Saturday, July 25, 2015

Favorite Studio Tools: Bar Clamps

-By Dan dos Santos

There is a surprising amount of equipment in my studio that I use daily, much of which isn't even art related. I thought I would take the time to show a few more of my favorite studio tools that have become invaluable to my working process.

In my spare time, I enjoy woodworking, usually building bookshelves for the studio or some such thing. Any good woodworker can attest to the value of a good clamp, which is why I initially bought these Irwin 'Quick Grip' Bar Clamps.

These clamps have a mouth that can expand extremely wide, which makes it great for attaching to large pieces of furniture, like easels. The mouth closes via a trigger grip and closes quickly and easily to a amazingly fit. They also have rubber heads, which makes them gentle enough to use on art pieces without damaging the surface.

I have found them so useful, for so many things, that I've purchased a lot of them and use them for a multitude of tasks around the studio. I probably have 6 or so floating around, and I still never seem to have enough of them.

I use them most commonly to provide a rod support for paper towels so I can always have them within reach.

But I also use them to clamp large sheets of unstretched canvas to my drafting table.

Or I use them to sandwich watercolor paper flat while it dries.

Sometimes, I have guests in the studio who want to paint too, so I just clamp a light onto the spare easel.

But probably the most unexpected and helpful use I've found for them, is opening those stubborn wide mouth gesso containers. Once the paint seals those lids shut, you need to have the hands of a giant to twist them open. But the clamp makes for a wonderful lever, opening the lid with ease.

These clamps, or at least very similar ones, can be found at any good hardware store and are available in a variety of sizes, from just a few inches, to several feet in length. A medium sized one will cost you about $10, but I highly recommend getting a variety of sizes.


  1. I have got one of these clamps, and to be honest this is one of the most useful tools I own. Because of the rubber I am not afraid that I will damage something :)

  2. Your use of the clamp to open stubborn jar lids blew my mind.
    I am going to keep one in the kitchen exclusively for this purpose from now on.

  3. I too share your love of trigger clamps Dan! You can get cheap plastic ones in the UK for £1! ($1.55 US dollars). These are great for light use and will last for about a year. These Irwin clamps cost about £6 over here, or $9.31 US dollars, but last for many years and can exert more clamping pressure.
    They're awesome! :)

    1. I think it's well worth buying good ones too. They are strong enough that I trust them to secure photo equipment.

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