Quick Clamps For Paulk Workbench Or MFT Table

After making my modified Paulk workbench and making changes to it again to add clamping holes I received a ton of recommendations on how to modify different kind of clamps to make them easier to use on the bench. There really are a lot of options for this setup.

When I initially drilled the holes in the top I modified a few inexpensive Harbor Freight clamps so that the head of the clamp was removable. This would allow the clamp head to be reattached from below and pinned in place with a nail. The main reason I went with this route was because I wanted to work with what I had on hand and I also wanted to present another idea that I had not previously seen.

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It works well while in use but as I used the system more and more I thought it would be beneficial to try another approach that yielded less frustration. There are two objectives with this clamp. Number one is to have a clamp that is easy to use. That’s the whole reason why I’m going to use a different style clamp. And number two is to still be able to use the 3/4” holes in my table top. 3/4” is the maximum size I want in the work surface so I don’t run into any problems with items falling in the holes. So I decided to use an old set of Irwin Quick Clamps as my starting point. These have been used and abused in my shop over the past few years so I’m OK with buying another set to replace them for normal use.

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Step one is to remove the stationary clamp head on the bar. This is all hard plastic with no metal fasteners so I used my heat gun to warm it up enough to make it soft. From there I broke the head off with a hammer. The remaining piece stuck on the bar was removed with a hammer and a nail punch. It’s best to not heat the plastic up too much. You just want it to release from the bar, not melt.

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With both bars completely free from the clamps I used my hand held angle grinder to cut a piece off each bar at 45 degrees. The length of bar removed was equal to the distance from the end of the movable clamping head to the bar when it is installed. Looking back on this I think the 45 degree angle isn’t necessary as you could just as easily make a 90 degree corner without using a mitered joint.

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I used my angle grinder to clean up the corners to make a 90 degree angle. To hold them in place while I get the first tack weld completed I used a metal clamp to secure them to my metal vise. You can see in this image the straight clamping head of the metal clamp I used. This was a previous attempt at grinding away material on a welding clamp to see if it would work with this workbench. That didn’t work out as planned though due to the thickness of material at the bend.

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I ended up laying down a lot of weld on these joints. Not only to make sure the weld penetrated the entire joint but also to build up a bit of material in the inside corners. After welding, and grinding, and welding, and grinding, and welding, and grinding I was able to establish a smooth radius that went into the 3/4” holes without a problem.

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And here they are in use. This was a project that wasn’t really planned. I was bored and wanted to spend some time in the shop and this was the result. I’m writing this article a couple weeks after I completed these and I really like them. They are super easy to use. The only downside is they don’t offer as much clamping force as a screw type clamp. I’ve found myself using them to create different types of bench dog situations for batching operations with multiple pieces at a time.

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  1. For your welding, use a grinder to bevel the edges of the join so that you have a place for the filler weld to go.
    Do this to both faces and you will wind up with a 90 degree vee. When you bring the join together, you have a nice weld pool and a good strong joint.

  2. Do you get a lot of dust and wood chips that fall into the holes? If so is it hard to clean the inside of the bench? Thanks. Great idea on your clamps!

    • Some dust does accumulate in there but I haven’t cleaned it out yet. Probably a once per year thing if it bothers you. Easy to clean with a shopvac and an extension wand.

  3. Another option is use the quick grip clamps that have a removable head. I don’t know if they would fit a 3/4 inch hole, but am sure they would as the pins are narrower than the bar of the clamp. The removable head has a part on it that slides back, head comes off, the bar goes through the hole, and the head can be slipped back on from below.

  4. Instead of welding, a nut and bolt would allow the joint to swivel (locking nut, not done up too tight). To remove, either reach underneath or use your finger from the top to align the parts. Would end up looking like a T

    • You’re thinking like me Peter – a modified slip “T” that you slide in/out as you need. You wouldn’t have to fumble to put the other end on inside the table (which is what drove Jay to do this) and you wouldn’t have to weld the 90 degree bend. When you need to change holes, just slip your hand to the end and straighten out the T joint.

      Jay you’re awesome – keep up the great tips.

  5. This is a great idea, Jay. I used your first method with the harbor freight clamps, but grinded off the bottom pin, instead of the pin on the clamp head. It works great because I have the holes in the work bench (without the pockets below). This gives me all the room I need to install the clamps from under the table. Having the option to clamp things to my assembly in this way is awesome! The few extra seconds youre saving with your new method looks well worth the effort of modifying your Irwin clamps.

  6. I was wondering if making the holes smaller initially (about a 1/16 larger than the width of the metal) would allow them to work WITHOUT having a ‘holder’ on the bottom. More like a regular bench holdfast.

  7. If I am not mistaken the Harbor freight F clamps the bar is steel. could you take the head off heat the bar with a torch and bend it into a 90 degree angle? seams easier than cutting, welding and grinding. Just wondering.

  8. that is a great idea for the clamps, the only problem I see is that not many people have a welder in thier wood shop.
    So can you come up with a set up that does not require a welder.

  9. You might be able to use a shrink wrap for electric wire joints to add a little protection on to the welded end as well as possibly give it a better grip when in use. Get the type that you can cut it to the length you want and cut it a bit long as it will probably shorten in length as it shrinks.

  10. Jeff, just knock the locking pin in the bar out with a nail set. Then you can remove the bar from the pistol grip handle. Feed the bar through the hole and have the same effect without all the welding. Only take a few seconds. Probably take you longer to find the nail punch than knocking out the holding pin.

  11. Jay, I was wondering…..What if instead you had made small rectangular slots on the bench rather than circular holes. All you would need is to make a “T” bar at the base of your clamp. Insert the camp into the rectangular slot in the bench and twist 90 degrees and you can then use the clamp. This would facilitate inserting and removing the clamps quite quickly and easily. Even further make the “T” bar to rotate at the base of the clamp and you now have various clamping positioning. Just a thought.

  12. hey jay

    I have also made some quick clamps for my mft table, but instead of weld, i have heat them up and bend it, mail me if you want to see a picture

  13. Jay – any thoughts on Andrews “bigger slot” idea? I like the harbor freight clamps, and if you step up to a 7/8″x 2″ slot, the clamp fits in with no modification. Just not sure if it’s weakening the top too much (I’m using 3/4 for top)

  14. Irwin sells an under-table screw-on holder for these clamps. It’s attached under the hole in the table and provides a secure holdfast base. Competent although fixed to specific table holes.

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