Harbor freight clamps and clamps in general

Forum: Woodworking

Hello all, I am new to this site, and fairly new to wood working. As they say, you can never have too many clamps, and I find myself picking up a couple of new ones with each project. I typically stay away from Harbor Freight, but I’ve heard good comments about thier clamps. Have any of you had any experience with HF clamps and more specifically with thier aluminum bar clamps?

Tags: clamps harbor freight

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27 Replies

Jimmy ...

The clamp you have pictured is actually the only type I have ever purchased from HF. Sadly, in my case, they have a 50% failure rate. I bought two and one of them stripped out making it useless. Perhaps if you don’t use a lot of pressure they’re fine. I usually really wrench on a clamp. You just can’t do it with these.

lanwater ...

HF clamps are cheap.
They have a lot of play in them. Early on I bought many clamps from HF the only one that I did not throw away yet are the F-clamps, although they have a lot of “play” in them, and the C-clamps. I only have a minor complain with the c-clamps.

Brian ...

I have tons of them. The ones that break usually fail pretty soon after you buy them. They’re so cheap that I think its worth it to replace the broken ones. I don’t feel ripped off when they break. I expect 20% of them to fail and even after replacing them they’re still far cheaper than any other brand. In fact, I have some 36" bar clamps that I reach for over other brands – a byproduct of being cheaply made is that they’re also lighter weight and easier to handle with one hand, which is usually how I’m clamping stuff.

shipwright ...

I use the one handed ratchet clamps a lot. (you know the 12" ones that are always on for $1.99) They work well for me but I use only hot hide glue and it doesn’t require the clamping pressure that many glues do.

I also like their C clamps. The make good veneer press screws with (minor) modifications. :-)

lightweightladylefty ...

Woody,

I have 8 each of 24" and 36" HF aluminum bar clamps. I’ve had them 10+ years and use them very frequently. My husband has also used them but not as often as I do. The only thing that ever happened with any of them is that one lost a nut off the bar used to tighten the clamp. That was easily replaced.

I tighten them as much as I physically can. I am a bit of a weakling but I still think they have held up well. (I’ve never had a failed joint from lack of pressure on the clamping.)

I picked up mine when they were 50% off and think they were an exceptionally good buy. With that being said, I can’t vouch for what they are selling currently. Sometimes corners are cut to increase profits after something becomes a big seller.

L/W

lightweightladylefty ...

Woody,

I might add that I have read numerous complaints about Rockler’s aluminum bar clamps. It seems they tend to catch as you crank down on them. I think theirs are considerably more costly too.

L/W

RevRuss ...

I bought a bunch of their f clamps when I got started, they’ve seen a fair level of use and none have failed though they all need a touch of oil on the threads which always feel like they’re seizing up. Only had one of the regular quick clamps and broke it first use while their heavy duty versions seem better then the regular use or wind and are a real bargain. Don’t seem to be able to wrong for the price if you need clamps to build the collection until they can be replaced with better. Ace hardware has the new jorgensen 6" clamps for 5.00 so I now have the dozen I like to have on hand while I will still keep the 6 HF ones as back up should I need more.

iGotWood ...

I use these clamps as shown in the picture but are made by silverline in the uk. They are great for clamping many lengths of solid materials. Not so good for clamping many boards together for a table top as the clamps start to curve at long clamping lengths. The top slider seems to crab up and jam on most uses meaning you have to keep backing off and re tightening. The most annoying thing about these clamps though is the little rubber caps they put on the handle to stop the bar falling out. They pop off really easily and the bar falls out.
They are cheap and none have failed on me, they’re just fiddly.

Jack ...

All of my quick grip clamps are Irwin, from 4" up to 36" in multiples, and have never had a problem. I bought 6 clamps from Harbor Freight of the quick grip type awhile back and had 100 percent failure rate, 3 of them the first time I used them. I also bought 5 small c clamps at HF and they seem to be ok.

shipwright ...

Jack, there was a real problem with the HF quick grip clamps that caused them to fail quickly. It was addressed a little over a year ago and they are much better now. Even the old ones could be fixed by drilling out one spot and adding a 20 cent bolt.

Jack ...

Thanks for the info Paul, I’m going to try some of the new ones. You can’t beat the price.

Woody9999 ...

Thanks for all responses, they’ve been great. I think I’ll try a few to see how they do.

David E. ...

Woody – Go for it. They aren’t the best, but will do the job. I have several of the aluminum bar clamps, and a dozen of so of the F clamps. Both styles have never let me down. The quick grip clamps however, are a different story. I’ve only bought a half dozen, but had a 100% fail rate. I buy Bessey when they are on sale, or if I have a gift card, or in the F clamp four pack (two 6" and two 12" for $19.99). But, I’m too cheap to buy them at normal price.

Moke ...

Woody,
We have a saying at our house….you can never have too many clamps. It is an obligation of the shopper at HF to buy at least one “F” clamp per visit…but I rarely limit it to one. I must have 30. I have not limited my clamp shopping at HF to the F style…I have tried the others and not had good luck at all with. I like to build a clock or two a year and the F clamps are perfect for smaller things….for bigger items I use Jet clamps, which they run a 50% off sale usually the day after thanksgiving…but this year the 64" or what ever size it is was not included!!!

There are cetainly other lousy clamp makers beside HF, so I don’t want to pick on them alone…I have a set of Shop Fox clamps that I only use to hold plans down when I am working on a windy day….and that might even be stretch!

I hate to disagree with some of the posters on here, as I am sure their skills make mine look pathetic, but I also never buy anything a HF with cord….well for the most part…

I must say also, when you are starting out, pipe clamps are good buy and have their place in any shop. I still have a number of them, and still use them….I have some huge ones, like 8 foot….with unions on the pipes you can make them what ever size you need. Then pick up some Besey or Jets as you can afford them.
Mike

Brian ...

^^ It’s true that the HF quick grip clamps are terrible. Those are the only ones I won’t buy there.