamps.  You may just use them differently.

But I’m telling you right here, right now that if you don’t own a set of hand clamps your life has been a pitiful shadow of what it could have been thus far. The automatic apple peeler/corer?  Meh.  That you can probably do without.


  1. tricia rose says:

    ‘Makeshift’ table saw Karen? You wound me, I always thought it an honorable hack.

    I like your dad. I lugged my grandfather’s tools all the way to Australia for my brother who asked for them. My sister wanted his books, I swear my hand luggage weighed fifty kilos.

  2. Liz S. says:

    Hand clamps are great! Much easier than getting the fella off of the couch to come hold something for you. Then the fella complains about missing the game, complains about having the get up, complains about having to help, then tells you that you’re doing it all wrong! Arg!

  3. Lisa says:

    My dad does the same thing! Last year I got a socket set. Oh, and every year, he gives us batteries for our smoke detectors.

  4. I use mine (yup, I have those same exact clamps) to hold my plein air umbrella to my easel when painting outdoors. I also use it to hold my palette to my setup and as a counterweight when holding a palette so it balances nicely. Also great for clamping a board to an easel if it is too small to fit in the usual way. Every artist needs some of these! By the way, I have TWO apple/peeler/corer/slicers and lover them – one doesn’t peel so well, but I still use it (have had it for eons) and I couldn’t resist buying what looked like a brand new one at Goodwill – still haven’t tried that one :)

  5. Cheryl in Wisconsin says:

    Firstly, I am proud to announce that I have a fairly impressive collection of clamps, all self-purchased. Those, and bungee cords. I love me a good bungee cord.

    Secondly, I just want to comment that your father’s gifts are shining examples of the most valuable thing a father can offer his daughter, and that is a sense of self-sufficiency, and the tools (tangible or just good instruction) to be that way. Priceless. I was lucky enough to have a father with the same tactics. Growing up, I always felt sorry for my girlfriends whose fathers felt they were too delicate to learn basic mechanics & maintenance. Over the years I’ve watched them struggle because of it.

  6. Sharon North says:

    Picture #5. Thanks for the tip! I hadn’t thought of that one.

  7. Pat says:

    Clamps…my “fella’ swears by them, too. I love my apple corer/peeler especially when I am doing a large pan of apple crisp using freshly picked, crisp apples. I know that the peeler/corer is not great for apples once they become less than crisp. However, it sure beats peeling when you have some arthritis in the aging hands.

  8. Lori F says:

    Clamps are essential for all kinds of projects! And they’re kind of cute, too.
    We have the apple corer/peeler and it works great! Ours was from Wm Sonoma and less than $35. We use it all the time!!

  9. Rebecca says:

    My husband got me a set of fancy clamps a few years ago for Christmas (he’s a real romantic) and it’s actually become a joke how useless they are. They are always just a smidge too small or they won’t fit into the spot I need them in. Maybe I need a new set.

  10. cred says:

    My parents always give practical gifts and I love it. One year I got a car battery charger and another an extension ladder. Once we started driving we would get gasline anti-freeze or lock de-icer in our stockings and windshield washer fluid nicely wrapped from Santa or Jack Frost or something else that my mother would find amusing.
    I wish I could credit this to my dad since my practical mother always does the shopping. I just love the idea that a father, not knowing what to buy a girl, would choose something better suited to give his buddy- yet in the end, the odd gifts suited his daughters perfectly.

  11. Ann Roberts says:

    I totally believe with a good set of C clamps, you can do almost anything without an extra person around. I just finished my chicken coop and the only time I needed help from my husband was to cover the run with chicken wire. And to tell you the truth, could have done that without him if I was thinking straight. I now want some pipe clamps that would cover longer distances. My wants now a days are a far cry from in my younger days. Then I wanted jewelry. Now I want tools! And jewelry!

  12. Hi Karen,
    Any advice on what type of clamps to get? Some just don’t seem to work as well as others. Some are too weak, some are too strong and hard to open for us wimpy types.
    OH and thank for the pics of how to use. Great for those of us with little hands on experience! I will likely use your table saw idea for something sometime. Never thought wood would bend and wreck the angle of the cut. No wonder my projects are always drunk looking.

  13. Claudia says:

    My dad gave me a hammer as a gift. He come to my house with it and he was so happy and proud of his present like it was an expensive perfum or so. I do use that hammer all the time, of course, and I remember him every time I hammer a nail. I think it was practical and non conventional, a lifetime gift. And I have the same hand clamps as you, Karen, very useful, I agree. Greetings from Argentina!

