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View Full Version : Clamp questions (pipe and long bar)



Josh Reet
09-18-2009, 2:02 AM
So as I get ready to start on some bigger projects, I'm looking at picking up some larger clamps. The cheap-o Harbor Freight blue/gray clamps have served me well for what they are. But I don't have any in the 24-36" range from them as I have heard they flex more than you'd like. So here are my questions:

1. Everyone always says "pipe clamps are a good value for long clamps". But do they mean 1/2 or 3/4 clamps? And is there a quality difference between something cheap like this (http://grizzly.com/products/Pipe-Clamps-For-1-2-Pipe/H2624) and the Pony version (http://grizzly.com/products/Pony-1-2-Pipe-Clamp/G3532) that is twice as much? Do I care about pipe clamps with little feet (http://grizzly.com/products/Pipe-Clamp-Set-On-Stand/H5956)? Or "deep reach" (http://grizzly.com/products/Pony-3-4-Deep-Reach-Pipe-Clamp-Style-/G3534) versions? Am I going to get pissed off at the cost of pipe for these?

2. For regular bar clamps, what should I be looking at for a clamp that won't flex/deflect? I know what a real cheesy clamp looks like. But what about some of the generics like this that places like Grizzly carry? Some of them (http://grizzly.com/products/24-Heavy-Duty-F-Clamps/H2620) feel pretty dang sturdy.

3. What's the deal with Quick Grip clamps like those from Irwin? I've got a couple shorter ones that I use around the house for various things. But I get the opinion that people don't usually use the larger ones for woodworking clamping. Is this just because they tend to be more expensive? Or is there a performance issue? Or am I just imaging the whole thing and everyone has a few of them? And if that's the case, do people use these (http://grizzly.com/outlet/24-Quick-Grip-Spreader-Clamp/H1041) or the big expensive ones (http://grizzly.com/products/Bar-Clamp-Xp-24-/H9160)?

I'm using Grizzly as the example links because I was at a Grizzly showroom today and their stuff is at the top of my mind. Just about any generic or name-brand clamps could be exchanged for the purposes of this conversation.

Denny Rice
09-18-2009, 3:17 AM
When I first set up my shop I took the "cheap" route and purchased the HF 1/2" pipe clamp assemblies and went to the Borg and purchased 1/2" pipe. They worked fine for "smaller" glue-ups but I soon found out the 1/2" pipe just didn't get the job done. I kept them for a couple of years, until I found someone to take them off my hands and re-cooped about 60% of the cash I had in them. I then went out and found "Pony 3/4" bar clamps" on sale at my local Menards. I then was shocked how much the 3/4" black pipe was at both Menards and Lowes, but I had an idea. At the time Menards was about 4.00 cheaper for a 10' section of black 3/4" pipe (10.00 vs 14.00) but lowes also sold the pipe and had a pipe cutter at the store and would cut and thread the pipe for free to any length I wanted. I then went to Lowes and ask them to price match Menards price, they not only price matched Menards but cut another 10% off all the black pipe I bought that day. I went to Lowes that day with figures in hand, meaning I knew exactly how many 10' ft sections I would need that day and what length I wanted each piece cut to. It took about an hour but all the pipe came out great. Would recommend anyone doing this. The 10 ft. sections are much cheaper per foot than any other black pipe selections at Lowes or Menards. I have been VERY happy with my 3/4" pipe clamps, they work great and the best part is there is no flex unlike my 1/2" pipe clamps suffered from.

Harold Shay
09-18-2009, 3:25 AM
I agree with Denny. If you want pony or the same type use the 3/4 size not the 1/2 ones.
I don't know what you intend to clamp you may want to consider the parallel (sp?) type clamps such as Bessy, Jorgenson, Jet. They cost more but by the time you buy the Pony @12.00 and the correct length of pipe at 8.. you will have half the price a the others.
Harold

John Coloccia
09-18-2009, 5:56 AM
re: black pipe
I use galvanized instead. Glue squeze out can tranfer marks and rust spots from the black pipe to the piece. You can protect it with some wax paper or something like that, or you can get frustrated like me and switch to galvanized :D

Faust M. Ruggiero
09-18-2009, 9:17 AM
Josh,
Be sure to thread both ends of the pipe. That way you can add a piece the next time you find the original pipes too short. Buy a coupling for each pipe right away and leave it on the clamp to protect the exposed threads.
fmr

Frank Drew
09-18-2009, 9:20 AM
3/4" Pony pipe clamps are good starter clamps and the clamping mechanisms can be transferred back and forth to longer and shorter pipes as the need arises.

