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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to give my review of two different clamps here and some sandpaper.

First the bar/quick clamp:

These are Pittsburgh brand from Harbor Freight. There are two different designs. A while back I purchased a few of these:
clamp1.jpg
Notice the release lever and the direction of the tightening handle. These clamps tend to loosen or fail to grip tightly. The tightening handles often fail to pop back out when tightening.

Recently while at Harbor Freight I noticed that the design had changed so I picked up several more to try out.
clamp2.jpg
These have a release button and the tightening handle is facing the opposite way. I was impressed with these. They grip tightly, do not loosen, and have very smooth operation. The release button works great. I have put quite a bit of force on them and none have broken. At $3 each, they are quite a bargain compared to the my Visegrip/Irwin brand clamps. IMO, virtually the same performance at a fraction of the cost. Both carry a lifetime warranty. If you decide to buy any, look closely at the design. When I purchased these 'better working' clamps, the old poor design was still available on the shelves right next to these.

Next are these F style clamps also made by Pittsburgh. Initially I found that the rubber handles loosen around the threaded rod when tightening. I removed the rubber handles and used a 5 minute epoxy to put them back on. I can now torque on them without any problems. Outside of that, the clamps work great. Even after the home remedy, they are still a good deal if you are on a budget like me.
clamp3.jpg

Finally and on a side note, I shop at Menards often and picked up some Performax brand sand paper. 100 grit, 6 sheets per pack.

If you haven't figured out by now, I shop at Harbor Freight often too. I purchased a package of 100 grit/6 sheet per pack from HF at a fraction of what I paid at Menards. I wanted to see if there was any difference like how long it lasted and stuff. The Menards brand is on the left:
SP1.jpg
After opening them, the manufacturers are the same, just different branding and price. Both are "GatorGrip" aluminum oxide made in U.S.A.
SP2.jpg
I hope this review was helpful to other frugal shoppers like myself.
 

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I'm a fan of the metal Pittsburg bar clamps. I've never had the loose handle issue, but one was bent once....they exchanged it without a problem - hard to beat at $3-$5 a pop.
 

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I have good luck with the Pittsburg bar clamps. Had all bad luck with the squeeze claps. Pipe clamps with feet have been excellent.
 

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World's Tallest Midget
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I normally only get HF stuff if I forget a tarp, but considering the price of clamps (and the fact that I don't have any yet), this may be the way to go. Thanks for the tips.
 

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We have maybe 70 or more of the F style clamps and use them every day in a busy cabinet shop. The longer clamps do flex a lot but still give more than enough pressure. +1 on the epoxy fix as well.

I tried the quick grip clamps a couple times and they failed out of the box for us. I'm sure it was the old style as this was several years ago so may have to give them one more look.
 

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I have 6 or 8 quick style clamps and they just collect dust in a cabinet, pretty much useless. Can't put pressure on any of them and if you do they just slip. As far as I'm concerned, just save a few more dollars and buy an Irwin or Jorgenson clamp...alot less hassle. I will have to give the F-style clamps a shot sometime.
 

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Old Methane Gas Cloud
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The problem with the Pittsburgh brand clamps is that the clamping pressure is not parallel or square. If you are using a polyurethane glue the pieces will slide out of alignment due to the clamp.
 

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I thought they were all the same, until I glued up a large butcherblock counter. The HFT clamps twisted, bent and distorted (two actually physically broke from the pressure I was having to apply to get even pressure), while the Jorgensens stayed straight and true. If I hadn't the Jorgensen's (and a neighbor with more), I'd have been screwed. True, the clamps were near the end of their extended length...but I'd have been screwed without the Jorgensen/USA made clamps.

I buy and use a lot of HFT stuff, not a hater at all, but I'll never use these clamps for large pieces again. After that experience, I've started buying used USA made clamps listed on Craigslist. I haven't thrown the HFT clamps away, yet though...

Now...to build a rack for these big/heavy ancient clamps so I stop having to move them out of my way!
 

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I too have the pushbutton type HF quick clamp clones, except mine are in black and orange, and they work fine so far, I haven't had any break yet. Although I use them as extras when I do glueups and run out of my Irwin Quick Grips... That actually happened recently. However I did use them extensively before getting the Quick Grips as a Christmas gift... And no failures. I did flog the snot out of them too... And yes, even though some folks say they don't develop decent clamping pressure before failing, I have dented walnut with them. so they will actually clamp TOO hard...

I have a mess of those F type bar clamps and have yet to have any of them fail in the handle. I have a mix of the rubber handle models, and the older wooden handle ones. Other than the wood handles and chrome bar versus rubber plastic handles and black steel bars, they seem about the same. VERY well made clamp head, excellent clamping force, no slippage, they hold what you want them to. And yes, they are budget friendly...

The twisting / distortion mentioned above I need to address. While my collection of clamps is primarly HF / Pittsburg, it is NOT exclusively. I have a few Craftsman, and Jorgenson / Pony clamps in there as well. The HF clamps are no more, and no less prone to twisting, bending, being out of square than the others, and superior in many ways to the Craftsman clamps. They compare pretty equally to the Jorgenson clamps.

The HF clamps are a bit more flexible than the Jorgensons, but not nearly as much as the Craftsman. At least in the longer lengths. And yes, I would love to be able to afford to have gone with the Jorgenson clamps all the way around, but reality means no that won't happen... To say the Jorgenson clamps don't flex though would be a misstatement of facts. Mine flex, just not as much as the Pittsburg clamps. I somewhat suspect that maybe the folks that are having trouble with their clamps twisting, breaking etc... might be having a method issue, using too few clamps on too large of an assembly, and applying too much pressure. You want to pull the pieces together into solid contact, not try to merge them at a mollecular level.

