Starting a Clamp Collection

ptt49er

Phillip
Corporate Member
Let's say you sold your shop, moved and are starting over.

Your current inventory of clamps consist of a hand full of Irwin Quick Grip Clamps, both in 12" and 24" lengths.

The upcoming project list includes a bunch of case work (captain style full size bed w/ headboard, kitchen cabinets, drawers, doors, etc).

What would you consider to be a "basic" starting point for your clamp collection?

Would you start with several pipe clamps w/ varying length of pipe? What about parallel body clamps?

Let's set a budget of $200 (is that realistic?) to get us started?

TIA!
 

Roy G

Roy
Senior User
Phillip, one thing I have seen is that a lot of clamping involves pieces that are slightly larger than 24". I have several 24" clamps that come up short. The prices of clamps nowadays is pretty high so you may want to get some pipe clamps with lengths of pipe to start with. I have every style of clamp from spring clamps to parallel body styles and they all come in handy so you probably can't go wrong by starting to buy what you need for a project and grow from there.

Roy G
 

chris_goris

Chris
Senior User
Sound advice from Roy. I watch craigslist, FB marketplace etc and yardsales etc and buy them whenever I find them. I have a "wall of clamps" now, been collecting them for 30 yrs.
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
For clamping longer pieces, pipe clamps are the most economical, but they're not the easiest clamps to use (small clamping surface, heavy, etc.)
Parallel clamps are great for casework, but expensive.

With a budget of $200, I'd invest in some long pipe clamps and small bar clamps. Harbor Freight's bar clamps up to 24" are excellent value for the money (the longer ones flex too much for my liking).
 

Hmerkle

Hank
Corporate Member
Harbor Freight's bar clamps up to 24" are excellent value for the money (the longer ones flex too much for my liking).
Bas,
Are you talking about the aluminum ones?
If so, have you tired the Paul Sellers trick of putting a "right-sized" piece of wood in the extrusion?
(I haven't yet, but plan to on the 3 foot clamps I bought...)
 

tvrgeek

Scott
User
So, for the super low budget:
Level ONE. A length of rope, roll of suran wrap, package of blue tape. Scrap wood to make corner blocks.

I have a PILE of the HF bar clamps. This series: 24 in. Quick Release Bar Clamp Sure, not Bessey, but I can afford dozens of them. Sure they flex a little, but so do my Pony. But not bad for the money.
I then have a rack of 12 and 18 inch Quick Clamps, a handful of cheap C-clamps. A super big C and super deep C. HF quality. They work. Very rarely use my hand screws. Of course really big glue ups, I have a rack of black pipe and Pony pipe clamps. If I need more, I would pay the price for Bessey.

Do not even think about the smaller HF with black plastic. Useless. Even though the only bad clamp is the one you don't have, I still threw mine away.
 

ptt49er

Phillip
Corporate Member
For clamping longer pieces, pipe clamps are the most economical, but they're not the easiest clamps to use (small clamping surface, heavy, etc.)
Parallel clamps are great for casework, but expensive.

With a budget of $200, I'd invest in some long pipe clamps and small bar clamps. Harbor Freight's bar clamps up to 24" are excellent value for the money (the longer ones flex too much for my liking).
I think this is the direction I'm headed in. Being able to adjust the length of the pipe clamps would be nice. I have a couple of "helpers" (willingly or not) that can be there to hold the other end of the pipes to help w/ glue up.
 

mdbuntyn

Matt
Corporate Member
My larger clamps are a mix of HF f-style clamps (blue handles), and HF aluminum bar clamps. I've found both types to be a decent value. I did use the "trick" that Hank referenced on all of the aluminum bar clamps, and it has eliminated virtually all of the flex.
 

Cuthriell

Cuthriell
User
Bas,
Are you talking about the aluminum ones?
If so, have you tired the Paul Sellers trick of putting a "right-sized" piece of wood in the extrusion?
(I haven't yet, but plan to on the 3 foot clamps I bought...)
I have done what you mention for the HF aluminum bar clamps. I purchased 12 48" clamps for a single use and stiffened them with SYP. I cut the wood a little fat and knocked them in by tapping wood end on the floor. I thought they worked well, but I have used them only the one time.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Pipe clamps using 3/4 pipe.
Cheap and strong if good ones are bought (Pony).
Don't waste your clamp money on Harbor Freight clamps, you'll just end up buying the good ones later on.
You can always do light work with heavier clamps but not the reverse.

$200.00 will barely buy four Bessey K-body clamps and those will have about the same compression as 3/4 pipe clamps (despite what they advertise).

Jorgensen makes good clamps these days. They aren't what they used to be, but the buyers voted the USA factory closed with their pocketbooks.
 

tvrgeek

Scott
User
Complete clamp kit for $6

It worked for a couple thousand years. Sure nice new $50 each clamps are nice, but think a lot harder about your actual needs when on a very short budget. A few boards, wedges etc.

Round it out another $4

Everything else is a luxury.