Better, though, are the more robust clamps that don't tend to lift the work up when pressure is applied.

Nathan Callender
09-18-2009, 10:04 AM
3/4" Pony pipe clamps are good starter clamps and the clamping mechanisms can be transferred back and forth to longer and shorter pipes as the need arises.

Better, though, are the more robust clamps that don't tend to lift the work up when pressure is applied.

I'll second the lifting issue. I glued up some cabinet door (frame and panel) and the frame lifted a little on the first few to cause a real sanding problem later on.

I have bought the 3/4 HF ones with feet, and the 1/2 HF ones (cheaper version of the 1/2). One of the 1/2 ones came with the screw threads not machined right, but at $3 I just didn't cart that much. However, I greatly prefer the ones with feet, and I really like the more expensive ($9) 3/4 HF ones with feet. They also have two holes drilled on the faces so you can attach wooden blocks in the jaws. A side benefit is that if you do it right, you can have that wooden block remove most of the slop that causes the workpiece to lift.

Also, the thing about the black pipe is true - it will color the wood at the glue line. The next set of pipes will be galvanized and I might go back and paint my current set.

All told, with the HF 3/4 with feet clamps and 36" sections of pipe (cut from 10') I think I was getting them for about $13 each. I won't bother with the 1/2 HF ones any more though.

I do like the flexibility of the pipe clamps - being able to add to the lengh of the clamps, etc, is really great. However, if I wanted to allocate more money to clamps, the parallel clamps seem awesome, but at $40-60 each, yeoh!

Steve Rozmiarek
09-18-2009, 10:34 AM
I've never understood why anyone would want to deal with the weight, flex, lack of reach and the fact that you have to assemble the pipe clamp, when there are plenty of good bar clamps that cost roughly the same. Bessey Tradesman for example are about the same price per clamp, or if you buy this 30 piece set from Amazon or Grizzly, they average $9.67 each.

http://www.amazon.com/Bessey-H5115-Tradesman-Clamp-Kit/dp/B0000E3HS2/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1253280598&sr=1-26

Pony pipe clamp ends on Amazon are listed at $15.56.

Sure, it's ok to have a few 60" or so pipes, but thinking that the little ones are a good value might not be exactly correct. Another thing, Bessey makes a huge assortment of clamps, not just the premium K-body. Same with the other manufacturers, and the paralell jaw models are the most expensive of their lines.

John Coloccia
09-18-2009, 10:51 AM
I've never understood why anyone would want to deal with the weight, flex, lack of reach and the fact that you have to assemble the pipe clamp, when there are plenty of good bar clamps that cost roughly the same. Bessey Tradesman for example are about the same price per clamp, or if you buy this 30 piece set from Amazon or Grizzly, they average $9.67 each.

http://www.amazon.com/Bessey-H5115-Tradesman-Clamp-Kit/dp/B0000E3HS2/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1253280598&sr=1-26

Pony pipe clamp ends on Amazon are listed at $15.56.

Sure, it's ok to have a few 60" or so pipes, but thinking that the little ones are a good value might not be exactly correct. Another thing, Bessey makes a huge assortment of clamps, not just the premium K-body. Same with the other manufacturers, and the paralell jaw models are the most expensive of their lines.

Because these don't work well when gluing up a 1" thick panel, for example. The K-body clamps sorta kinda work, but they also don't do very well with thin material towards the bar. The bar clamp is far superior to any of these for gluing up panels, IMHO. The bar keeps the panels lined up (you lay them on the bar), crank everything down, and then I can lean the whole thing against the wall to dry and continue with other things.

I have exactly 3 bar clamps. That's all I need for the panels I do, and it's all I use them for, but I've found they're indispensable for that operation.

