By Jim Lucas

toggle hold-down clamp

In 2019, SPEP has released a full family of toggle clamps to its catalog.   These are a fantastic addition to our industrial access hardware because toggle clamps are like the wall-mounted light switch of the manufacturing world.   They are used for situations that require workpieces to go “on” and “off” consistently, reliably and easily.  They are used on applications that vary from test fixtures to manufacturing jigs to pressure vessels.  While the large collection may be a little intimidating when you’re getting introduced, the selection of the right one based on functionality of these versatile tools are quickly learned.

Toggle clamp used on fixture

First, toggle clamps are simple mechanisms that hold things together.  They generally consist of 3 primary components that are of interest:

  1.  a handle: the user-interface to operate the mechanism
  2.  a clamping arm: the contact point with the assembly or workpiece
  3.  a base: the permanent attachment point.  

There are also linkages that affect the motion (or stroke), and attributes like the holding capacity and the clamping force.  While applications may vary, I’ve found that most people that need toggle clamps aren’t really concerned with these details because it’s more of a size & function application (and the application generally doesn’t come close to the holding capacity or clamping force).  However, just to be complete:  the “Holding Capacity” is how much force is required to overcome the clamp when it is in the locked position and the “Clamping Force” is how much force the clamp can push down on a work piece.        

Toggle Clamps work base on a simple linkage-system.  The system “locks” or “clamps” when it is over-center.  When a clamp is in the “locked” or “over-center” position, it can only be released by pulling the handle or by overcoming the holding capacity. 

There are three basic toggle movements:  vertical-hold down clamps  (force is perpendicular to the base), horizontal-push clamps (force is parallel to the base) and horizontal-pull clamps (force is also parallel to the base, but hooking or pulling something in- also known as a squeeze clamp). 

Within each category, there are several variations of handle movements. 

Furthermore, there are several items in our catalog that aren’t located in the toggle section that could be used for the “Pull” Toggle functionality (aka- the “Squeeze” Toggle):

These are generally called “Draw latches” and are considered very close cousins to the toggle switch.  They are used in a similar applications.  If you want to sound like a pro, try using the following terminology:

Once you have a general idea of what you want, give us a call @ 888-444-6437  or download some parts from our website

Toggle clamp used on fixture

If you have any technical questions or comments, or you want to show off your unique toggle application, feel free to send us an email at

Keywords: toggle, clamps, latches, clamping capacity, holding capacity

By Jim Lucas

As an engineer at SPEP (a supplier of industrial access hardware- like hinges, latches & handles), I'm fortunate to work in industries spanning everything from controls to medical devices to RVs.  Even though we have more than 3000 items in our catalog, we have more than 3000 additional products that are custom made for per customer request.   As you can imagine, these additional products are a result of working on fast-paced projects.  In order for these projects to be successful, we need to generate and turn-around prototypes, drawings & digital models quickly. 

While I’ve picked-up a few tricks by taking (and teaching) some SolidWorks courses and certifications (like the CSWA & CSWP).   I’ve found a separate methodology based on 2 principles.  The first is to try to get really good at a few moves (instead of knowing every move).  This comes from a Bruce Lee quote: “I don’t fear someone who knows a thousand different kicks.  I fear someone who has practiced a kick a thousand times.”  The second principle is to minimize time clicking in menus, and maximize time designing parts. This is done by working smart and using a variety of hot keys & mouse gestures.

In order to break the habit of clicking in the Command Manager and using the Feature Manager, force yourself to practice by going in “Jedi Training Mode”.  This is done by pressing F9 (hide Feature Manager Tabs) and F10 (hide Command Manager). 

One last tip before getting into the shortcuts. Remember that shortcut keys are almost entirely customizable. If there is a certain feature you like but it’s buried away on a remote menu you can give it its very own shortcut through the options menu.

  1. Before you get started- see if the parts exist already.  We load all our catalog parts on a variety of sites including our website (,  3D Content Central and  There are other places like McMaster-Carr, Grainger and that are also fantastic resources.  If those don’t work perfectly, feel free to kit-bash them (more on that later).  If you need something from our catalog adjusted for your application, let us know and we’ll work on it.  
  2. “s”  (Shortcut-superman key) – this shortcut key is genius and situational.  It will adjust depending on what type of file you are working on AND what you are doing in that files (for example: making a sketch in part mode is different from inserting a part in a drawing).

