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Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps
The "Whiz Kids" at Leigh Jigs strike again!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 12-14-2008
I have been a fan of Leigh Jigs for a long time because of their innovative engineering, user-friendly thinking and high-end manufacturing. It seems that these folks are way more concerned with putting out good products than simply big numbers at minimal cost. Their Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps show they have not lost their touch, or their desire to do it right.
Leigh Cam-Action Levers
Bench clamps have been around for a very long time but Leigh stepped this idea up. They applied their tried and true cam-action clamp assembly from their famous dovetail jigs and dramatically streamlined the clamping process. Aside from the ease of use, these nifty cam levers are easily adjusted (tool free) so they fit the stock precisely to insure movement free clamping.
The composite cam handles can be turned to any direction to avoid interference. The handle also can be flipped in either direction while applying the same amount of pressure. The length of the handle gives plenty of leverage without taking up extra room around the work piece. Spinning the handle on the threaded shaft increases or decreases the clamping range so you can quickly fine-tune the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps for the job. Even the disk below the cam handle has a small step 90-degrees apart that provides another level of fine-tuning.
Both Leigh Bench and Surface Clamp styles use the same heavy-duty cast arm. Leigh engineers designed a series of internal webs that help make the arm tough and rigid. The unique shape of the arm allows it work with a wide range of material thicknesses from paper thin to 3"-thick! The center of the arm has a cast-in pivot surrounds the threaded shaft and its spring that makes it easier to set and use.
Each end of the arms has a no-mar shoe that protects the wood. These specially curved shoes give the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps considerable grip regardless of their angle or stock thickness. This arm design lets the operator focus on setting it for the stock thickness. The grip developed by the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps is solid and automatic, all of the time.
The Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps come in both the Bench and Surface versions. All of the hardware supplied is made from high-end materials using equally high-end manufacturing processes. While many other manufacturers use hardware as a way to cut costs, Leigh uses these pieces to enhance function and longevity.
The Leigh Surface Clamps come with a pair of surface fixtures that fit into a 1-1/2"-diameter (38mm) by 5/16"-deep hole. Leigh includes machine screws to secure these fixtures from the bottom in surfaces about 3/4"-thick. However, if your bench or surface is thicker, the instructions suggest using #8 screws from the top. Extra holes are provided in the surface fixtures for this purpose.
The Leigh Surface Clamps come with a T-bolt style post that slips into the keyhole shaped opening in the surface fixtures. The tough material used for both pieces and fine machining make this a very secure assembly. A nicely sized, (normal fingers can actually grip it!) knurled jam nut is easily screwed down to secure the clamp in place. Very simple, very effective system.
The Leigh Bench Clamps come with a long threaded post, a trick nut and a pair of washers that make using this clamp on virtually any bench easy. This style also has a nicely sized knurled adjusting nut with a formed shoulder on its bottom end meant to fit into standard 3/4"-diameter bench dog holes. The lower nut that locks the Leigh Bench Clamps in place has a special thread design that allows slipping it over the threaded shaft and into position without turning. Once in place, turn it and the internal threads lock on and secure the clamp in place. Very fast and very cool. This dual nut system allows you to install the clamp in surfaces up to 4-1/2"-thick! The Leigh Bench Clamps also include a pair of large diameter "fender" washers that allow securing the Leigh Bench Clamps using larger or smaller holes.
In the Shop
Over the years I have come to expect a lot from anything made by Leigh and their Bench and Surface Clamps did not disappoint. These tools take the concept of bench clamping to new levels of effectiveness and ease of use. The high-end quality of the materials and manufacturing will surprise some but are typical of Leigh.
Installing and using the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps is a no strain event to muscles or the brain. The large knurled nuts make securing these clamps with actual human sized fingers easy. The hardware makes adjusting the height of the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps just as easy. Leigh took the time to think these clamps through and that shows in their use.
The clamping power developed by the Leigh cam levers is remarkable but controllable. That adjustability, combined with the curved, composite tips on the clamp arms insures that the wood is held firmly without marring. The size of the clamping arms, the 0 to 3" clamping range and the versatility of their mounting makes it easy to us the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps in virtually any shop or situation.
The Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps do not fall on the cheap end of the spectrum but the street price of $49.99 each (12-14-2008) for either the Bench or Surface versions sounds way better when you consider the quality, ease of use and versatility. The Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps are high end from top to bottom and that includes equally high-end design. If you like tools that work right now and forever, the Leigh Bench and Surface Clamps will be welcomed additions to your shop.
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