Josh Reet
09-18-2009, 1:17 PM
Thanks for all the info guys.

I think I'll pick up some Bessy Tradesman (or similar) longer clamps from Grizzly and then a few 3/4 pipe clamps at some point. Though the nicer HF 3/4 clamps seem to be about the same price as those from Grizzly. And grizzly is oh....59 miles closer to my house.

Kyle Iwamoto
09-18-2009, 1:57 PM
There is no "perfect" clamp. Sometimes you need a pipe clamp, sometimes a parallel jaw, or the quick clamps. Buy what you need, and let the collection grow. One can never have too many or enough clamps.

Just my .02.

Kent A Bathurst
09-18-2009, 2:08 PM
.......... clamps that don't tend to lift the work up when pressure is applied.............

True. First time I used them (like, day 7 of self-taught woodworking) , I had 5' clamps and glued up 4' of 8/4 red oak. Had to saw apart the finished glue-up (bowed) and toss the pipes (bent).

However, now I go in reasonable section sizes and alternate clamps over-under-over-under, and at the same time reverse the crank/handle left-right-left-right, I've not had a problem. Got a couple dozen Pony 3/4" sets, plus twice that many pipes of various lengths. Regardless of clamp type, my experience is that a robust set of cauls is the trick for flat glue-ups.

On staining issue with black pipe - very true. My solution (picked up somewhere - FWW tips probably) is to use short pieces of 1" PVC pipe, cut open to a "U" on the bandsaw. Snap these on the pipe, and you have a moveable (moveable away from the glue line) stand-off that keeps the pipe just off the wood surface.

Steve Rozmiarek
09-18-2009, 8:08 PM
Because these don't work well when gluing up a 1" thick panel, for example. The K-body clamps sorta kinda work, but they also don't do very well with thin material towards the bar. The bar clamp is far superior to any of these for gluing up panels, IMHO. The bar keeps the panels lined up (you lay them on the bar), crank everything down, and then I can lean the whole thing against the wall to dry and continue with other things.

I have exactly 3 bar clamps. That's all I need for the panels I do, and it's all I use them for, but I've found they're indispensable for that operation.


John, I must not understand your response, but the Tradesmans are bar clamps, and I use mine regularly to glue up panels. If you want the bar to touch the work on any clamp, just roll the clamp end from perpendicular to contact, then tighten away.

David DeCristoforo
09-18-2009, 8:27 PM
It's true that pipe clamps can bow or deflect under pressure. But there is an easy way around that which is to place half the clamps on the underside of the panel and the other half on the top, alternating each one. I have been gluing up cabinet doors, chessboards, you name it with pipe clamps for many years. I can tell you this, if you are gluing a door up and you need so much force that you are distorting the door, there is something wrong with your joinery.

No argument that good quality, heavy duty, I-beam type bar clamps are "better". But I have maybe twenty of those whereas I have around a hundred pipe clamps of various length. I also have "sets" of four pipes in 6, 8 and 12 foot lengths plus couplings that I use to "gang" pipes together when I need really long ones. Again, with pipes that long, you need to balance the clamps on both sides of whatever you are gluing. And out of the hundred or so pipe clamps I have I think there are four 1/2" ones. The rest are all 3/4"

glenn bradley
09-18-2009, 8:33 PM
2/4" Pony and galvanized 3/4" cut and threaded for free at Lowe's has worked for me. I rarely use clamps longer than 30 inches or so but I made a rack that holds a dozen long pipe clamps behind a roll-a-way tool box. They're out of the way but still handy. I used them a couple years ago but have a bookcase project coming up where they will be useful again soon. For all my usual tables, cabinets, etc. I use parallel clamps or 4" and 6" f-style for the smaller stuff.

Alan Schwabacher
09-18-2009, 8:53 PM
The first type of cheap pipe clamp shown has a sliding part that locks only with a notched piece of metal held against the pipe with a spring. I don't have direct experience with that type, but people say they slip. (That's why I don't have experience with them.) The second type you show, where the sliding part locks with several flat pieces of metal that lock against the pipe, definitely works fine. Pony clamps are good, but even the Harbor Freight ones work OK, and are cheap in that style:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=31255
(They are $5 right now, but HF prices go up and down wildly.)
HF clamps are cheap because they have little quality control. Some of the clamps will work beautifully from the start, and others won't. If you buy HF, make sure to try them out right away. HF has a good exchange policy and will take back any you don't like. I clean the oil off the threads and wax them. This makes them work smoothly, and not contaminate the work. They smell better too.

