Simple Planking Clamp from Binder Clips

Binder clips are those handly, spring-steel clips used to hold many pages of paper tightly together. They come in different sizes and for many years I have found them extremely useful as strong clamps.

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One of the uses I have for them is to clamp a stack of wood strips tightly together, allowing me to paint one edge to simulate caulking for deck planks. The tight clamping helps prevent paint (I use thick acrylic paint) from leaking in between the planks. Then, a fellow ship modeler pointed out to me a few years back, that you could pull off one of the clamp handles and wedge into the “jaws” of another clamp and you have yourself an instant planking clamp.

How does that work? Start with 3/4” spring steel binder clips. You can buy these by the dozens in a box. You can pinch one of the stainless steel handles together and pop it out of place. This makes this clip useless, but you get two handles out of it.

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Take another complete binder clip and pinch the handles to open the jaws as far as possible. Shove one of the handles you pull from the sacrificial binder clip into the jaws and twist it sideways until it pops into place. And, there you have it, instant planking clamp!

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Now, you clamp these onto the bulkhead of your model, and the handle you inserted will stick out far enough to press flat against the plank you’re installing. 3/4” binder clips will handle bulkheads up to 3/8” thick, which should be enough for most of our needs.

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I bought a pack of a 40 binder clips for about $5 from Office Depot. That’s enough to provide 26 complete planking clamps for about $0.20 a piece. These should work just as well as planking clamps made by ship model tool manufacturers, and for a lot less money. Plus, the modifications made don’t prevent them from working as regular clamps too. Ω

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