LumberJocks

HF Aluminum bar clamp

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Review by gamygeezer posted 01-27-2014 05:03 PM 3734 views 0 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
HF Aluminum bar clamp No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Heat wave yesterday! All the way up to 57F! So I decided to go shopping. I rinsed off the sawdust, trimmed the ear hair, unclogged the sink and cranked up the old DRam. I went to Harbor Freight to check on the locking casters reviewed recently, but really had to browse the whole store.

I found a rack of aluminum bar clamps almost exactly like the ones I really like from Jorgensen. Had to get one (or so) of course. I picked the “36 inch”, a handy size, which actually has only a 32 inch capacity (minus a star for that). They had four sizes from “24 inch” to “60 inch”. “Life time warranty” Made in China.

Catalog info: http://www.harborfreight.com/36-aluminum-bar-clamp-60539.html

Comparison with Jorgensen:

Aside from the color difference, the heads are identical. Handle is longer on the HF clamp. The Jorgensen head is riveted on, the HF has what looks like an automotive push fastener.

The tail pieces are also the same. Both have the same fastener. In this photo you can see that the HF bar has a slight reveal down the side, so there might be a little less aluminum in the bar. The bar dimensions are the same, except for the length.

I got the 32” clamp for 10.99, the 24” Jorgensen is 24.97 at my HD.

I have used the Jorgensen clamps for about eight months and love them. Light weight, non-staining, and strong enough for all my glueups. If you resist “Made in China”, there are very similar ones made in the USA available at http://toolsforwoodworking.com/.

EDIT

Of course CharlesA and LJ are right, a review of clamps should show some clamping going on. The primary use for clamps is to pull glue joints together, especially problem joints. When I think of problem glue joints, I naturally think of Southern Yellow Pine, the most contrary wood I’ve ever met.

So I rummaged around in the garage, found a short 2X8, ripped into 3 and 4 inch widths, and watched as it relaxed into a classic crooked mess. I clamped one end together with my strongest 12” bar clamp and measured the gap at the other end at 5/16 inch.


This is my test bed. I then clamped the other end, first using the HF clamp and then a pipe clamp. Results shown below.

The clamps were both tightened to “thumb pain” pressure (very scientific here), which is the only measure I have. By the way, both clamps forced the other end to gap open against the bar clamp.

Thanks for your comments and patience.

-- What's a vibrant young guy like me doing in a broken down old body like this?




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gamygeezer

138 posts in 252 days



27 comments so far

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CharlesA

1519 posts in 464 days


#1 posted 01-27-2014 05:11 PM

Did you see any difference in their clamping performance?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

350 posts in 2339 days


#2 posted 01-27-2014 05:17 PM

Thanks for the review. I have a number of HF bar clamps and use them all the time. For simple glue-ups and pulling together mortise and tenon joinery, they work great for me.

I do notice some flex in the aluminum body, but that serves to tell me I’ve tightened up enough.

There is no pretense on my part that these are the same quality as the higher priced Jorgensen or Bessey, but I’ve not had one fail on me yet.

For the price, I’m happy with my HF choice and can heartily recommend them to the woodworking hobbyist.

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

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mnguy

161 posts in 2065 days


#3 posted 01-27-2014 06:06 PM

I purchased what appear to be the same/similar clamp as the HF on a special from Lee Valley a few years ago. They were a set of (10) 24” clamps for cheap (don’t remember the exact price). The only major difference I see is that mine came with non-marring jaw pads. Mine have provided excellent service.

One plus for the Jorgensons is actually the shorter handle. The LV/HF handles hit the bench when turning; a shorter handle would actually be handier. Especially since I am not typically trying to crank up the pressure with these clamps. For that, I get out the parallel jaw or the pipe clamps.

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CessnaPilotBarry

892 posts in 777 days


#4 posted 01-27-2014 06:16 PM

One simple comment…

The Universal brand aluminum bar clamps, sold by TfWW, Woodcraft, and lots of others, are in a whole different league than either of the two clamps in the photos attached to this review.