  14. Hillary Hart says:

    My father gave me clamps, too. Thought it a bit odd at the time. Turned out it was a brilliant gift!

  15. Brenda says:

    Oh yes clamps are so handy..I am the Queen of clamps, spring, quick release, pipe and the wooden screw types… workshop wall is dedicated to them.
    I also have 2 like yours in the house that keep the dog and cat kibble bags tightly closed in the bin……keeps it fresh. LOL

  16. Kim says:

    Yes, I wish I had some of those clamps right now. I need to fix the back of one of my dining chairs and one of the kitchen cupboard doors sure could use a bit of glue and a clamp as well. Sounds like your Dad is cool. I had to buy all of my tools after I was out on my own. Take care.


  17. Sue says:

    I love clamps. Bought a tiny set to use as weights to hold down our clear plastic that we cover our cookies with at the market… I now use one to hold our ripped sign with..and another the hold all my bungee cords together! Love my clamps! … Ever been to the St. Jacob’s market? If not we’ll have to go! The apple fritter ladies have an apple peeler to kill for and couldn’t do without it! They must make 2 million apple fritters in a day there! Mine’s in the cupboard! :-)

    • Karen says:

      Sue – I have been to the St. Jacob’s market but not for YEARS. And I’ve only been once. Definitely never noticed the apple fritter ladies! :) ~ karen

  18. Ah, Karen, have you ever found a good apple peeler? We have sooo many apples this year, and I was going to buy one today. Now I’m not so sure…

    Hand clamps, definitely on my Christmas list though.

    • Susan says:

      I recently bought this apple peeler which has a clamp base, instead of a suction base. I clamp it on the pull-out cutting board. It peels off just the skin, at the setting ours arrived from the factory, and I do mean just the skin. There’s virtually no apple pulp on the skin. We were amazed. We couldn’t be happier with it. We now frequently make apple cobbler, apple pie, apple muffins and just about anything else you can make with an apple, now that it’s apple season.

  19. Lucy says:

    Our fathers may be brothers. My tool chest is stocked with gifts from Dad, everything from hammers (there are different ones for different jobs, you know), several sizes & types of screwdrivers, a circular saw, hand & electric drills (I’ve since bought a cordless one for the collection), hand saws, planes, pry bars, sanders & sandpaper, saw horses, a miter box (pre-compound miter saws), several sizes of levels (our personal favorite tools), plumb bobs, etc., etc., AND clamps (also in several configurations). Aren’t dads wonderful? Oddly, my 5 brothers didn’t have any interest in such things, but I could spend hours pounding nails into an old 2×4 while I waited for him to come up with a project we could do. By the time he died 7 years ago, I didn’t need to inherit any of his tools because he’d already bought me so many. I did ask for his old tool box, though. I think of him every time I pull out any kind of tool. Thanks for sparking the memories.

  20. Jen says:

    Now I’m curious….where do you keep your tools? Do you have your own tool box…..station…..shelf? Or do you and the fella just share all the tools?

    PS. Adding “clamps (not nipple) ” to my Christmas list.

  21. cheri says:

    My mom bought all our presents. I bet if my dad had done it, he would have given us tools, too. And if he was alive today, he’d be proud of how many I can use. Yea Dads!!!

  22. Angela says:

    We had an apple peeler/corer/slicer back in the day and it worked pretty well, as long as the apples were crispy.

    And I LOVE clamps! My favorite aisle in Home Depot/Lowe’s is the clamp aisle! Your dad sounds like he was pretty darn awesome!

    My mom gives us cheapo random gifts that she buys on clearance at Wal-Mart the year before, like an emergency kit for the car and a remote control holder. John’s dad also gives us random gifts, and we have found them surprisingly helpful! The change counter currently has over $140 (US) in it and the solar gadget charger came in handy when we lost power after the earthquake.

  23. Kris says:

    I love the hand clamps. Need to get some for hubby this Christmas.

    The apple peeler, I loved it but now I need to get another since it’s gone. Beats me trying to peel the apple and losing so much of the fruit (yes, I’m a clumsy peeler…lol).

    What great gifts your Dad used to give.

  24. itchbay says:

    Funny you should “meh” the apple corer/peeler, as we just got back from a visit with the in-laws, and the SIL/BIL just had to go get one to keep at the MIL’s house, so they could make applesauce.

    I was curious about how it worked and whether it might be a good investment for me with all my pears, but after seeing it in action, I’m not so sure.

    Clamps rock, though.

  25. Steph says:

    Your Dad rocks!

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