"High End" Ready-to-Assemble Fasteners

Furnituremakers take a look at Lamello's new line of knockdown assembly connectors for cabinetry and furnishings. March 28, 2012

Any recommendations on ready-to-assemble (RTA) fasteners and RTA methods for solid wood furniture that are high end? We will make armoires on a CNC router.

Usually when I think of RTA, I think of low end Ikea kind of stuff - rickety, MDF, farticleboard, etc. So I want to find hardware or methods that have a nice high end fit and feel. We want to be able to ship old European style armoires, entertainment centers, home office units that Mrs. Smith in Peoria can assemble with little Johnny's help holding the other end of the board. Fast, easy, but when it is done, strong and, importantly, high perceived value.

Old French armoires were often made to be taken apart, moved and reassembled - drive out the tenon pegs, interior ball bolts, etc. What is available now to speed the process?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor C:
I agree. High end and RTA in same sentence is unfitting. The only thing I can tell you is Hettich has specialized in fasteners since the company's birth (from what I am told). So if there is such a fastener, I would try them first.

From contributor J:
The Clamex P from Lamello might work.

From contributor C:

Or the Invis Joining System from Lamello. Saw it at the last AWF show in Vegas. Very cool.

From contributor D:
The above posts are correct. We [Lamello] are making an effort to bring "high end" and "RTA" together and have made 2 connectors (Clamex and INVIS) as part of this effort.

The new Clamex P element can be produced on a CNC machine as part of your normal processing, requires no screws or tools to insert, and only an allen wrench to secure. Mrs. Smith should love it next to the rail bolts she had to use to assemble Johnnie's bunk bed. It is brand new and was a finalist for the Challengers Award at IWF this year.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I looked at the Clamex video on your website, and it really looks good. Awesome even!

How strong are they? For example, could they be used in place of bed bolts?

Has anyone reading this ever used them? Would appreciate machining and install feedback, as well as product assembly feedback.

From contributor D:
A little over 200 lbs of shear strength per connector, so pretty darn strong, but borderline for replacing bed bolts, depending on how the rest of the bed is constructed.

From the original questioner:
Does Lamello have or plan to have the Clamex P in steel or aluminum or bronze? If it did it might be even stronger for heavy duty applications.

On the bed application, what if the bed rail also had (above or below) a 1/2" dowel for extra shear? This way the Clamex P would mostly provide the horizontal pull strength. Very excited about the possibilities with this fastener.

From contributor J:
Have you looked through a Hafele catalog? Their minimums are generally 1 piece and prices and shipping are low, so buy and try a lot of different things.

My general rule is if it's easy to tighten, it's easy to loosen. Threads over cams. Avoid press fit. Remember, a lot of Ikea furniture gets a bad rap because people do not assemble well.

From contributor D:
The Cam on the Clamex is metal already, but as of now, no plans for a 100% metal fastener. Customer feedback, however, goes a long way so I'll relay your comments to the engineers in Switzerland and you never know. The plastic that is used now is fiberglass reinforced and very strong.

I agree that press fit is not the way to go. Clamex is not press fit. It slides into the T-slot groove so the connector is sitting behind a layer of wood, which makes its pull out strength very strong.

And yes, you could add a tenon or dowel to increase the shear strength and still have the advantages of shipping flat, assembling on site, and disassembling if necessary.

From the original questioner:
I do want to try the Clamex-P, and I can see that even as it is, it would find an application in our factory.

What I would propose is a new product for additional applications - Clamex-HD or something that would be bigger by a little, especially deeper - perhaps 30mm deep instead of 14, and perhaps metal. I think this could then find application in additional heavier solid wood furniture applications - bed rails, for example.

From contributor B:
I just received a sample of the Clamex s-18, and it looks pretty slick. It pulls the joint together very well and seems pretty strong at first glance, however I wonder how it will actually hold up to consumer abuse, since it is plastic. I suppose one would have to design the product really well to try to avoid stressing the connector. Does anyone know if a standard Porter Cable biscuit joiner will accommodate the 8mm cutter that is used, or will it be necessary to buy one of their joiners?

From contributor D:
To the best of my knowledge and sources, no, the 8mm Clamex cutter will not work on a Porter Cable plate joiner. However, you can still use any standard biscuit joiner by making two slot cuts (one directly above or below the first plunge cut) with a standard 4 mm biscuit jointer cutter, thus equaling an 8 mm slot cut.

Here is a video clip of Will Sampson from Cabinetmaker/FDM Magazine reviewing Clamex-S doing it this way with a Porter Cable biscuit joiner.

So it's not absolutely necessary to buy a Lamello biscuit joiner, but if you're going to use Clamex, it's a lot easier using the dedicated Clamex cutter on a legendary Lamello biscuit joiner.

Also, Lamello has a new version of Clamex as mentioned above in previous posts. Clamex-P does require a special cutter either on a CNC router or a new hand held machine by Lamello called the ZETA. The benefit of Clamex-P is that screws are not required, which saves time. Simply make a slot, drill the key hole with a drill, then slide in the connectors.

From contributor D:
Yes, Clamex is made partially out of a plastic material with a metal cam lock lever. However it's not just any plastic - this is a high strength material which has fibers embedded in it for extra strength. Depending on the material that it is being used in, shear test results are approximately 350 lbs. with approximately the same tension strength, again depending on the grain orientation and species of wood it is being used in.