  3. Mouse gestures – also situational.  I’m better at using this in sketch mode than anywhere else. For those of you who don’t know how to activate this- hold your right mouse button down and drag.  You will see a circle with 4 icons in a ring surrounding your mouse cursor.  Simply sweep the cursor to one of the icons.

  4. Right mouse button (situational)- this opens a good number of commands.  Please note- #2, 3 & 4 are the Trinity of hot keys.   Almost every possible function of SolidWorks is available from these 3.

  5. “f” (fit on screen).  I find myself sometimes looking at a blank screen.  This is an easy way to get a part that is either zoomed-out or zoomed-in way too far quickly centered back on your screen.
  6. Ctrl-Tab (toggle between open files).  This is similar to using “Alt-Tab” to toggle between open applications on your computer but you can use to toggle between different parts that you have open within SolidWorks.  It’s fantastic when you’re working on an assembly.

  7. Enter (repeat previous command).  I find that this comes in most handy when adding rounds & draft.
  8. Ctrl-8 (orient normal to plane)- get away from using the view cube or the heads-up display.  Both of those take multiple clicks.  Ctrl-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (orientation).  These seem difficult to remember at first BUT it makes sense if you think about it.  Control 1 TOP, Control 2 BOTTOM, Control 3 RIGHT, etc…
  9. “a” – This is great for toggling between an arc and a line in sketch mode OR different “types” in sketch mode (for instance- a center point rectangle vs a corner rectangle)

  10. Other window hotkeys (Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-N, Ctrl-O).   If you use and apply these in SolidWorks, you’ll find that you automatically get faster at using Microsoft Office products as well.  So- as soon as you open SolidWorks, try to hit “Ctrl-O” to open an existing file or “Ctrl-N” to open new file instead clicking.   

If you discipline yourself to use these shortcuts for 30 days, you’ll find yourself spending more time on building and less time digging through menus.  This will make you far more proficient in your classes, give you a higher chance to pass the CSWP but most importantly, the speed you want when you are making your latest creation. 

If you have any recommendations for speed tools you’re using, or for our next article, please let me know at

Keywords: SolidWorks

At Sierra Pacific Engineering & Products, we are proud to be a premier supplier of access hardware to a variety of industries and product makers. Our new product catalog is now available and we have added over 600 new products and have earned many new patents. Please check it out for an exhaustive list of high-quality products. It is available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded from Or call 800 433-5554 and we will be happy to send one out to you.


2019 Product Catalog


Keywords: Catalog

Congratulations to SPEP's new 100%  Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) vested retirees!
Graciela was part of the SPEP team for over 10 years and Myrna for 17 years. Thank you for all your contributions and may you enjoy retirement.


Keywords: Retirement, ESOP
Jun. 05th

SPEP is proud to announce that we recently added a Robotic Welder to automate our welding process.
This allows for improved weld control and ensures achievement of maximum precision.
We are looking forward to increasing our productivity with the help of Sierra Pacific’s robotic welder!

Keywords: Robotic Welding, Automation
Feb. 23rd

Sierra Pacific Engineering and Products is a proud member of The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) and will be attending its much anticipated annual trade show in late February. NATM promotes trailer safety and the success of the trailer manufacturing industry through education and advocacy. It is a high priority of theirs to continuously advance trailer safety and these trade shows greatly aid in showcasing the latest in the industry. NATM's values include:

  • to lead with integrity and honesty
  • Proactively represent the needs of the entire light - and medium - duty trailer manufacturing industry through advocacy
  • Promote compliance with regulations, industry standards and recommended practices,
  • Help members achieve verified compliance by providing valuable education, resources, benefits and tools
  • Promote and encourage trailer and towing safety to manufacturers. dealers and end-users.


To learn more about NATM please visit

Keywords: NATM, National Association of Trailer Manufacturers

Sierra Pacific Engineering and Products has finalized its migration process from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015. With the implementation of the new standards, SPEP's quality management system will help us to continue offering quality products and exceptional service while improving efficiency and increasing customer satisfaction. For more information about the new ISO 9001:2015 standards please visit ISO.


Keywords: ISO 9001:2015
Dec. 22nd

Happy Holidays from the SPEP team

We thank you for your continued support and we wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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