Having the right bar clamps can make your next project easy, while having the wrong set can set you back, ruin the parts you’re working on, and force you to redo large sections of your project, setting you back time and money.
If you want to do it right the first time, you need the right tools for the job. Unfortunately, it gets harder and harder to find good tools when shopping line. Many product descriptions today sound like they’re written by ad executives, and it can be hard to tell if you’re getting a deal or getting ripped off.
We don’t want you to worry when you’re shopping for new bar clamps. Our reviews are designed to walk you through everything you need to know so that there are no nasty surprises when you get your product. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, so you can learn all about bar clamps, and learn how to find the model which is right for you.
|IRWIN QUICK-GRIP 1964758 Mini Bar Clamp (4 Pack)|
|Jorgensen Cabinet Master 24-inch (2 Pack)||15 lbs||4.7/5|
|Bessey GSCC2.536 2.5-Inch|
(Best for the Money)
|Shop Fox D2528 36-Inch||2 lbs||4.2/5|
|TEKTON 30-Inch 39185||2 lbs||3.9/5|
The IRWIN QUICK-GRIP 1964758 Mini Bar Clamp (4 Pack) includes the bar clamps that most woodworking professionals will love. They come with high-quality non-marring pads, which do a great job of protecting your projects from the dings and scratches that other clamps cause. These clamps can also provide up to 150 pounds of force, making them very powerful, despite their somewhat slim size. They also come with quick grips, which doesn’t require a lot of force to operate, and makes setting up and taking these down a quick and painless task, even for those with weak hands.
This set is also priced reasonably. While a lot of premium products provide marginally better value at a slightly higher price, these clamps get the job done without costing an arm and a leg. While these clamps won’t last forever, getting a year or two of regular use out of them will more than justify their price. And, since this set comes with four clamps, you’ll have more than enough clamps to attack all but the largest projects. If you’re looking for bar clamps that will get the job done at a reasonable price, then you can’t go wrong with this set.
The Jorgensen Cabinet Master 24-inch (2 Pack) bar clamps are the clamps you should consider if you use clamps a lot and want to invest in a premium product. These clamps come with a 24-inch capacity, which is going to be more than enough for most people’s needs. They also come with a great jaw design. Special care is taken to ensure that the faces sit perfectly parallel to each other, to maximize the clamp’s grip. Plus, the jaws are nearly four inches long, to ensure an even and strong grip on the project. It also has a great quick-release handle, so you can spend less time fussing with your clamps, and more time doing the work you need to do.
The handles are another nice area, as they’re rubber-coated to provide a soft grip. While not everyone is looking for comfortable tools, you can’t go wrong with tools that don’t put unnecessary wear on your hands. The only reason these clamps don’t take first is that they retail for almost double the price of our top model while providing half as many clamps. Still, if you want a really nice set of clamps, you’ll be happy with these.
While it’s nice to buy a premium product sometimes, it often feels just as good to find a model which works great but costs a fraction of what the competition will run you. This 36-inch clamps will allow you to clamp all but the most impossibly large projects, so if you’re working with bigger than average pieces, you should be well served by this clamp. The shaft is made from powder-coated cast iron, which gives you the strength and durability you’d expect from cast iron while adding in a hefty dose of corrosion resistance with the powered coating. Also included are great non-marring pads, which work well.
This model also comes with a double-locking system. While it may take a little time to get used to, it ultimately leads to a better grip. Since you can get this model for a fraction of what you’d pay for the top two on our list, and given its great quality in other areas, this model earns itself the title of best value bar clamp. Its only downside is that it flexes a little when in use. If you’re looking for a low-cost, high value buy, this is the bar clamp for you.
The Shop Fox D2528 36-Inch is another decent choice for those looking for a model with a huge capacity. Like the previous clamp, this model comes with a 36-inch capacity, so you should be able to work on just about anything with them. Somewhat uniquely, they’re made from aluminum. The upside to that is that they’re very lightweight compared to most models of a similar size, and they run a bit cheaper than steel, or cast iron would run in the same form factor, though aluminum isn’t as strong. This model also comes with clamp faces that run all the way to bar, allowing for a larger surface area with which to apply pressure than many models.
However, this isn’t the smoothest-operating tool to use. Setting it correctly takes longer than it does on other models, and some guesswork is usually required. It also has large gaps between the slots that you use for one of the clamp faces, so you spend more time than necessary screwing or unscrewing the other face. This model isn’t a terrible deal for the money, but the fact remains that you could spend less money and get better value.
The TEKTON 30-Inch 39185 is a trigger-style model, which is best for people with weak hands, or those who don’t want to spend a lot of time turning a screw to get their clamp set. The trigger is easy to use and makes the job fast, though some people will find it strange that this model’s trigger grip is reversed relative to those found on other models. It also comes with a wide, 30-inch opening, which isn’t the largest you can find but will give you a lot of clamping space for the price. Plus, it comes with a quick release, allowing you to clean up faster when the task is done.
However, this model loses a few places on our list to its significant problems. For one, it has relatively low force when compared to the other models on our list. While this might be okay for those without extreme clamping needs, those who need a lot of force will be disappointed. It also suffers from poor quality control, and sometimes ships with missing parts. Overall, this is a decent model for what it does and its price, but there are better options out there for most people.
The three most important aspects to consider when shopping for bar clamps are size, strength, and durability.
When buying clamps, it’s almost always a good idea to err on the side of caution and buy a size or two above what you think you’ll need. You can always hold smaller pieces in larger clamps, but you can’t go the other direction.
Strength is another big factor. While sheer clamping force is important, it’s also a good idea to invest in models which won’t flex under the loads you’ll put them under. That flexing greatly reduces the amount of force that gets transferred to the piece and also reduces the clamp’s life.
Finally, if you’re going to be using your clamps a lot, be sure to invest in a set that will last. Cheaper clamps may save you some money up front, but the amount you spend breaking them, in the long run, may offset those savings.
The IRWIN QUICK-GRIP 1964758 Mini Bar Clamp (4 Pack) is our favorite clamp set due to its quick grips, good strength, and reasonable price. In second is the Jorgensen Cabinet Master 24-inch (2 Pack), which is well-designed and well-crafted, but expensive, which drops it out of the first position. Third place goes to the Bessey GSCC2.536 2.5-Inch, which has a wide range and a powder-coated cast iron frame, however, given its very low price, it earns the title of best value for the money on our list. The Shop Fox D2528 36-Inch has a very large capacity and an aluminum frame which keeps the weight down, but it’s not the smoothest operating clamp, and has large gaps between slots, making it sometimes a frustrating tool to use. The TEKTON 30-Inch 39185 comes with a trigger-operated ratchet and a wide opening, but its low force and poor quality control drop it to the last place on our list.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you better understand bar clamps and have helped you find a model which maximizes the value you get for your money.
Also, we have a guide for pipe clamps found here.