Speeding Up Panel and Door Glue-Ups

A cabinetmaker gets help puzzling through how best to deploy his clamping wall and his bar clamp table. April 7, 2008

I recently purchased a used Ritter R300 clamp wall for solid panel glueups for what I thought would be an easier and faster process than bar clamps. Well, here is the problem. With only two zones for piston clamps and the surface area of 6'x12', my guys have informed me that they can only do a couple of panels at a time and have to do something else while waiting to unclamp. Although bar clamps were a little cumbersome, there are so many that they were able to continually glue up all panels on a large job without having to wait. I love the new panel clamp, but want to speed up the process. Currently using Titebond 2 for all applications.

At an old shop I worked for we used an RF dryer or high frequency, I believe? It was handheld with two metal bars that you applied directly to glue joint and pulled the trigger. It was a great tool, with two exceptions. If you happened to touch a clamp, it would short and shock you. Also it had old style tube fuses that were extremely expensive to replace.

Do they make a new and improved unit that uses a different kind of breaker? Something that just trips a toggle breaker so you can reset it instead of having to replace very expensive breakers? Will there be any kind of shorting out issue being that the wet glue will be in contact with steel face at back of panel when drying?

Is there another alternative that is cost effective for our shop? We are not high production and this is not used on a daily basis, but it is an issue whenever we have a glueup. I bought this instead of a rotary clamp machine because it takes up less floor space and I thought it would be more versatile.

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor S:
The Ritter clamp you have is not designed to glue up panel stock. It is made to clamp, square doors and frames. I have never heard of anyone trying to clamp panels before with that machine, for the obvious reasons you mentioned above. I don't know how many panels you glue on a regular basis, but there are only two choices for gluing up panels. Either you clamp them with clamps or a frequency gluer. You can stick with the pipe clamps you are already using or go to a clamp carrier. I wouldn't recommend the clamps that attach to a wall mount system. They are more of a pain to work with than just using pipe clamps and standing them up after clamping.

Frequency gluers are a bit problematic for someone not using them on a regular basis. The success of the joint will greatly depend on the way the joint is prepared, the wood moisture content, and amount of glue. If not done properly, the joint will split at some point down the line and cost you money. There was a small handheld type frequency gluer made some years ago. That may be what you are talking about in your post. Wood Welder was one brand that I can think of. Again, these were very problematic. That is why you don't see a lot of people using them. Unless you are planning on gluing thousands of panels, stick with the clamps or get a clamp carrier.

From contributor L:
I had a Woodwelder 3000. Too slow for "in the field" curing. Okay for joints or patching and possibly some edge banding.

From Jeff Pitcher, forum technical advisor:
I wouldn't recommend a Woodwelder for edge gluing. There are RF presses that are designed for this but they're pretty pricey. I'd suggest going to a faster adhesive. You can buy PVAs which are capable of being removed from the clamps in 10 minutes.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the quick replies. It sounds like they haven't come up with anything better for a handheld unit. What is the reasoning for it being no good for edge gluing? If the edges are prepped in the proper manner and the glue is not overcooked, what would the problem be? How does it change the characteristics of the glue? Or is there a special glue meant to be used with it?

Contributor S, very informative post. Well, there are two clamping areas. The Ritter wall is the first for panels. It is located directly after ripsaw, jointer and rough cut radial and in front of planer. Then there is a clamping area with bench, hundreds of assorted clamps, glue, accessories, etc. This area is for final assembly of doors, panels, applying HW to sheet stock and oddball glue ups. It is at the opposite end of shop after all the secondary machining tools.

It sounds like I may be better off moving clamp wall to final assembly area along with a smaller bench and moving a smaller bench with bar clamps to the panel assembly area? Hmm. Really wouldn't take much to do - less than a day, in fact.

The only thing I can think of is the fact that there are only 2 zones with foot switches for all the piston clamps. What should we do, add more zones and foot switches so we can do more doors at one time?

Contributor J, we certainly don't do nearly enough to justify a big setup. Can you give me the name of the fast dry glues you are referring to? This sounds like something I am looking for.

From the original questioner:
Oh yeah, we glue up frames for inset and beaded inset in the second area too. Moving the clamp wall really does seem like the best idea.

From contributor S:
I think you would be better doing as you already suggested. Move the Ritter to the door assembly area. Since you use the corners of the Ritter to square the door or frame, you can only do two items at a time. I don't see any advantage to trying to clamp something in the middle. Most people just pin the doors at the joint when in the clamp. They don't stay on the clamp table very long. As for frames, that would depend on the way you are making them. I would suggest that you add another foot treadle to operate some of the clamps. That way two people can work the table at the same time.