A clamp carrier is used to assemble numerous pieces of pre-glued solid wood "strips" together to form a solid wood panel. For example when you see what you think to be a solid piece of wood such as a butcher block or cutting/carving board or a solid wood table it may look to be a solid piece of wood however in most cases they are not, they are strips of wood glued together. Once a tree has been cut down and the bark and defects removed you might land up with miscellaneous strips of solid wood from one inch to 12", or maybe a little wider, depending on the width of the tree, as you will see in a lumber yard. If there is a need to make a 24" or 26" wide cabinet or a very wide table these, strips of one inch to six inches wide material have to be glued together in a special way. In another category we will cover multiple rip saws and straight line rip saws, for cutting this wood, and will discuss the importance of these types of machines when being used for a glue application as in this case.
A clamp carrier basically comes in various lengths. The normal standard clamp carriers are 8'6" wide. They also come in 4'6", 6'6" and sometimes can be up to 16' long especially in the manufacturing of truck flooring. Most standard clamp carriers have six clamps per section. Every glued panel must be attached with a minimum of two clamps. When we talk about six clamps per section you could possibly place three glued panels along side of each other, as long as they will fit into the length of the particular clamp carrier, in a single section. This means each panel that is now being clamped together has a minimum of two clamps on each piece. The longer the piece of wood the more clamps you should use. The clamps themselves are normally three inches deep depending on the thickness of the wood and in certain cases customers with particular applications might require up to seven inch depth but that is not the norm; most clamps are also 32" wide, which means you can put strips of wood in up to 32" depth making a table top that would be no wider than 32" when complete. Larger clamps are available if required for special applications. In some cases the clamp carrier might only have two clamps and some might have say 10 per section, etc., this depends on the application.
You could have numerous sections in a clamp carrier. The more sections the larger the machine. A 60 section clamp carrier could be as long as 30'. Therefore to recap, a standard clamp carrier would be 8'6" wide, will say have 20 sections and each section can have six 32" clamps that are 3" deep.
Wood that has been clean cut (called a glue joint cut) is glued on one edge. Two edges are butted together and placed into a section of the clamp carrier using at least two clamps. Once the section is full the clamps are tightened to press the wood together. The clamps are tightened either manually one at a time on a manual clamp carrier or can be tightened by a 'robot' that travels along the front of the machine and automatically tightens the clamps; therefore if you hear people talking about automatic clamp tightening this is what they are referring to. Most times a panel flattener comes with the machine which will press any bowed strips of wood down into the clamp before the clamps are tightened thereby giving nice flat pieces once dried and released. Once the section is completely full, the section will be rotated either manually or automatically, the whole section that was worked on will be moved towards the back of the machine while the operator now works on the next section; this is repeated until all the sections are full. Once the original section comes back to the operator, the pieces should be dry so that he can take the completed panels out for further operations such as planing and sanding.
Some small manual machines for small shops might only have six sections which turn on a central drum. Clamp carriers generally take up a lot of space in width, length and height.
Taylor and Black Brothers are two of the most common manufacturers.
MANUFACTURERS OF THESE MACHINES INCLUDE:
Activa, Black Bros, Doucet, Quick, Taylor.
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