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Every 4th of July I travel to Adams County, OH to attend an antique tool auction held by the Amish. It’s been something I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years and it has become a tradition for me as something I always looked forward to all year. Every year I would come home with a ton of tools I picked up at a bargain hoping to make a little cash selling them on eBay. It started to decline the past couple of years and I was afraid it might end as the tools weren’t much to choose from and the quality of them were lacking. Well with the economy in the tank and $4 gas hitting the streets, the auction didn’t happen this year.

Bummed out, my wife asked if I wanted to go to an antique mall on the other side of Cincinnati and look around. We go there from time to time as she looks for things to sell in her booth. I rarely if ever find tools so I wasn’t too optimistic finding anything.

After we arrived, I spotted these clamps on the floor of a booth. They intrigued me because while I’ve seen old clamps before, I’ve never seen a clamping action like these. They worked off a cam action from the handle. As you pull the handle up, the shell shaped curve pushes the pad out. I debated getting them because old bar clamps are not very collectible and I really didn’t need them. Plus they were $22.00 a piece. But my wife said if I wanted them I should get them because the next time we were here, they’d be gone. So I used my wife’s 10% vendor discount and picked them up.

These are clamps after I dipped them in citric acid/water mix and cleaned the rust off with steel wool. The clamping range is about 20″. I thought it was a little odd that they weren’t designed to hold 24″ between center but I guess the inventor had his reasons.

Here’s the detail of the handle. You can see how the pad gets pushed out as the handle is raised. It’s simplicity is what makes the design so beautiful.

You can clearly see “The Taylor” on the face. I googled “taylor clamp co” and came up with www.jamesltaylor.com a manufacturer of mass production clamping and gluing machines. After I cleaned the rust off the bar I could faintly see the “The Taylor Manufacturing Co, Poughkeepsie, NY” so these clamps are obviously there’s. However, I was left with a big question.

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On the jaw there was a patent date of Jan 2, 1900. On the Taylor website they claim that the company was founded in 1911. How were these clamps patented in 1900 while James Taylor didn’t start his company until 1911? obviously John Taylor must have been a sole proprietorship for a few years tinkering around with designs before developing the typical design used today. Are these clamps some sort of prototypes or first edition models?

You can faintly see the logo “The Taylor” in an oval logo very similar to the Taylor logo used today. John must have simplified his logo when he incorporated in 1911. I looked all over their website the to see if they mention these style of clamps with no luck. I even tried searching the US Patent office on the internet for more information but came up empty.

James L. Taylor Manufacturing Co. Inc logo used today.

While the origins of these clamps remains a mystery, the real question is how do they perform? The answer is amazingly well. While they may not provide as much torque as typical bar clamps, they are extremely quick and easy to use. Where they excel is in gluing up cabinetry where you need speed on your side. Simply put the clamp around the stock and pull the handle up. I clamped a piece of wood to my workbench and tried moving it with no luck. They hold rock solid.

Another advantage with these clamps is they would appeal with people with arthritis. Often the screw handle on regular clamps can be tough to tighten with people who suffer from arthritis. With these clamp, they can easily tighten them up. There may be a real market for these clamps being manufactured and sold today as woodworkers are getting older every year. Hmmm….

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