Watch Craig's list, yard sales, etc.
 

red

Papa Red
Red
Senior User
I'm a pipe clamp kind of guy. Its what I learned with back in the 70's and I never ventured away from them. You can get the Pony #50 pipe clamp for 3/4" pipe for $15 on Amazon. The pipe I find I like is at Home Depot again pretty reasonable. Don't get the pipe at Lowes. I don't like their coating on the pipe. I would not go with less than a 36" length. So for your $200 budget, you can get a great start on clamps. If you need a longer clamp occasionally, just buy the longer pipe and switch them out. I have a couple of 10' pipes stored on the lumber rack just for that. This is just my take on it. Enjoy.

Red
 

cyclopentadiene

Update your profile with your name
User
Nothing beats Bessey or Jorgensen parallel clamps. I would recommend a pair of 36 inch $100, 4 Pony pipe clamps (steel pipe, not galvanized) $80 and a couple of Jorgensen F style clamps to round out the $200 budget. You will be limited to clamping one thing at a time but these are all good clamps.
Clamping pressure is important and cheap clamps tend to fail. I recommend buying quality as they will last a lifetime and you wont regret it.
For some reason, clamps are more valuable than gold. I have found yard sales, estate sales, auctions and craigslist charge 90-150% of retail for used clamps. I am not sure why?
I donated all my cheap clamps many years ago.
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
I am in a different camp regarding clamps - at least so far. I haven't read all the earlier posts though.

I have not 'needed' the parallel clamps of any brand, and think there is much more 'bang' for the buck elsewhere (NOT knocking them, just haven't chosen to go there yet).
I generally use a series of pipe clamps, and a bunch of various brands F style clamps, including HF and others (this style is my typically my first choice). Recently I bought a few 4' Al bar clamps from LV that are Dubuque Aluminum Bar Clamps I believe ($40 each, bit of discount for 4). These were recommended as relatively light, but strong and well built. These are not 'cheap' particularly, but likely will outlast me. The 4' clamps will clamp something 4'. If I ever need more, I won't hesitate to get some more of these - if I can afford it.

On a budget, I'd go with HF F clamps first, especially for the sizes 24" or less; longer ones flex, but are usable. I would avoid the HF Al bar (notched U channel bar) - these were very poor performers for me, but I did not do all the things you need to do to get them to perform well. I used them a bit, and they failed and were destroyed.
 

tvrgeek

Scott
User
Nothing beats Bessey or Jorgensen parallel clamps. I would recommend a pair of 36 inch $100, 4 Pony pipe clamps (steel pipe, not galvanized) $80 and a couple of Jorgensen F style clamps to round out the $200 budget. You will be limited to clamping one thing at a time but these are all good clamps.
Clamping pressure is important and cheap clamps tend to fail. I recommend buying quality as they will last a lifetime and you wont regret it.
For some reason, clamps are more valuable than gold. I have found yard sales, estate sales, auctions and craigslist charge 90-150% of retail for used clamps. I am not sure why?
I donated all my cheap clamps many years ago.
One thing? Heck, I can use 20 clamps on one thing! Not against quality, but when presented with a budget, one needs to look at actual requirements, not wish lists. We are all to ready to spend someone else's money. If you break a HF "F" clamp ( series above) , you are doing something very wrong.
 

FredP

Fred
Corporate Member
I am in a different camp regarding clamps - at least so far. I haven't read all the earlier posts though.

I have not 'needed' the parallel clamps of any brand, and think there is much more 'bang' for the buck elsewhere (NOT knocking them, just haven't chosen to go there yet).
I generally use a series of pipe clamps, and a bunch of various brands F style clamps, including HF and others (this style is my typically my first choice). Recently I bought a few 4' Al bar clamps from LV that are Dubuque Aluminum Bar Clamps I believe ($40 each, bit of discount for 4). These were recommended as relatively light, but strong and well built. These are not 'cheap' particularly, but likely will outlast me. The 4' clamps will clamp something 4'. If I ever need more, I won't hesitate to get some more of these - if I can afford it.

On a budget, I'd go with HF F clamps first, especially for the sizes 24" or less; longer ones flex, but are usable. I would avoid the HF Al bar (notched U channel bar) - these were very poor performers for me, but I did not do all the things you need to do to get them to perform well. I used them a bit, and they failed and were destroyed.
I'm with you Henry with one exception. I've used the Bessey's and I don't like them.
Guess we are just too set in our way?
 

cyclopentadiene

Update your profile with your name
User
I can clamp almost anything with 4 Bessey parallel clamps and have perfect glue lines and joinery. Solid clamps with strong clamping pressure are the key.
pipe clamps are fine but even with steel pipe, they sometimes leave stains that must be sanded out. Not the case with parallel clamps
I have some longer Jorgensen and Irwin F style clamps but rarely use them. There is only a small round (marring) pad to hold the clamp in place. The surface area of a parallel clamp is the key factor. I typically only use F style clamps on really small pieces where 1 parallel will not fit.
The longest parallel clamps that I have are 48” so I use pipe clamps with long pipes for this purpose.
I purchased a couple of the aluminum clamps from Rockler when it was in Greensboro (1/2 price). May be the type but any reasonable pressure and these twist and buckle. They just sit in my shop rafters and are never used.
I actually can say, I have too many Clamps. About 48 parallel of varying lengths, 75 pipe clamps and 50 or so F style. Mainly Bessey, Jorgensen, Irwin and several Stanley F type from when Big Lots had them. Jorgensens were all from Ollies.
 

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