I have had out of 44 clamps that are HF (out of a total of 48) 1 HF bar clamp, a 6" that was a factory dud / failure. The thread for the screw advance was no good, and you couldn't tighten the clamp. Aside from that, all of the others have seen plenty of hard use.

The HF pipe clamps I have, the ones without feet, are okay, but like other brands, the jaws have no rubber pads or anything, so they can slip easily. Just glue some rubber strips on and you are good to go...

Don't waste your money or time on the HF corner clamps. I did, and wish I hadn't. They are tin foil thin, and waiting to break.

Simply put, if I had it to do all over again, I would head back to HF, get the F bar clamps, and from others are saying, a tube of epoxy... get a few of the pipe clamps, some of the spring clamps, and then head to Amazon and get the Jorgenson corner clamps, and try to score again on the Irwin Quick Grips...
 

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I've got about a dozen of the quick release clamps and about a dozen of the F style clamps. A few of the quick release clamps are garbage and won't hold tight enough to hold themselves in place, the others are just "ok." I haven't paid attention to where the release buttons are on the ones that work vs the ones that don't, I'll have to look into it. The F style clamps are rock solid. I've noticed more bending with the quick release clamps I think.
 

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I bought 4 of the quick release clamps on sale for 2 bucks a piece a while back (the newer style), and they work great every time. The release can be tough to trigger but only if you clamp them down crazy tight. Been wanting to try out the bar clamps but lately I've had a lot of bad purchases at harbor freight. Maybe I'll grab a couple and see how it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The problem with tools from HF seems to be the manufacturers quality control. Whether it's electric or hand tools, some seem to be duds and others perform as expected. The bright side is their return policy. Pittsburgh tools are lifetime warranty. If you purchase and electric tool you have 90 days to return or exchange it.

I have the Chicago Electric 12" sliding compound miter saw and it has performed great for a long time now. I have no complaints. I purchased the Chicago Electric 5" random orbit palm sander and it didn't last 1 hour before it started to smoke and throw sparks:furious:. I exchanged it for another and the new one has lasted me for a very long time:thumbsup:. I like to get quality tools and machines when I can afford them but in some situations I try to find ways to save money.

I'm happy others have shared their experiences with HF clamps. It seems that much of a persons experiences depend on their own application of the tool. Perhaps I should have stated specifically what I use the clamps for in my original thread. Most of what I make is small hobbyist projects so the clamps I reviewed were small in size. I would guess that the longer clamps may have a greater tendency to flex...maybe not, I don't own any longer ones. I do own longer Irwin clamps and I know they do flex. I imagine they would also break if I applied enough pressure to the handle. I also own several similar clamps I got at walmart for a couple $ more than HF version and they were total failures, in holding pressure and durability. With that said, I can think of worse options than HF tools and in the same turn...of course there are much better options. Being frugal and being cheap are two different things in the end but there is only one way to find out:yes:
 

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I like to get quality tools and machines when I can afford them but in some situations I try to find ways to save money.
Very well stated, and I think a point a lot of guys miss. Many of us, I dare say probably the majority, cannot afford to fill a shop with nothing but Festool / Bessey / SawStop. I mean I would totally love all that stuff. I know there are those that are going to tell us to scour the used market, and I do when I can. But in all honestly, time is as critical as funds as well. we could either be working on projects, or working on trying to find tools on Craigslist etc...

Having said all that. I have to tell you. most of the time, Harbor Freight's tools work as advertised. Yes some items are just junk. The corner clamps leap to mind, but most items are the same as competing products minus the expensive marketing department. They rely on low cost to drive customers to their stores, and it is working, and has been for a long time. Most of the tools are perfectly functional, some are complete and utter junk, and fewer still, but they do exist, and superior in MANY ways to competing products, take the Pocket Hole jig for example... That is vastly superior to the Kreg Jig in so many ways, and is a fraction of the cost... But since it is a Harbor Freight sold tool, the brand name snobs are going to pass it by.

Last time I looked, it wasn't the name plate / tag on a tool that did the work, but many people are of the impression it is. Good for them I guess. They can build pretty shops full of shiny toys. I'd rather have a functional shop that does what I expect out of it.
 

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Confirmed that the couple of quick release clamps I have that do NOT work correctly are the style with the metal release lever below the grip. All of the quick release clamps with plastic release buttons above the grip work quite well. Good to know.
 

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I needed some long clamps to finish a project I was working on, so I went to Harbor freight and I bought three of the 36 inch bar clamps, as well as a couple of the 6 inch. By the time you achieve any reasonable clamping pressure with the 36 inch, it already has about one or 2 inches of deflection, enough that the pad doesn't sit even on the work anymore. I returned the three long clamps, got two more of the six-inch, and a bag full of other goodies and they still gave me five dollars back.
 

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I have a few of the quick release type clamps from HF.

One important thing to note is that they have two grades of these clamps: 'standard duty' and 'heavy duty'. I think the heavy duty clamps only come in 24" and 36". You'll note, if you compare them side-by-side, that the heavy duty ones are heavier and bigger than the standard duty clamps. They call these a "ratchet clamp/spreader" on their website. This might be the difference in the OP's original photos, though there seem to be a lot of design changes over time.

I have one standard duty clamp, and 2 heavy duty clamps, and they both work fine for me.
 
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