Bar Clamps

Bill J

Bill
User
I've been using my 20 year old pipe clamps for, well, 20 years with no problems but find that I need a few more. So I and am going to be acquiring a few new bar clamps and am would like to draw on the extensive experience in this forum. Is it worth it to get the Bessey steel clamps or are aluminum clamps sufficient? The latter are on sale from multiple outlets but I don't want to make a decision based on short term price that I will regret in a few years.
After all - the one who dies with the most clamps wins, right?
 

red

Papa Red
Red
Senior User
I still use the Pony clamps for 3/4" black pipe. I just recently bought another 18 clamps to add to what I had. They work great and are affordable.

Red
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
If you’re talking about parallel clamps, IMO hands down Bessey are the best. I have several Jet clamps and wouldn’t buy them again.

I also have aluminum bar clamps. They have their place, they do work, and they are certainly cheap enough and some are cheaply made (Harbor Freight). I did the Paul Sellers modifications (insert hardwood in tube, file down edges of slider to prevent binding).

I’ll often use them for panel glue up b/c one of the issues with pipe and parallel clamps is weight. There are times I can barely lift everything off the table.
 

Bill Clemmons

Bill
Corporate Member
Years ago I started buying the 1/2" pipe clamps instead of the 3/4". I find they are plenty strong enough for most woodworking applications. I still have some of the 3/4" but rarely need that much strength.
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
I have one pair of Al 'bar' clamps, but have purchased 2 sets. The set in the trash were from HF; the clips kept slipping out of the notches under pressure. Too much trouble for me. I have lots of HF F clamps that are a good value.
The Al bar clamps one I kept and use are the orange brand (Pony?). For me usage is primarily panel glue ups. I prefer Al bar to pipe clamps for weight reasons. I have not purchased these in many years so I have no idea what is currently available.

For Al clamps the Dubuque Al bar clamps seem to have a loyal following (many satisfied users) on the WoodCentral board.
Available from Lee Valley, but not cheap (makes Bessey parallel clamps look more cost competitive).
https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/sho...0618-dubuque-aluminum-bar-clamps?item=03F0624
I have not gone this route, but may some day.
 

frankc4113

Frank C
Corporate Member
If you are looking specifically for bar clamps, the Dubuque aluminum ones seem to me, able to do the job without adding a lot of extra weight. You don't need the tremendous "holding power" that some manufacturers advertise. All that does in many cases is to warp or glue starve a joint. All you need to do is hold the wood together until it sets or dries. The 1/2" pipe clamps or the Dubuque aluminum clamps will do the same job some heavier clamp will do.
Both bar clamps and parallel clamps have their job but for many jobs, especially those where you are using a lot of clamps, that is, door and panel glue ups, lifting or moving the piece around with a lot of heavy clamps is a PITA.
 

cpw

Charles
Corporate Member
I haven't bought clamps in a while but in my limited experience you do tend to get what you pay for. It just seems with clamps the pricing curve is very steep. It seems you pay A LOT more for a little improvement in performance, but when you're trying to get the clamps on a glue-up the little idiosyncrasies of cheaper clamps can be really frustrating.

The aluminum bars from Rockler that I have are far superior to the HF ones that I have. I could stiffen the HF clamps with hardwood like Paul Sellers recommends but I don't use them much and we're about to downsize the shop so I may ditch them.

My Bessey parallels are much easier to engage than my Wood Rivers, My little rail-slip F-style Besseys are better than the no-name-o brand I picked up along the way, so forth and so on.

That said, I also have some pipe clamps that I still use. HF specials. They took some fiddling, like grinding some of the clamp faces flat, but they work.
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
I have alot of both pipe clamps (1/2" and 3/4") and Bessey K bodies (steel). The FIRST clamp I reach for is the Bessey K Body. For 2 reasons. The ease that they close down on whatever Im clamping (sliding the head) and the clamping faces are large parallel faces. There is nothing wrong with pipe clamps, in fact I think I can get more pressure using them (3/4" not 1/2") but the clamping forces for a tabletop glue up for instance seem to want to curl the glue up, so I end up alternating top and bottom.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
I just looked back at some of my photographed glue-ups and it seems that bar clamps seem to be my most often used. Today the Jorgensen 7200 series is about all one can get on the retail market. The lightweight clamps in various forms are great for gluing up light weight assemblies. The quick-grip clamps are particularly good for gluing on a 1/4" back to a piece of casework that needs the back glued on.
Moving panels with lots of bar clamps is a heavy pain, no question, but it is a short term problem for a long term gain. PVA wood glue is viscous and hard to squeeze down adequately to get an invisible joint. That's why so much pressure is needed.

Some photos for entertainment and examples.


1  clamps - 1.jpg1  clamps - 2.jpg1  clamps - 3.jpg1  clamps - 4.jpg1  clamps - 5.jpg1  clamps - 6.jpg1  clamps - 7.jpg1  clamps - 8.jpg1  clamps - 9.jpg1  clamps - 10.jpg1  clamps - 11.jpg1  clamps - 12.jpg1  clamps - 13.jpg1  clamps - 14.jpg1  clamps - 15.jpg1  clamps - 16.jpg1  clamps - 17.jpg1  clamps - 18.jpg1  clamps - 19.jpg1  clamps - 20.jpg
 
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bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Hargrave 640 is what I have the most of in bar clamps. They're hard to find in good condition these days. $25-40.00 is what I expect to pay for good used ones. Other people often pay more. I'll often see that model for sale but the clamp is totally trashed. The Jorgensen 7200 is about the only modern day equivalent. Back in the day there were all sorts of good bar clamp makers.
 

Sourwould

New User
Taylor
Hargrave 640 is what I have the most of in bar clamps. They're hard to find in good condition these days. $25-40.00 is what I expect to pay for good used ones. Other people often pay more. I'll often see that model for sale but the clamp is totally trashed. The Jorgensen 7200 is about the only modern day equivalent. Back in the day there were all sorts of good bar clamp makers.
I believe those jorgensen's are now NLA.
 

Sourwould

New User
Taylor
It may be old stock, but even if it's old stock it's probably not US made. Last time I looked, grizzly was showing pictures of the old jorgensen clamps and shipping out the new and improved chinese pony clamps. The bar clamps are showing as unavailable/discontinued through most online retailers.

I thought I had found a company that still had USA jorgensen f clamps in stock. I ordered all the ones the website said they had. I got a refund an an email saying that they couldn't locate them in the warehouse.

I think good domestic made clamps can only be found at thrift stores, flea markets, scrap yards, and ebay.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
These have been listed many times over the past three months and yet no takers. Price may be negotiable by now. There is one Hargrave 640 on the right.
https://winstonsalem.craigslist.org/tls/d/winston-salem-old-lumber-clamp/7222475337.html

There were two styles of bars on the bar clamps (AKA I-beam clamps). I prefer the older style as they seem to be a bit more rigid. This bar configuration was also true on many of the old orange Jorgensen clamp styles over the years.

1  I-Beam.jpg
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
I use pipe clamps on larger stuff. I learned something about the type of pipe you use. Since I could get the pipe for free I took it. All the 3/4 I got was 304 SS sch 40. What I learned is its surface can cause it to slip and not grab. I had to rough the surface of them to make them predictable in performance. Bottom line, regular black pipe is better for this, except it does rust.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
If you’re talking about parallel clamps, IMO hands down Bessey are the best.
I've heard this from many experienced professional people and I have seen collections of the K-body clamps in their shops. I'm tempted to try them but I don't want to make any bad buying decisions.
What lengths do you prefer?
I know that some clamp styles I have can be too short or too long. I'm figuring that maybe a 36" opening would get used the most. I've got plenty of flea-weight clamps for small stuff. Casework would be the main use that I imagine at this time.
 

Sourwould

New User
Taylor
How come?
Wasting my money on some new large clamps doesn't bother me half as much as wasting the wall storage space.
I found them kind of unruly. I didn't like the way the clutch worked, I felt like I was always pushing the handle the wrong way. If the jaws aren't perfectly parallel, the clamp will slip.

I also liked having just a few clamps and a lot of pipes. And that pipe is usually free for me.

I used pipe clamps on site too, to push around pieces of wall, squeeze together sandwiches, etc. It's nice for me to be able to rotate one of the jaws.

I just got a good deal on a lot of hargrave pipe clamps, so I'm set for a while. Always looking out for the long reach Pony pipe clamps - my favorite for site work.

Edit: Disclaimer: I'm very picky.
 
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