I wrote a review on these HF Bar Clamps and I gave them a good review based mostly on the cost. At basically 6 for the price of 1 better clamp, they would have to achieve an impressive failure rate for me not to like them. That said, I had one fail within the 1st week of owning it. Rather than return it and get a new clamp that would suffer the same flaw, I realized I could fix it and upgrade the other ones I bought to fix the problem for about another $1, which still makes them very cost effective.
It is hard to see in the picture above but the orange handle is held between the two halves of the body by short plastic cylinders that grab it from each side and act as a hinge pin. There is no actual hinge pin that goes through the handle, which would have been stronger. When I was using the clamp I used enough hand pressure that I sheared the plastic off.
The fix for this is pretty simple and should be much stronger than the original. I went to HD and picked up a 1 inch long 5/16” OD metallic spacer which has a 3/16” ID. I also got some 3/16” cap screws, lock washers, and nuts. Since they come in packages of multiple parts the fix ends up costing less than $1 per clamp. I chose 5/16” because the orange handle has a counterbored hole in it and the counterbore is just less than 3/8”. I didn’t want to reduce the wall thickness of the handle so I went a little smaller.
I drilled a 5/16” hole through the orange handle, and both sides of the clamp. I then put the spacer through the whole assembly and bolted it back together and then used the screw and the wahers to keep the spacer in place. The whole thing, including the next part, took 5 minutes.
My intitial attempt looked like this:
The bolt and spacer ended up sticking out too far and it was a little uncomfortable to actually use the clamp so I decided to stop being so lazy and broke out my dremel tool with a cutoff wheel and trimmed the spacer to be only slightly longer than the clamp and also trimmed the bolt. I then cleaned it up with a sanding drum to remove sharp edges. This looks and feels much better. It is important not to trim the spacer too short or when you tighten the bolt you may make the clamp hard to use. You also might be able to do without the lock washer and just throw some loctite on the nut, which would make everything a little shorter.
HD only had 3 spacers so I will have to go back for more to upgrade all my other clamps so they don’t break when I need them most. The end of the clamp seems like the next weak point and as a project I was contemplating making my own version of it out of some scrap hardwood and putting a better clamp face on it. That might add another $1 to the cost of the clamp but might be fun to make. What would really be interesting would be to replace all the plastic body with some hardwood but I will have to think about how that would work. I think it might look cooler than it would function. We’ll see.
Here are both sides of the final fix:
-- Good Judgement Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgement.