Table Clamps - 2: Basic Clamping with Step Blocks
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WARNING: Machine tools present a safety hazard. Improper operation can result in severe injury. These topics are for non-laboratory study only and are not to be used in conjunction with the operation of any tool or machine described herein. Never use a machine tool without the supervision of a qualified instructor.
Step clamps can be used to clamp almost any type of work piece. They are very simple and inexpensive: all you need is a clamp, a clamp support, and a stud with T nut. It is important to use as much of the clamping area as possible and to ensure a good position of the clamp. There are hundreds of designs, each of them with its own unique advantage.

Clamps and other work holders such as vises are typically attached to the milling table through the table's T-slot. This video shows the various parts of a T-slot clamping system.

  • First shown is the stair step block with a set of serrations that allow the clamp to be seated.
  • Next shown is the T-slot nut that sits in the milling tables t slot.
  • Next shown is the clamp that includes a set of serrations that match the steps of the stair step block and a slot to insert the bolt.
  • The fourth part shown is the bolt or cap screw.
  • Last is a washer to secure the bolt on the clamp

This video shows how to assemble a simple clamp system.

  • Assemble a bolt, a washer, a clamp and a T-nut as shown.
  • Insert the assembly in the milling tables T-slot.
  • Slide the assembly towards the work piece and seat the clamp on a stair step block of appropriate size.
  • Tighten the bolt first by hand and then with a wrench.
Most shops have one or more sets of step clamps that contain numerous clamp sizes, serrated step blocks, studs, clamping nuts, and t-nuts.
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label: milling machine, rigidity, clamps, step blocks, t-nut, t-slot, table clamps