Introduction to Clamps

By: James Marshell

To buy the right clamp, you first need to be well versed in clampology Ė study of clamps, their types and styles and what they are used for. Some clamps are really simple and donít cost much but clamps used in professional woodworking and metalworking jobs are considerably premium and can apply hundreds of pounds of pressure.

Most common types of clamps are bar and pipe clamps. They are used for gluing purposes and construction of furniture items. Both types of clamps feature two jaws, one stays fixed while the other moves on a steel rod which can be a flat bar or I beam. Usually the hand crank on the top is used to apply the pressure but there are models that use other techniques such as wooden handle on the moving jaw. The most important features of a clamp include the pressure it can apply, length, depth of throat and marring or non-marring jaws. Another important aspect is whether the jaws stay parallel or not under heavy pressure.


These clamps canít apply as much pressure as pipe clamps can but they can be used for multitude of jobs and applications. These clamps are used in woodworking, but there are Wilton metalworking clamps on the market as well if you ever need one. Bar clamps are usually not as heavy as pipe clamps and they are a lot more economical. The length of bar clamps fall in range of 6 inches to 36 inches while you can get throat up to 2.5 inches. There are options available with a ratcheting handle so they can be used with one hand only which is a big convenience at times.


Pipe clamps are relatively heavier and cost more than bar clamps but they are still affordable and are in buying reach of an average woodworker. Pipe clamps are a lot more flexible when compared to bar clamps as you can increase their length by as much as you want as you only need to get a new longer pipe to do so. Pipe clamps can apply hundreds of pounds of pressure on the work piece if required, something that bar clamp canít do. One downside of applying such high pressure is that the jaw of a pipe clamp canít stay parallel on occasions causing inaccuracies in your work.


These are similar to pipe clamps but as the name suggests they are specifically designed so the jaws can stay parallel even at high pressures. They are available in the length range of 12 to 60 inches and are a lot more expensive but provide dead on precision. Some parallel jaw clamps are so heavy duty that they can apply pressure upwards of 6,500 pounds.


If you require something other than regular bar and pipe clamps then market has got other types of clamps as well for you such as C clamps, swivel clamps, cam clamps, toggle clamps, band clamps, spring clamps etc. They all serve a specific purpose and are quite good at it.

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There are Grizzly vises and then there are premium looking Wilton clamps on sale. These clamps are used in woodworking, but there are Wilton metalworking clamps on the market as well if you ever need one.

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