|Review by paxorion||posted 12-11-2013 03:17 AM||5101 views||1 time favorited||45 comments|
When I first began dabbling in woodworking, I had zero clamps and high aspirations. Stocking up on the well F-style Harbor Freight clamps seemed like a good idea. For months, I impulsively made trips to HF and picked up one HF F-style bar clamp (using a 20% off coupon) and 1 freebie per trip. Fast forward 2 years, and I now have 10×6”, 6×12”, 2×18” and 2×24”. Overall impression is that the HF F-style clamp was the most inexpensive way of jump starting my clamp collection. There are a few observations:The good:
- The clamps do the job as a F-style clamp, and apply decent pressure. If there is a difference compared to the Besseys and Jorgensens, it isn’t noticeable to me.
- This may be a bias of mine, but I find wooden handles more slippery, requiring more effort on my part to grip them. In side by side use with Jorgensens in my guild shop, I preferred these handles. Some reviews note that you can over-torque the handle and break the grip, but that has yet to happen to me.
- The price is amazingly low, and enables someone that is just starting out to quickly build up a collection.
- HF Quality control is terrible. Each time I was there, I had to look at at least 5 different clamps to find one that didn’t have bad/belt bar, bubbling in the plastic pads, or any other noticeable defect.
- The plastic pads without fail will leave a greasy-looking mark on the material clamped. I’ve had to use cauls or plan to plane/sand off the surface to get rid of the marks
- After ~1 year of use, I’ve noticed that many of the clamp heads seem to be shifting to one side (see photo 1, where the lower part of the clamp is shifting to the right). While this doesn’t seem to affect clamping pressure, it does tell me that the choice of material for the clamps has more give than my Jorgensen F-style clamps. If I were to add/replace any F-style clamps, they will likely be Bessey Tradesmans or Jorgensen HD.
- The F-style of clamps really are only worth having up to 12”. I had a pair of 30” and 36” clamps, and found that the bars flex way too much. I exchanged those for the smaller 6” and 12” clamps. The 18” and 24” also exhibit the same bar flex and I only kept them because I couldn’t find the receipt.
Find an acceptable one and it is certainly a HF gem worthy of at least a 4-5 star rating (for the price). Don’t expect a $3-7 clamp to be on par with a Jorgensen or Bessey. However the sheer inconsistency of all the clamps in store mean you can’t just walk in the store and clean them out of F-style clamps without expecting a good number of “duds”. As a result, I think a 3 star rating is a fair assessment, since you have to sift through the stack.
UPDATE (3/5/2014): I pulled the trigger and picked up a small set of 8x Jorgensen 6” clamps when it was on sale at Ace Hardware and have had a chance to do a side by side usage. My rating remains the same, but I revised the review verbiage.