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.


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.



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!




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.


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

14 thoughts on “Simple Planking Clamp from Binder Clips

      1. Marc Ranger

        OK, so not an original idea…, as you stated the first time I found this idea on the web …but you put it out there and for that I thank you. I can’t find a Canadian source for fancy store bought clamps and would have to order from Micro Mark and pay shipping etc but now for $3.50 CAD I have very many planking clamps, more than enough for my 13 frame HMS Victory, but one can never have enough clamps. Bravo Zulu!

    1. catopower Post author

      I can’t imagine anyone selling just the wire clips. But, if you find someone, please let me know and I’ll post the information here.

  1. Christopher Steward

    I have spent hours trying to find suitable clamps. Your design is perfect. Simple,effective, will not damage the bulkhead and is cheap. Ticks all the boxes. Thanks

  2. Jerome Kennedy

    Pure genius! I wish I had known this when I was building the “black pearl. Works better than anything I have tried.

    Have any ideas for clamping the planks where they come together at the stem? The angle is too much for anything I can come up with short of pins.

  3. Pingback: Building Woody Joe’s Atakebune Kit – Part 4 | Wasen Mokei 和船模型

  4. Sam

    That’s a great tip
    I’m building the Britannia
    My first model. Just started the fine adjustments for the planking and the “t” pins aren’t holding tight enough on the dry fit so I’ll try the binders
    Thanks again


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