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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Clamp in class of its own

Galway teacher's design passes Bruce Lett's test

Published 14/12/2010 | 10:32

Tony Finnerty's Log Clamp is a product of the Tullamore Show's invention competition and he has just completed his first production run of the Log Clamp
Tony Finnerty's Log Clamp is a product of the Tullamore Show's invention competition and he has just completed his first production run of the Log Clamp
The feet of the unit are inverted in the folded position and a clever retaining knob with box in box mechanism facilitates their rotation into the work position
The first part of unfolding the unit involved unscrewing - but not altogether - clever, yet simple, leg-retaining knobs
Clamping a timber limb in the unit is done with a chain and over-centre locking mechanism. The chain is fed through a tube at the base of the unit and, to facilitate different diameters, timber is simply placed in a retaining slot in the desired position. At the other end of the chain is the over-centre locking mechanism, which can be set in a choice of five positions in a spring-loaded keeper to achieve the appropriate clamping effect or pressure
Support trusses sit into the main legs to lock them into the working position

Last August I attended my first Tullamore Show because of the Farming Independent's involvement in the Inventions Competition section. Not sure what to expect, I was more than pleasantly surprised by both the high standard and number of entries in the competition.

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After the show, we featured a selection of the entries in the Farming Independent, with a little detail about each item and the individual or company who designed it.

One of the items that drew a large number of enquiries was the Log Clamp made by Co Galway man Tony Finnerty, who is a teacher at Columba College VEC in Killucan, outside Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

The clamp was also one of my favourites as I process quite a lot of timber for the winter months and liked the strength and make-up of Tony's creation.

As well as being extremely well made, he obviously put a lot of thought into the design, enabling it to retain every shape, length and size of timber limb.

Speaking to Tony a couple of weeks after the event, he said he had received a large number of enquiries for the Log Clamp, with people even contacting his local Garda station and the VEC trying to track him and his Log Clamp down -- I should have put his telephone number with a picture of the product in the Farming Independent.

This level of interest prompted Tony to develop the Log Clamp further, and a couple of weeks ago I spoke to him again after he completed his first production run.

"People liked the Log Clamp when they saw it at the Tullamore Show and in the Farming Independent, so I made drawings and set about putting it into production," he said.

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Tony teaches Engineering and Technical Graphics at the VEC and, combining this with his farming background, he understood what he needed to do in both designing and producing engineering drawings for the clamp.

Tony sent me a clamp to try out and it arrived in the nick of time as the heavy snow and cold weather had depleted my shed supply of timber earlier than expected. I had several ash and beech limbs ready for processing and was eager to try the clamp out.

It's a compact unit when folded, which enables it to be carried in the boot of a car or wheelbarrow. The first thing you notice is that it is certainly not all that light. There is a lot of metal in it but it comes in at just under 25kg, according to Tony: "The target was to keep it under 25kg for a safe lift."

Conclusion

- It is not fiddly and is easy to set up.

- Very strong -- I managed to clamp a timber limb that I was only capable of dragging to the unit. I could conceivably load larger limbs with a tractor -- but carefully.

- Very stable. It has a large spread -- 4'1" x 2'6?" (1.25mm x 770mm) -- to all four corners.

- The clamping or retaining chain worked well, which provided a substantial bite effect on the timber log.

- The combined over-centre unit and spring-loaded keeper works well. It successfully located the limb, first time and in the appropriate slot, almost every time (with no fingers squashed or apparent risk to them).

- Support structure/frame was below the potential saw-strike zone where you cut the limb.

- The log saddle is narrow at just 6.75in (170mm), leaving the last log just at a usable length.

- Heavy but under the magical 25kg for manual handling.

The price of the Log Clamp is €280 and is available from Tony on 087 169 3685 or tonyfinnerty@iolfree.ie.