I would not worry about feet. That's because there are several ways to support the clamps. If you want them to stand up by themselves, you can make plywood clamping pads to protect your work from the metal of the clamp. Cut the plywood so as to stand at the height you want, and drill a hole for the pipe.

You will want a fair number of clamps. Why not buy a couple of some type, and see how they do for you? Maybe you'll find that only the high priced ones meet your needs, or maybe the failings of the cheap ones won't bother you.

Chris Rosenberger
09-18-2009, 8:56 PM
It's true that pipe clamps can bow or deflect under pressure. But there is an easy way around that which is to place half the clamps on the underside of the panel and the other half on the top, alternating each one. I have been gluing up cabinet doors, chessboards, you name it with pipe clamps for many years. I can tell you this, if you are gluing a door up and you need so much force that you are distorting the door, there is something wrong with your joinery.

No argument that good quality, heavy duty, I-beam type bar clamps are "better". But I have maybe twenty of those whereas I have around a hundred pipe clamps of various length. I also have "sets" of four pipes in 6, 8 and 12 foot lengths plus couplings that I use to "gang" pipes together when I need really long ones. Again, with pipes that long, you need to balance the clamps on both sides of whatever you are gluing. And out of the hundred or so pipe clamps I have I think there are four 1/2" ones. The rest are all 3/4"

Like David I have a large amount of 1/2" & 3/4" pipe clamps. I have tried a lot of other style clamps & always come back to the pipe clamps. They work the best for me.

Dave Cav
09-20-2009, 4:51 PM
I only have 3/4" pipe clamps, and I have a number of brands: I have a few old Sears with the serrated teeth on the sliding end, and a couple of cheap knock offs of those that don't work so well, but most of mine are the clutch style like Jorgensens and the H.F. knockoffs. I also have some red clutch style, and have no idea what brand they are. I have a total of about 35 in lengths from 24" to about 7 feet. Sometimes I think I need more, but not when it's time to find storage places for them.

One thing no one has mentioned is getting the pipe from junkyards. That's where I get nearly all my pipe and it ends up costing me about 1/3 of what it would cost at H.D. I cut it to length with an abrasive cut off saw and then thread the ends in my lathe and I'm good to go. If I'm worried about staining, I put wax paper between the clamp and the wood.

Mike Hall1
09-20-2009, 11:09 PM
I use these dual purpose clamp pads.
http://www.grizzly.com/products/Clamp-Pads-For-3-4-Pipe-Clamp/H5516

Mikehttp://www.grizzly.com/images/pics/jpeg288/h/h5516.jpg (http://www.grizzly.com/products/H5516/images/)

Roger Benton
09-21-2009, 2:52 AM
I have about 30 F-style bar clamps (12"-36") and 12 parallel jaw clamps (24"-48"), plus a half dozen hand screws- bought them all used and for less than half the new price on ebay. Check it regularly!

Cliff Rohrabacher
09-21-2009, 1:00 PM
All my clamps over 10" are Pony pipe clamps.

I prefer Double Extra Heavy Black pipe.
Go to a Plumbing supply not the borg.
I have 'em up to 8" long they work great.

Josh Reet
09-21-2009, 1:36 PM
Thanks for the advice everyone. Good to hear what others are using.

Bob Carreiro
09-21-2009, 5:34 PM
Never have enuff of em!

I agree with David - alternating clamps top & bottom. That's how I was taught at Diman Vocational HS having graduated in '70. And although that was a long time ago by some standards, the practice has never proved wrong!

I bought a dozen or so, F-clamps from Rockler with double "fingers" on the head end - 36" for $5.99 each. Have used them a few times and hold well. I also agree (with David) that if you have to put lots of pressure on parts, the problems (typically) stem from other causes, and not poor clamp quality.


well, keep yor joints closed,
Bob