Pipe Clamp Woes

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Blog entry by Brandon posted 01-20-2012 06:14 PM 9183 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

While gluing up my workbench top with pipe clamps, there was one part of the bench that didn’t want to cooperate and so I had to exert an extra bit of force to close up the gluing gap. It worked. All the glue joints are tight and strong. However, in the process I broke a pipe clamp, which for me was a first. I’m not surprised that it was one of the Harbor Freight Pittsburgh clamps and not a Pony clamp. The “Pony” clamps are definitely of better quality and the screw turns nicer, but at fifty percent more they are usually not worth it. That is, until a clamp breaks on you and you’re in a bind.

Actually taking apart the HF clamp I noticed just how cheaply they were made. The metal rings that grab the bar were all bent and one of them was even cracked. The tip of the screw had been busted off. The “cast iron” broke in two places. Plus, the paint chips on these things like a snake shedding its skin.

I realize that I probably applied too much pressure, but I’ve never seen anything like this happen to a pipe clamp, which I always thought were relatively indestructible. I’ll get a replacement from Harbor Freight, but I think the next ones I purchase will be the “Pony” version.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

19 comments so far

View ShaneA's profile


6972 posts in 2655 days

#1 posted 01-20-2012 06:19 PM

You are just a brute, superhuman strength. : )

Seriously, that is the first time I have seen/heard of one breaking.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18791 posts in 2624 days

#2 posted 01-20-2012 06:31 PM

wow, your tough on your tools :-)

I have several HF clamps i bought over 20 years ago. I haven’t broke one yet, but I agree, I alway buy pony now unless i come across a flea market deal. Luckily my last flea market deal was 50 pony’s.

Just a side note, if you have to exert that much pressure, you may need to refine your trueing technique. You want to leave “some” glue in there.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5961 posts in 3251 days

#3 posted 01-20-2012 06:38 PM


That is one reason I will NEVER buy anything from Harbor Freight (except maybe the d.c.). I’ve read too many bad things about all the “junk” they sell….too many folks on here just like you telling woes of crap that came from there….The “cast iron” you referred to is nothing but “pot metal”, and it’s found in so many tools and machines that come from labor= cheap materials.....Stick with a good product like the Pony clamps, and I don’t think you’ll break one of them (I could be wrong, but I don’t think so). All my pipe clamps are Pony, and I’ve never broke one yet, and most of these are 12-15 years old….the old saying: You buy cheap…you get cheap holds pretty well true in anything you buy these days….Is there some good quality tools out there?? I don’t know these days….I’m afaid to buy anything anymore, just because of where they are made…..Will we ever get back to “Made in America”? It is questionable at this point…....

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3008 days

#4 posted 01-20-2012 06:38 PM

I don’t typically tighten them that hard—I just had one section that had a little bit of a gap that I was trying to close up. On closer inspection of the broken pipe clamp I noticed that it had a bad casting at the point where it is weakest—I’ll take another photo to show what I’m talking about. Stay tuned.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2983 days

#5 posted 01-20-2012 06:43 PM

Brandon, I have seen a lot of pipe clamps in other shops, and as Shane said, never seen or heard of one broken.

I don’t have one pipe clamp in my shop. Never did.

I was taken in by Bessey and Gross Stabil “K” style clamps many years ago and haven’t looked back.

Rick, you are going to have to start buying MADE IN CANADA... :)

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3008 days

#6 posted 01-20-2012 06:53 PM

Okay, here’s a couple of close up photos of the bad casting/metal:

You can see that this part was the weakest section of the clamp (smallest area around the pipe) and that it wasn’t fully filled with metal, but has gaps and even paint gets into part of it. A very cheaply made clamp indeed. Let’s hope this dud clamp was a fluke because I still have three more of the HF models. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5961 posts in 3251 days

#7 posted 01-20-2012 07:11 PM


I think you have hit the old nail on the old head….I can’t find anything anymore that I’m that excited about buying…I want a new 8” jointer (I sold my 6” ), but keep putting it off, cause I’m afraid of what I’ll get.

Wonder how much it would cost to buy a jointer in Canada Are they pretty well compatable in price to the one we have to buy now over here I know the one I’d “like to have”, with everything I want, is around $2,000, including shipping, freight truck, and lift tailgate truck to deliver it to the shop…...just curious.

Sorry Brandon, didn’t mean to hihjack your topic post…back to pipe clamps…..:)

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3705 days

#8 posted 01-20-2012 07:34 PM

”cheap labor = cheap material” ? thats a new one to me… never knew they had anything to do with one another… but I digress.

Brandon – thanks for the post and the photos, it’s interesting to see the material and construction of those. they seem (no offense) to use very low quality castings and the machining on the screw is extremely rough and unfinished. I guess that’s the payoff.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Dwain's profile


547 posts in 3916 days

#9 posted 01-20-2012 07:51 PM

Alright, let’s not digress into an American made vs. Asian made argument. There is a good amount of crap made in America too. My point is this. The HF pipe clamps are much cheaper, can you expect them to work as well as a full priced pipe clamp? Of course not. I have about 40 pipe clamps, of which about 10 are HF. For as often as I use them, I am happy. I have had one break in the casting as yours did. I didn’t get upset about it, I just exchanged it. I still think it’s a really good deal and will by more, unless I find used Ponys on CL.

Brandon, I don’t know if you were shocked about this, or if you were complaining. I don’t think it justifies complaining about because it is an HF tool. I guess we should expect it to fail. Basically, you can’t have it both ways.


-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3008 days

#10 posted 01-20-2012 08:14 PM

I was a little surprised, but not all that shocked. Like I said in the post, I wasn’t surprised that it was an HF clamp versus Pony. I’m not really complaining either—just found it interesting.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3166 days

#11 posted 01-20-2012 08:19 PM

HF is supposed to have a lifetime warranty on their hand tools. Try exchanging instead of buying a new one.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3231 days

#12 posted 01-20-2012 08:22 PM

[note to self: don’t … EVER … mess with Brandon…..]

-- -- Neil

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3008 days

#13 posted 01-20-2012 08:23 PM

Exactly! I wasn’t planning on buying a replacement. I’ll show them the broken clamp and I’m sure they’ll hand over a new one. They’re pretty good about their warranties.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3008 days

#14 posted 01-20-2012 08:23 PM

You got that right, Neil! :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View poopiekat's profile


4366 posts in 3791 days

#15 posted 01-20-2012 08:23 PM

I wanted to go get some of those really fantastic deals on tools at Harbor Freight, but my Yugo won’t start.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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