6 Best Parallel Clamps 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Woodworking can be a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. Everything needs to be lined up exactly right, and when you’re using wood glue and clamps, that can be difficult to achieve. Matters are made worse when you’re using inferior clamps that aren’t completely parallel, are difficult to adjust, or don’t have enough pressure to firmly hold your pieces together.
If you’ve ever been through the frustrating trials of gluing together a project and attempting to hold it together with clamps that were fighting you every step of the way, then you know just how important these tools truly are.
We’ve always got several projects lined up, and on the last one, our parallel clamps made it clear that they were ready for retirement. So, we set out to find the best replacements on the market. Along the way, we decided to share everything we learned about these parallel clamps in the following six reviews. Hopefully, these reviews can save you some time, money, and frustration by helping you pick the right parallel clamps the first time.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Jorgensen Cabinet Master Parallel Jaw Bar Clamp||
|Best Value||Yost K5024 24 Inch Parallel Clamp||
|Premium Choice||Jet 70431-2 31-Inch Parallel Clamp||
|Bora 40" Parallel Clamp||
|IRWIN 2026501 Parallel Clamp||
The 6 Best Parallel Clamps – Reviews 2020
1. Jorgensen Cabinet Master Parallel Jaw Bar Clamp – Best Overall
Parallel clamps might seem like a simple tool on the surface, but after using so many, we can tell you that they’re a lot harder to get right than you might think. But the Jorgensen Cabinet Master Parallel Jaw Bar Clamp got everything right, which is why it’s at the top of our list.
The jaws are slightly inclined when open, allowing them to fit easier onto a square surface. But once you tighten them, they become perfectly parallel, holding your work tight and straight. And these are about as secure as clamps can get, with a maximum clamping force of 1,500 pounds!
These clamps feature a 3¾-inch jaw depth, allowing for even pressure that will hold your project square and not pull things out of alignment. They also slide very easily, making it possible to adjust the clamp with one hand while holding it steady with the other. This makes them easier to use than other clamps that often left us feeling like we needed more hands. You’ll be paying a bit more for the quality of the Jorgensen clamps, but we think they’re worth it.
2. Yost K5024 24 Inch Parallel Clamp – Best Value
Parallel clamps seem like a pretty simple tool, but many of them are still very pricey. The Yost K5024 Parallel Clamp is an exception, making these tools affordable for the average hobbyist. You’ll only get one clamp though, so if you need two, you’ll have to purchase the second one separately.
These clamps are available in multiple lengths, giving you plenty of options for the type of projects you’re completing. You can choose from 12-inch, 24-inch, and 36-inch lengths. Interestingly, this tool can be reversed to use it as a spreader, multiplying its usefulness.
The jaws on this clamp have a depth of four inches, allowing for a very solid hold on your materials. They’re made of plastic so that they won’t damage your wood. To be fair, these are weaker than the other clamps we tested so they’re less likely to hurt your wood anyway. They can produce up to 880 pounds of clamping force; still respectable numbers. But when you consider the affordability of this clamp, it becomes clear that it’s one of the best parallel clamps for the money.
3. Jet 31-Inch Parallel Clamp – Premium Choice
Sometimes in life, you get what you pay for. The Jet 70431-2 Parallel Clamp set is one such situation. They’re more expensive than most of the competition, but they also have superior quality and some impressive features that warrant the higher cost. For instance, these clamps are covered by a lifetime warranty. Even though they’re more expensive, they’ll be with you for life.
One thing we loved about these clamps was the built-in glide trigger. It allows you to easily move the clamp anywhere along the rail with just one hand, which can be incredibly useful when attempting to hold two freshly glued boards together with the other. And the integrated rail stops ensure that the jaw faces won’t slide endlessly.
These clamps can exert up to 1,000 pounds of clamping pressure. But it doesn’t take much force to tighten them, thanks to the SUMOGRIP handle that makes it easy to tighten them all the way. And when you do, the non-marring jaw faces will ensure that your wood is never damaged and the pressure applied to your project is even and won’t pull anything out of alignment.
4. Bora 40″ Parallel Clamp
If you need extra reach to wrap around a large project you’re working on, then you might take a look at the Bora Parallel Clamps. They’re available in lengths as long as 50 inches, though the ones we tested were 40 inches long. They can produce a respectable 1,100 pounds of clamping pressure, evenly applied with 3.5-inch deep jaws that are padded to protect the surfaces they’re clamping.
Despite the extra length, we weren’t thrilled with the Bora clamps. The jaws don’t move freely. They’re always getting stuck. Even when they’re working their best, moving the jaw is a chore. If your hands are full with the wood you just glued and you’re trying to get it clamped but the jaw keeps getting stuck, you’re going to get frustrated pretty quickly.
Sometimes, the jaws would lock and we had to really fight them to get them moving again. We also noticed that the clamp heads aren’t parallel. This meant that when they were tightened all the way, the jaws sometimes changed the angle of our work, pulling things out of square. This adds another layer of frustration to an already difficult task.
5. IRWIN 2026501 Parallel Clamp
Irwin makes a lot of great tools, but the 2026501 Parallel Clamps aren’t on that list. But it took us a while to realize this. They seemed great at the beginning with an impressive clamping force of up to 1,150 pounds, making these some of the strongest clamps we tested. The jaws are made of resin that’s supposed to resist adhesion to glue. We like that idea, but it didn’t seem to play out as well as we hoped in reality.