I just thought I’d point that out… It’s not a simple China vs. USA sourced difference.

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

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carver1942

90 posts in 371 days


#5 posted 01-27-2014 06:18 PM

Thanks for the review, gamygeezer.
I have a dozen of these clamps. I find they work great for glue ups. For the pressure needed for glue joints they don’t flex. If someone is clamping hard enough to flex them, there’s something wrong with their joint, plus a joint should not be squeezed so tight you end up with a dry joint. I own higher priced clamps, but these work just as good and enable me to own more clamps. You never can have enough clamps. I’m on a tight retirement budget and can’t always buy top of the line equipment. These clamps fit the bill.

View gamygeezer's profile

gamygeezer

138 posts in 252 days


#6 posted 01-27-2014 06:32 PM

Barry, I have been eyeing those clamps from TfWW for quite a while. They are priced by the pair, and are thus really reasonable. Thanks for the observation. If I find I need more, especially 6 footers, I will certainly get them there.

Ken

-- What's a vibrant young guy like me doing in a broken down old body like this?

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b2rtch

4338 posts in 1715 days


#7 posted 01-27-2014 06:38 PM

I also have these clamps and I am also very happy with them

-- Bert

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

348 posts in 773 days


#8 posted 01-27-2014 07:58 PM

Paul Sellers had a great post about these a little while back. He fills the cavity in the bar with a piece of wood to stiffen them up and give them more rigidity. It’s a pretty nice clamp for the money!

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View sgmdwk's profile

sgmdwk

259 posts in 539 days


#9 posted 01-27-2014 10:43 PM

Like others here, I like these clamps because they provide a great value. I can collect a bunch of useful clamps for a fraction of the cost I’d pay elsewhere.

-- Dave K.

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whitebeast88

3532 posts in 857 days


#10 posted 01-27-2014 11:00 PM

great review,i have 2-24” and 2-48”.so far am pretty satisfied with them especially for the price.i’ll be buying more when i go back to hf.

-- Marty.Athens,AL

View Larry's profile

Larry

22 posts in 1353 days


#11 posted 01-27-2014 11:56 PM

I have some of these in 48” and had one break just tightening by hand, probably a fluke, glad to know they have lifetime warranty, will take it back next trip. Otherwise I have been very satisfied with them, alot lighter than my pipe clamps.

View rrww's profile

rrww

263 posts in 780 days


#12 posted 01-28-2014 12:37 AM

I have 48 or so of these. Hey – they are cheap. About 1 in 8 randomly break the casting near the base of the threaded end. Its annoying – it happens under very little pressure (one handed). I have had a couple guys crank them a little too much and the bar is very soft and can bend easy. Once this happens it bulges the sides of the clamp and the locking end can’t slid by the bulge very easy. In my opinion they are not as good as the premium brands. (But much cheaper) If it was me I would give three stars – just because the breaking is random. At this price I can’t really complain too much. They are great for most smaller glue ups, as long as you don’t try to force the wood with them.

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Craftsman70

241 posts in 791 days


#13 posted 01-28-2014 06:24 AM

I got one…the casting broke with little pressure. I guess it was the 1 in 8. Maybe I’ll try another.

View lj61673's profile

lj61673

231 posts in 1066 days


#14 posted 01-28-2014 11:58 AM

Wow, all these comments about “great review”, did I miss something? Not one word about how the clamps actually work.

Is this a review about how they look? Or about how closely they resemble the Jorgensons?

This review section becomes more useless with each review like this one.

View rrww's profile

rrww

263 posts in 780 days


#15 posted 01-28-2014 12:13 PM

You must have missed something. To operate the clamp you adjust the stop to the proper width of your work piece then apply pressure by turning the handle to make it tighter. Most wood clamps operate in the same or similar matter. For any other details you can read what is written above. I hope that clears it up for ya…

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