pipe clamp maintenance and a Bessey fix question

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Forum topic by Betsy posted 11-01-2015 04:37 AM 1705 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3391 posts in 4066 days

11-01-2015 04:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pipe clamps maintenance

I have pipes for, obviously, pipe clamping jobs. Some of these pipes are older than Moses and have seen better days but are still sound. But what I’ve been finding lately is that some of the pipes have so many little nicks from the clamp mechanisms that they are almost a ratchet clamp. So my first question is what would be the best way to smooth out the pipes a bit without really losing too much width of the pipe? I’ve tried some 36 grit sandpaper on a few but to not much effect. I don’t have a grinder.

I know I can buy new pipes – but seems a waste and pipes are not all that cheap. So your suggestions are welcome.

Now as to the next issue. I’ve been switching to Bessey pipe clamp fixtures.

They seem to work better for me than the pony clamps I’ve had. But I have a few that I have issues with the head clamp racks as I tighten the screw. In other words – the round portion that surrounds the pipe – the top moves forward but the bottom lags behind making it so the clamp does not tighten – nothing I’ve tried to do to fix the issue seems to work. I’d like to send a picture but I seem to have a big issue of finding my phone – had it today, but for the life of me I can’t find where I laid it down. When I do find it I’ll post a picture – but hopefully you can get the idea from my description.

Any ideas would be appreciated for both issues.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

15 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5127 posts in 2663 days

#1 posted 11-01-2015 11:37 AM

Not sure about question #2, but for the nicks problem I’m wondering if they are all on opposite sides of the pipe where the pawls grab? Maybe you can rotate the pipe 90ยบ and get smooth surfaces under the pawls? Just a thought.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Tugboater78's profile


2757 posts in 2362 days

#2 posted 11-01-2015 11:41 AM

Ive had the same issue as #2 question and hopefully can find an answer.

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View johnstoneb's profile


3032 posts in 2343 days

#3 posted 11-01-2015 12:13 PM

I would use an ROS with 80 or 100 grit and knock the high spots down. 36 grit is to coarse for iron. It just knock the grit off the paper.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View rwe2156's profile


3133 posts in 1651 days

#4 posted 11-01-2015 12:15 PM

Try turning the pipe around? May need to thread other end.

Other than that, pipes are cheap enough if you’ve used them that much just replace them.

You can always use them as extensions?

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Tennessee's profile


2887 posts in 2684 days

#5 posted 11-01-2015 01:31 PM

First, the pipe. Using zinc coated pipe, or black pipe? I found that the zinc does seem to notch and nick, and slowly end up as a you say, a ratchet clamp.
On the other hand, I’ve had black pipes for over 30 years that never gained a nick.
Another possibility is the grade of pipe? I’m not a plumber, but I know there are different pressure levels of pipe, which use different metals and wall thicknesses.

As far as the second, I have Pony, HF, and Bessey pipe clamps just like you show, and have not seen this problem with the Bessey. The head end does seem to want to turn off easier than my Pony’s and HF’s – it seems that the thread is a bit large for 3/4” pipe, but I don’t see any racking and have never had one not lock up. Are your pipe threads too deep and smaller in diameter on your pipes, maybe?

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View bearkatwood's profile


1655 posts in 1182 days

#6 posted 11-01-2015 02:11 PM

A medium metal file will knock down those kerfs and you might want to try switching out the pipe on the bessey and see if that does the trick. I recently bought a run of clamps and chose the black pipes. They do leave a stain if they touch the glue while clamping, but they are cheaper and hold up better in my opinion. Some of those galvanized pipes seem like they have zinc butter on them. When you purchase them, have the head there to check the fit of the threads. If you have a clamp that is slipping or the head is not locking in position, it is probably the pipe, trade it out with a clamp that you know works and see what happens.