This clamp is 48 inches long, allowing you to work on oversized projects. But you only get one and it’s pretty pricey considering its features. The metal bar flexes a lot, so we’re always questioning whether it’s straight. The clamps also don’t slide smoothly, which can be a real pain when you’re working with wet glue. When the plastic rail stops broke off, our disappointment reached a climax and we had to place the Irwin clamp down towards the bottom of our list.
6. POWERTEC Woodworking Parallel Clamp
The POWERTEC 71368 Woodworking Parallel Clamps come with two in a package. They’re 24 inches long and can apply a maximum pressure of 880 pounds. That’s decent but doesn’t quite live up to some of the other tools we tested. But these are pretty expensive considering what you get, which is why they’re in the bottom position of this list.
On the bright side, these clamps can be reversed and used as spreaders. But that’s not enough to make up for the poor build quality. There’s a lot of flex in the rails and the clamps don’t slide smoothly. Once you tighten the jaws, you’ll notice that they’re not quite parallel. This might not be a big deal in some cases, but when you’re gluing a cabinet together, you need it to remain square, and jaws that aren’t parallel can pull your work out of alignment. Altogether, we’d recommend skipping the POWERTEC clamps in favor of something stronger, better built, and more affordable.
Parallel clamps seem like pretty simple tools. All they do is hold stuff! There are few moving parts and nothing electrical or mechanical. So, how do you choose between them?
After using tons of these clamps over the years, we’ve come to realize that they’re not as simple as they seem on the surface. These are precision tools that need to be straight, strong, and reliable if they’re going to help you complete your projects.
To make sure that you don’t purchase the wrong clamps by mistake, we’ve put together this short buyer’s guide that will help you determine which traits to prioritize when searching for new parallel clamps.
If the clamps you’re using won’t reach across the full length of your project, then they’re not going to do you any good. That’s why length is the very first aspect to consider when choosing parallel clamps. If your cabinet is 32 inches across, a 24-inch clamp will be useless. Determine the size of project you’ll be tackling and get a set of parallel clamps that’s slightly larger.
After length, the next most important trait for your clamps to have is strength. You need these clamps to firmly hold your project in place for an extended period. If the clamp isn’t strong enough, then your pieces might move, causing them to dry in the wrong position. This would mean you have to take everything apart and start all over again.
But you can avoid this time-costing mishap by purchasing clamps that are strong enough to hold your work steady. Some of our favorites were able to produce as much as 1,500 pounds of holding pressure. But for most applications, this is probably more than you need. Still, you want to get the strongest clamps possible so you’re prepared for any situation that might arise.
We just mentioned how some of these clamps can exert over 1,000 pounds of pressure. All that pressure applied against a soft wood can easily damage the surface, leaving gouges, scratches, marring, and more.
Luckily, most of these clamps have some sort of surface protection that covers the face of the jaws. This will prevent them from damaging your wood. You’ll want to ensure that you only pick clamps with adequate surface protection so you can avoid accidentally destroying the projects you’re trying to build.
Ease of Operation
Dealing with wet glue is a gigantic pain. When you’re trying to glue two boards together, they aren’t going to stay on their own. In fact, the glue almost acts as a lubricant making it easier for them to slide apart until it tacks up.
That’s why you should prioritize ease of operation when looking at different parallel clamps. You need to be able to operate the tool with one hand; you’ll likely need your other hand to hold the wood steady while you attempt to clamp it.
Some of the clamps we tested were easy to use with a single hand. These usually involved some sort of easy-to-use locking system like a glide trigger or a flip-up handle. This makes it possible to fully tighten or loosen the clamp while holding the project still with your other hand.
Does it Apply Even Pressure?
Parallel clamps are so named because the jaws of the clamp should be perfectly parallel when tightened. This ensures that your materials are held square and straight. But if the jaws on your clamp aren’t perfectly parallel, then when you tighten them down, they can pull your project out of square.
Some jaws are built so that they’re slightly off from parallel when open but will straighten out when tightened. These can make it easier to get the clamp on wood that’s a tight fit. But when you tighten the jaws, they need to be completely parallel or your projects will never be square.
The final aspect to consider is the price. Though these tools all perform the same basic function, some models cost twice as much as others. Granted, sometimes, you get what you pay for. But there are other times where one product is simply overpriced.
If you can find a tool that has all the necessary features and it costs less than another tool with the same features, then you’ll have to decide how important price is in your final decision. The cheaper tool may have hidden drawbacks like a shorter warranty or weaker parts, even though they share similar specs.
Other types of clamps we’ve reviewed:
- Bar clamps
- Pipe Clamps
- 6 Different Types of Clamps: Which is Right for You?
- Corner clamps
- Pipe clamps
There’s no shortage of parallel clamps on the market for you to choose from. But that doesn’t mean they’re all good choices. After testing all of the best clamps we could find and writing reviews to help you compare them, we settled on three of these tools that we’d trust with all of our woodworking projects.
The Jorgensen Cabinet Master Parallel Jaw Bar Clamps were our top choice. They can exert up to 1,500 pounds of clamping pressure, ensuring that your project is held tight until the glue dries. The clamps are completely parallel once tight, ensuring that pressure is even and your project won’t be distorted. Best of all, the rapid-action clamp can be adjusted with just one hand.
When you need a great tool at a lower price, we recommend the Yost K5024 Parallel Clamp. It’s available in lengths up to 36 inches and you can reverse the tool to use it as a spreader.
But if you need the best and don’t mind investing a little in top-quality tools, then you should check out the Jet 70431-2 Parallel Clamps with 1,000 pounds of clamping pressure and a glide trigger that makes one-handed adjustments easy.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 6 Best Parallel Clamps – Reviews 2020
- Buyer’s Guide