Clamps... So many options

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Forum topic by PhillipRCW posted 12-10-2014 09:34 PM 1006 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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382 posts in 685 days

12-10-2014 09:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: clamp joining finishing arts and crafts modern traditional shaker question tip

I am starting up my custom furniture business. I want to mainly focus on tables and the occasional dresser. I can build other things, but I tend to have more fun building those two items. I have to admit that a lot of the tools had to be purchased during the big box stores specials and the clamps aren’t the best. I have some small Bessey clamps that I got a steal on, but I need some larger clamps to do some rather large glue up table tops. What is the best value clamp for right now? Once I get the capital back from the initial start up I will be purchasing better tools, but will the HF specials do the same as a $60 clamp if I’m just bookmatching some live edge pieces? I know not to cheap out on saws and expensive tools, but when does a 14.99 clamp get so bad that it makes up for paying $60?

-- Phillip- Measure twice, cut onc.... Hey look, it's rustic.

15 replies so far

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1275 posts in 1355 days

#1 posted 12-11-2014 04:11 AM

There are some good American made clamps on

Also go to Harry J Epstein’s online store

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View verdesardog's profile


133 posts in 2031 days

#2 posted 12-11-2014 04:35 AM

probably the best clamps for big projects like tables would be pipe clamps…...

-- .. heyoka ..

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2391 days

#3 posted 12-11-2014 04:51 AM

I have some of just about every clamp made.
My favorite big clamps are Jorgensen pipe clamps.
I buy my pipe from a steel fabricator. I cut and thread it myself.
Can buy pipe in 21 ft lengths for less than Home Depot charges for a 4 ft piece.

A handy trick to keep the pipe off the glue joint is to slide a pair of 6” long pieces of 1” PVC pipe over the steel 3/4” pipe before you put the clamp ends on the pipe.

The HF “F-style” clamps are pretty good.
The HF quick clamps are junk.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View TDubs's profile


19 posts in 978 days

#4 posted 12-11-2014 04:58 AM

I’ve made a number of projects requiring large glue-ups over the years. Pony 3/4” pipe clamps have worked well for me and they’re made here in the states. I have never seen one break. I don’t trust Chinese metallurgy. You just never know when it’s going to break. Just ask the state of California for their opinion on the steel that was shipped over as bridge components. Broken on delivery!

Bessey makes great clamps. Their 3/4” H clamps are listed on Amazon Prime for around $12.88 a set.

Also, if you’re starting a business and will be purchasing a lot of stuff, check out Amazon Prime. No taxes and usually a two day free delivery. What does it cost in gas to take the work vehicle out on a supply run? We have saved a ton on shipping and taxes for many tools and materials that we use in our business.

-- Terry, East Central IL

View PhillipRCW's profile


382 posts in 685 days

#5 posted 12-11-2014 08:31 AM

Thanks guys. I love amazon prime. Been all over amazon looking for stuff recently. I’m currently just trying to decide if I want to pull out some more savings to buy clamps or go cheap right now. I honestly hadn’t looked at the pipe clamps yet but I need to.I have about 10,000 lbs worth of slabs sitting at the saw mill that I need to get started on. So pipe clamps might be the way to go. I like the bar clamps a lot myself. Haven’t found any quick clamps I like except some besseys and I already own those.

Now I just have to decide on a new table saw. Woodcraft keeps pushing the saw stop contractor saw, but I also like the Delta and the Laguna.

-- Phillip- Measure twice, cut onc.... Hey look, it's rustic.

View ChrisK's profile


1794 posts in 2502 days

#6 posted 12-11-2014 01:20 PM

For the money, and for large clamping, it is hard to beat pipe clamps. I have collected a dozen or so over the years. Pony is one and I do not know the other two brands. Most likely one is Irwin. 1/2 and 3/4 pipe. I use unions if I need more than the pipe I have. The 1/2” pipe is lighter and cheaper and still strong enough for most glue ups. If you can get the pipe from a steel supplier it is pretty inexpensive. I did get three of the heavy duty Irwin 50” quick clamps a few years ago for about $20 a piece. They are great, lighter than the pipe clamps and very strong. I would not have them if they where not on sale though.

I also bought about a dozen of the HF 12” clamps for the yet to happen canoe build. at $1.00 a piece how bad could they be? Pretty bad. I only use them for very light duty stuff and when all of my other clamps are in use. Good luck with the business.

-- Chris K

View bobro's profile


308 posts in 731 days

#7 posted 12-11-2014 02:24 PM

Learned the hard way that buying the least expensive clamps is false economy.

Between the prices for tools here being very high where I’m at, and reckoning median incomes, clamps are about four times as expensive as in, say, California, (did some comparison calculating on a recent visit). With several broken “Borg” clamps already, my only realistic option is the swap meet (there are no garage sales in this part of the world).

