Best Woodworking Clamps 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks
Clamps are a vital part of woodworking, whether you’re gluing wood together, or need to hold something down so you can safely and accurately work on it. However, it’s not always easy to know which model is right for you, especially when shopping online. Many manufacturers aren’t shy about trumpeting their products’ best features and sweeping their flaws under the rug.
We think that people should be well-informed before they buy, which is why we assembled this list of reviews of the best woodworking clamps of 2020. You should be able to use these reviews to find a model that suits your needs and avoid any pitfalls related to substandard products.
We also created a buyer’s guide, so if you’ve never shopped for clamps before you can get up to speed on what you need to know before you buy.
A Comparison of our Favorite Choices
|Best Overall||Bessey GSCC2.524||
|IRWIN Tools IRHT83220||
|Best Value||Bessey LM2.004||
The 3 Best Woodworking Clamps
1. Bessey 2.5-Inch Woodworking Clamp – Best Overall
The Bessey GSCC2.524 2.5-Inch clamps are our top pick. They’re great for people who value quality but aren’t looking to break the bank either. They come with a sturdy cast-iron frame, which holds up to abuse well, and lends enough strength for many kinds of common tasks. It comes with great protective pads, which keep the clamp from scratching your project, and unlike those from other brands, they generally stay on well.
The 24-inch clamping range is large enough to deal with medium-to-large pieces of wood and to keep them secure during heavier cuts or other intense processes. One of the best things about these clamps is that they’re easy to use and quick to reposition, so you can spend as little time as possible working on the clamps, as much as possible getting down to business. While these aren’t heavy-duty clamps suitable for industrial work, they’ll do a great job in a home shop or garage and would make a fine addition to any woodworker’s collection.
2. IRWIN Tools Quick-Grip Wood Clamp Set
The IRWIN Tools Quick-Grip IRHT83220 is a powerful set of clamps, providing securing power up to 150 psi. That’s enough to secure most small and medium-sized projects. The best thing about this set is that it comes with eight clamps in four different models that you can use for a variety of tasks. This set features quick releases, which makes it easy and fast to set your clamps and to reposition them when the need arises.
However, not every clamp in the collection is as useful as the others. Four of the clamps are hand clamps, which are only useful for work on thinner woods or other thin materials. You also get two 6-inch clamps and two 12-inch clamps, which aren’t that large. That will be enough for holding a single 2×4 in place or a very small stack of them, but if you’re looking to work with a very tall or very think stack of lumber, you’re going to be out of luck. This set is best for people who are looking for reliable, lightweight clamps for light-to-medium use.
3. Bessey LM Woodworking Clamp – Best Value
The Bessey LM2.004 LM General is the clamp for you if you need a clamp that stays out of the way and lets you work around it. Not all clamps do well with oddly-shaped materials, but this model’s slim design means that it will work on even the most awkwardly shaped pieces. It comes with a sturdy wooden handle, which looks and feels nicer than a plastic equivalent. It’s also faster to position and use than an equivalently-sized c-clamp, which will save you a lot of time in the long run.
It comes with a sturdy steel frame which gives it a lot of power despite its small size. You also won’t have to worry about it breaking if you drop it, or having the frame come apart due to overtightening. The one downside to this model is that it only has about 4-inches of nominal capacity, which means that you’re limited in what you can clamp down with it. However, it excels at awkward angles, so if you’re more focused on art than on heavy-duty construction, this can be a great choice. It’s also a good deal for anyone as long as you can complete your projects with this clamp.
We hope that our reviews have helped you see some of the best features in a clamp and have given you some ideas about the downsides of different clamps, or which failures you should outright avoid. If you still have no idea about which model is the right one for you or are looking to learn more about clamps in general, check out this buyer’s guide. It’s full of good general information about clamps that should help you through the thinking process that leads to a great buy.
Clamping power is by far the most important feature of a clamp. Clamps lose a lot of their value if they can’t hold things in place for an extended period, or at all, and that means that you need to get a clamp that has the power you need for your projects. One of the most important contributing factors to power is the material from which the clamps are made. Steel and cast-iron clamps tend to be the most durable, but they also have the strength to stand up to the very high pressures needed to keep larger, heavier planks in place.
You’ll also need to examine the mechanisms that keep the clamps engaged. Often, companies will make these out of plastic, which can be a common point of failure. Always look for complaints in reviews about plastic that breaks, because that’s a surefire sign that the clamps won’t live up to their claimed power.
You’ll always want to make sure that you get clamps that are large enough for your future projects. However, there is such a thing as “too large.” The bigger clamps become, the more unwieldy they get, and that makes it hard to maneuver them into the right position on smaller projects, or projects that have funny angles. While this won’t be true for everything you do, you should keep in mind if most of your projects run towards the smaller end of the spectrum.
Also, keep in mind that there are two different measures to keep in mind when shopping for a clamp. The “nominal opening” describes the distances between the two gripping surfaces on the clamps, while the “throat depth” refers to the distance from the rail to the outside of the clamps. You can’t use anything taller than the nominal opening, and you need to make sure that the throat depth is sufficient for the task at hand.
The unfortunate thing about maneuverability in clamps is that it almost always comes at the cost of power. If a manufacturer makes a lighter clamp, that probably means that inferior materials have been substituted into the mix, and that would certainly lower the maximum power. Likewise, making clamps smaller can make them far easier to move around.
Of course, smaller clamps tend to be nowhere near as strong, even if they are easier to fit into tight spaces. Hand clamps are the most maneuverable, but they suffer from the lowest clamping power and have the smallest capacity, too.
So, keep in mind that you may have to get something bulky to have enough strength to get the job done.
Clamps have the potential to stretch or damage the very surfaces they use to hold the piece in place. You should never get a bare-metal clamp, as the risk of this goes up dramatically. While it’s still possible to damage a surface with a clamp with a rubber or plastic-coated protective pad, it’s far more difficult. These coatings give the clamp a degree of forgiveness, so you won’t accidentally mess up your working surface with your clamps.
This is extra important because you won’t always see the damage until after you unclamp the clamps, which means you need to get it right the first time.
Which clamps are right for you?
Finding the right clamps starts with taking an inventory of what projects you’re going to need clamps for. Don’t just think about your next project, either. Make sure you consider all the projects that you could see yourself doing a few years out. That way you can greatly increase the value of your purchase by using it multiple times in the future.
Related: which bar clamp is our favorite?
And, if you’re going to use it multiple times, you’re going to want to invest in a set of clamps that can stand up to some abuse. That may result in you spending a bit more money, but you’ll be more satisfied with your purchase in the long run.
You may also want to consider a set of pipe clamps instead.
The Bessey GSCC2.524 2.5-Inch clamps are out favorite clamps due to their strong cast-iron frame and great clamping capacity. The IRWIN Tools Quick-Grip 4985502 clamps are powerful and easy to use but lose out on first place due to their size. The Bessey LM2.004 LM General provides the best value, due to its low price and exceptional maneuverability.
Hopefully, our reviews and our buyer’s guide have helped you figure out which clamps will be right for your next project. Armed with this information, you should be able to find a set that you’ll love and get them at a price that won’t break the bank.