The History of Clamping

Classical Guitar Back in Go Bar DeckPeople have been making things out of wood for a very long time. I'm not going to be the person to spend a long time formulating an argument for when it started. I am sure that there are anthropologists out there that have argued it and have promulgated some sketchy theories. 

As I was using my go bar deck to glue a seam strip on Guitar No. 5's back today, I couldn't help but think, "Man, this must be the oldest clamping technique known to man, and look, still as useful as it ever was." So I began to actually wonder - what is the history of clamping wood? Is this something that someone has researched and documented and something that Google has successfully indexed? 

It turns out that there are some resources on the subject matter:

The Clamp Guy: According to this Web site my theories about the antiquitiy of the clamp are somewhat on target. "Weights, Wedges and Wraps" are the terms that describe the "Pre-Screw" clamping technology. And the Go Bar Deck at left is definitely in this category. Interestly enough, luthiers (at least this one) still use all three of these clamping techniques. Gluing the Back Joint of a Classical GuitarThe go bar deck and my ancient method of joining the top and back are two different, yet perfectly ancient examples of wedging. And wraps? Actually, that's easy. The binding of a guitar is still applied using a wrap. While most of us are using masking tape, I am sure that there are still some luthiers out there using a long rubber wrap. And who hasn't leaned on a glue joint when the clamps ran out or couldn't fit? I think that can pass for a "weight".

The aformentioned Web site mentions the late 18th century as the industrialization of the screw manufacturering process, although the development and deployment of the concept are atttributed to the Greek mathemetician, Achimedes. No doubt a huge milestone in development of human civilization - perhaps even as big as the development of the bow and arrow. I recenlty bought a wooden screw threading kit, and you wouldn't believe the shop fixtures that you can make with that thing, nor the quantity of ideas that are spawned by the mere ability to make screws quickly and consistently. 

Its amazing how our creative minds are churned by new technologies or designs. New gadgets and gizmos, some less useful than others of course, create new platforms for bolstering our creative energy into a search for the new "better". 

It's a reflection that helped me answer my student's question last month about where the guitar came from...

"Just think," I said, - "It all started when someone, hundreds of thousands of years ago...threw something."