When auto-adjusting toggle clamps came to market several years ago, they were groundbreaking. For the first time, hold-down and in-line style toggle clamps could expand automatically to reach a range of workpiece thicknesses, while still applying and maintaining a constant clamping pressure. Since then, several manufacturers have offered auto-adjust toggles and variations of F-style clamps that use the same self-adjusting clamping principle. Now, Armor Tool is taking the concept even further by combining toggle clamps with dog pegs to create a variety of innovative new work-holding solutions for a workbench. And, it’s familiar territory: one of Armor Tool’s founding members, Rob Poole, holds the patent for that original auto-adjust technology.
If you haven’t heard of Armor Tool yet, it’s a new company, formed just last summer. But its partners, who share some 30 years of patenting experience, aren’t newcomers to the tool industry. Poole has innovated products for 3M, IRWIN and Stanley. Bill Fudale, who shares marketing and sales duties with George Mueller, joined Armor from Magswitch, where he launched their woodworking and welding tool groups. And the company’s principal partner, H. H. Barnum Corporation, is a successful automation distributor that has been serving the automotive industry for some 60 years. Mueller is a partner of another H. H. Barnum company — Industrial Components Group — who will be an Armor Tool Distributor for the industrial sector.
“After patenting the self-adjusting technology,” Fudale says, “Rob immediately starting looking at applications to extend those patents to include a self-adjusting toggle clamp on top of a vertical peg. The marriage of the technologies seemed a logical fit.”
Any woodworker who uses conventional bench dog hold-downs or toggle clamps will see the sensibility of the new Armor Auto-Pro Self Adjusting Dog Clamps, too. Here’s how the product options are configured. The company offers an In-line Dog Clamp that’s outfitted with a 3-in. post. It provides between 25 and 550 lbs. of lateral clamping force, which can be adjusted by turning a setscrew inside the clamp mechanism. A flip lever engages the clamp. What’s innovative is that its ribbed post is split. Turning a red dial at the base of the clamp draws the post components together to hold it tight in any 3/4-in.-dia. bench dog hole. This in-line version sells for $33.99.
Armor also has a Horizontal Dog Clamp, with an auto-adjusting toggle clamp that exerts downward, instead of in-line, pressure on a workpiece. This style most closely resembles a typical dog type hold-down but with the added convenience that clamping pressure is variable. It comes with a 7-1/2-in.-long aluminum peg, which effectively extends the clamp’s “reach” to 5-1/2-in. above the table, for securing thick or tall workpieces. Ribbing on the peg leverages the clamp against the hole when the clamp is engaged. Armor Horizontal Dog Clamps can provide up to 700 lbs. of holding pressure. They cost $37.99 each.
“Readers may be familiar with other noteworthy brands that have licensed our self-adjusting technology,” Fudale adds. “We’re happy with their successes, but we realize there are so many more applications.”
That’s why Armor Tool is now re-branding “standard” style auto-adjusting toggle clamps under its Auto-Pro brand, and it is in the process of ceasing the licensing agreements with other companies that carry auto-adjust toggle clamp variations. In this regard, Armor also will be offering a full line of “conventional” type auto-adjusting toggles in in-line and horizontal styles. Those will attach to a work surface or jig with screws, just like a typical toggle clamp. The screw-down type auto-adjusting toggle clamps are priced at $29 to $31.99, depending on size, style and base plate configuration.
Fudale is also excited to report other accessories from Armor that will complement the dog clamps and add even more versatility. First among them, the company is bringing to market 4-, 8- and 14-in. Auto-Pro Dog Fences. These consist of extruded and anodized aluminum channels with high and low (1-1/4- and 5/8-in.) vertical bearing surfaces along each edge. The fences can mount in 3/4-in. bench dog holes, using a pair of dog pegs that come with the fence. The 3-1/2-in.-long pegs are adjustable too: a T-track and T-bolt system on the bottom of the fence allow the pegs to slide along its length to accommodate various dog hole spacings. When used in tandem with the in-line Dog Clamps, they’ll provide the necessary backup support behind a workpiece. Auto-Pro Fences sell for $14.99 to $19.99.
Or, if your workbench lacks a vise or bench dog holes now, you can add that versatility by fastening one of Armor Tool’s Dog Brackets to it — either along the top edge of your bench or against its edge. The anodized aluminum brackets come in 4- or 12-in. lengths ($19.99 and $34.99). They have either two or three sets of through holes into which the Dog Clamp pegs fit.
“When you add Armor Auto-Pro Dog Brackets and Fences with the versatility of Armor Dog clamping, you get new workholding capabilities and setups,” Fudale says. “They can be retrofitted to almost any work table.”
And, if you’re in need of the worktable, too, Armor will be bringing a Dog Table to market next March. Its pricing has not yet been determined, but Fudale offers a sneak peak: The tabletop will be made of high-impact ABS and outfitted with a regular dog hole pattern across its top. A tubular steel frame will support the roughly 36-in.-long, 18-in.-wide tabletop, and it will stand on aluminum legs. The collapsible legs will telescope to various work heights for convenience, the highest being just over a 31-in. workbench height.
“Our own portable, lightweight table will make our dog clamps, fences and brackets a complete clamping system.”
For those who own Festool’s MFT Multifunction Work Table, Armor Tool’s Dog Clamps can be retrofitted to it, too. You can buy 20mm-dia. dog pegs in 3- and 7-1/2-in. lengths to suit Festool’s hole sizing. They retail for $7 or $9, respectively.
Fudale says Armor Tool’s entry into woodworking clamp technology is exciting, because it challenges the company to innovate for a savvy clientele. “One of the greatest attributes of the woodworking market is how smart our retail partners and tool end users are. They recognize game-changing innovation quickly. We just assume they will not invest in marginal innovation. We design with them in mind.”
And, while Armor has its sights set on woodworking clamping solutions now, that’s just the beginning. The company eventually plans to serve DIY, welding and industrial channels as well. Armor isn’t selling products through retail channels yet, but they’re taking orders for Dog Clamps, Fences and Brackets now. A toll-free phone number for ordering can be found on the company’s website. Fudale says Armor will begin shipping products to customers in early January.
“Our team is set and the support structure is solid,” he adds. “Armor Tool is ready to hit the ground running.”