-- Brian Noel

View bandit571's profile


21477 posts in 2853 days

#7 posted 11-01-2015 02:45 PM

If it is just a thread problem….get a roll of Teflon Tape. A few wraps around the threads, and the head of the clamp with stay put. Or just get some “pipe dope”

Galv. pipe slips to much, too soft. DAMHIKT. I switched to black iron pipe, no slippage. Galv. I had to add a pair of large visegrips to keep the other end from sliding back as I clamped things up. I have H-F, Pony, and a few Yard sale thropies.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View lew's profile


12377 posts in 3925 days

#8 posted 11-01-2015 02:58 PM

I’ve read where the “silver” rings, in the slider portion, can be removed, flipped over and reinserted. That’s supposed to help reduce the slippage. Apparently the sharp edges of the rings wear down and slide.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4066 days

#9 posted 11-01-2015 04:03 PM

Thanks guys. Yes all of my pips are galvanized. Don’t know the grades as they have been bought over the years – mostly at big box stores. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about pipe grades. I’ll start getting black pipes when I buy new ones going forward.

I’ll have to see if I have a metal file and/or buy one, in the meantime, I’ll try higher grades of sandpaper.

As far as spinning the pawls around to the other side of the pipe, I have to admit to some OCD. Until recently after using the pipe clamps I always took the parts off and stores them, neatly, in a box. The pipes were stored on end in a 5-gallon bucket and tied with a string to keep them all nice and neat. I’ve been cured of that behavior out of necessity since I’ve been doing so much building. So long and short, it seems like it’s not been but a year or so (I’m a terrible historian though) that I’ve kept all my clamps together.

For the Bessey – another admission – simply trying putting on the other end – or trying a different pipe – never occurred to me – not a mechanical thinker I guess. I’ll try that then move to teflon tape if that does not work.

Lew – those silver rings do come out and can be reordered to take care of that wear down issues.

I’ll try these solutions and get back with the results. Thanks for all the suggestions.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1590 days

#10 posted 11-01-2015 04:40 PM

I bought all black pipe when I set up my pipe clamps. Simply because galvanized pipe is good for nothing but grief! I wrapped Teflon tape on the threads of the pipe I put the head clamp on, tightened it down, & they stay on the pipe. I’ve got several different lengths of pipe, & have couplers to make extensions. As for the black stains, I remedied that issue with a couple coats of clear coat sprayed on the pipe to “seal” the black. So far it has worked well. Just my .02. Enjoy the day.

-- Sawdust703

View upchuck's profile


540 posts in 1835 days

#11 posted 11-01-2015 05:01 PM

As others have suggested a 8”, 10”, or 12” Mill Bastard file (or just about any file with a flat face) would reduce the nicks and smooth out the pipes to allow smoother sliding. Teflon tape or tightening the head with the screw mechanism with a wrench would give a different arc of use on the pipe. I’ve also had success with reversing/flipping the plates that grip the pipe to increase holding grasp. Flipping the plates may require a screwdriver to hold the spring up while removing the plates.
Good luck.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4066 days

#12 posted 11-08-2015 12:12 AM

I’m circling back to try to let you know how I’m coming along getting my clamps back to good working order. I’ve used an 80 grit paper and knocked out most of the nicks (and a few blobs of glue – imagine that) on some of the pipes. I must have pipes of different hardnesses as the paper didn’t touch the nicks on a few of the pipes on others it was almost too much grit. Nonetheless, most of my pipes are now much less ratchet and more pipe clamp material.

As to the racking of the Bessey heads – I did put the offending heads on several different pipes and one worked out and the other did not. I found the problem on the second – there was a small “burr” for lack of a better word in the center of the circle. I had to use a file to knock that down and now it’s working just fine.

I’ve used some pipe tape and that has stopped the heads from not being tight to the clamp. I do admit to being surprised at the tape. I’ve done some plumbing work, though it’s been a while, but I don’t remember the tape being that flimsy/thin. It was surprising how much tugging it took to tear it at the end of the wrap.

Anyway – thanks all of you for your suggestions. I think I’m on my way to happy clamping. :-)


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View markf's profile


28 posts in 1153 days

#13 posted 11-08-2015 02:25 AM

Glad things worked out with the clamps. As for the phone, from my experience, check the washing machine.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4066 days

#14 posted 11-08-2015 03:28 AM

Pretty close Mark – I found it under the pile of laundry to be folded. I’m not in the habit of folding as soon as I take out of the dryer – so I didn’t find the phone until the next morning. I’ve since learned there is a program you can use to find your phone. Works well.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View pintodeluxe's profile


5781 posts in 2983 days

#15 posted 11-08-2015 04:26 AM

I really like those Bessey H clamps. I prefer them to my parallel clamps for large panel glueups.
Glad you solved the issues.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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