At any rate, don’t skimp and don’t complain. :-)

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1934 days

#8 posted 12-11-2014 02:27 PM

In my early days of clamping, back in the 70’s and 80’s, I relied almost exclusively on pipe clamps. Pony and Jorgenson were my choices. I always left the end threaded, so I could add a coupler to put two pipes together so I could make up a 8-10 footer if needed.
I still have most of them, but now that I do smaller items, I have a combination of Irwin and HF. I do own a few Bessey clamps, but mine have those slippery wooden handles and I don’t prefer them. Still, a good clamp body if you coat the wood handle with rubber.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

View ADHDan's profile


799 posts in 1529 days

#9 posted 12-11-2014 03:10 PM

I’ve never had a problem with Harbor Freight’s pipe clamps, and their aluminum bar clamps are pretty good. Their quick clamps are pure junk and I wouldn’t use their F-style bar clamps over 18”-24” inches. I like Irwin quick-grip clamps, and for bigger bar clamps I think it’s a wash between Bessey and Jorgenson. The main problem with the Harbor Freight F-style bar clamps is that they deflect a lot more than the others once you get over about 18” in length.

I love the rubber handles on the Harbor Freight bar clamps, though. I hate the wooden handles on my other clamps, so I drilled a 1/4” hole through them and put in a short bolt with a lock nut so I can spin them with one finger.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View waterbear's profile


5 posts in 1125 days

#10 posted 12-11-2014 03:51 PM

As stated before Bar clamps are great and can be had for little money compared to other costs. I have some of the HF quick clamps and they are great for light work. Only light work. I also have some old bar claps that where passed down form my father that are older than me and still work great. If you look at the price per use buy the best clamp you can at the time and it will last longer and hold up the best. If you want buy some HF clamps and run them in to the ground until you can buy better clamps. The one thing I have learned is to buy the best quality I can afford and make due with that.

View UpstateNYdude's profile (online now)


671 posts in 1403 days

#11 posted 12-11-2014 04:14 PM

The aluminum bar clamps from HF are awesome, much lighter then even some of F style bessey tradesman clamps and they work beautifully.

-- Nick, "Choking to death on bacon is like getting murdered by your lover." - JG

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2997 days

#12 posted 12-11-2014 04:21 PM

I have many different clamps but it’s hard to beat Pipe clamps .In most cases I agree with the idea that cheap tools don’t stand the test of time,but I’ve had very good luck with HF 3/4” pipe clamps.Depending on the sale HF is having you can get 2-4 clamps for the price one of pony or Jorgensen. I think I’m up to about 150 pipe clamps and 90% are HF’s.I have found that with HF pipe clamps you need to lube the threads with a little vaseline to make them turn smoothly. When I buy them on sale I’ll get a couple dozen and I have to admit that perhaps 10% of them don’t operate properly but HF has a great return policy so I just send them back. If you live close enough to a HF you can check them out before you take them home. I’ve been using many of my HF clamps for 15 years or so without problems. I know a big percentage of the tools you buy from HF are not worth having, but their Pipe clamps are one of the exceptions.
A couple things that make pipe clamps more versatile are when buy pipes get both ends threaded so you can use a pipe coupler to join more than one pipe together. It’s also a good Idea to get some couplers to screw on the end to protect the exposed threads.

If you’re going to buy any Quick grip style one hand clamps stay away from the standard Quick grips and buy the XP600 Quick grips larger and MUCH stronger version,in my opion the HF one hand clamps are a total waste of money .

Good luck on your new venture.

-- Custom furniture

View paxorion's profile


1100 posts in 1466 days

#13 posted 12-11-2014 04:48 PM

As everyone else has stated, pipe clamps are a very economical way to go. I have a total of 8, and while I’ve begun phasing them out in favor of my parallel clamps, I’m glad I have them early on. I have 4 Jorgensen Pony and 4 HF pipe clamp fixtures and while the HF had more of a break-in period, they both work just as well.

If you re going to buy any Quick grip style one hand clamps stay away from the standard Quick grips and buy the XP600 Quick grips larger and MUCH stronger version,in my opion the HF one hand clamps are a total waste of money .

- a1Jim

I concur, the XP600 are WAY better than the standard quick grips or SL300s.

Depending on the sizes you are looking for, given that we are past the Jet parallel clamp bonanza of this Black Friday shopping season, I’ll also advocate for the Peachtree Woodworking parallel clamps. They’ll still be pricier than pipe clamps or the aluminum bar clamps but I have been very happy with mine.

-- paxorion

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 995 days

#14 posted 12-11-2014 05:09 PM

I like the HF aluminum bar clamps they are pretty good.
stay away from any of the orange and black quick grips,they don’t get tight enough to hold and they strip.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2233 days

#15 posted 12-11-2014 05:53 PM

I shy away from F style clamps. Pipe clamps are your workhorse. Bessey 1/2” H style pipe clamps work great time and time again. You also need some clamps with a longer jaw, to reach over the pipe clamps for complicated frame glueups. For that I use parallel clamps.

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

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