Around the Shop #8: Extending the life of Harbor Frieght clamps

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Blog entry by Don W posted 12-19-2012 09:35 PM 3481 reads 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Deadman Upgrade. Part 8 of Around the Shop series Part 9: Sanding blocks made from Stanley plane parts. »

How can you resist. You’re in Harbor Freight, and there is a bin of clamps for something like $1.99. Now this was several years ago, so don’t quote me on the price, but they were cheap.

First thing you have to do is replace the pin that rotates the handle. Its not a big issue, just a bit of an annoyance.

Then the tip winds up breaking off under pressure. I’ve got several in my clamp bucket like this.


So today I discovered one more way to extend the life even a little more.

I cut the bar in half so I wouldn’t catch my leg on it when using them in the deadman, and I will admit I have to reach under or around to slide the 1/4” bolt through the hole, but I just can’t convince myself I need one of these bad enough to spend $80 at Lee Valley and I don’t want to drill out the deadman for a Stanley 203.

Would I buy them again…......cheeeeesshhhh I’m not sure. They are cheap, but I’ve certainly got my moneys worth from them.

As always, thanks for looking.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

14 comments so far

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3934 days

#1 posted 12-19-2012 09:44 PM

I never thought to use them in the bench like that. I have a couple of the same clamps that are broken so I think I will try this..

Not to long ago my I was in my local HF and I noticed that they changed the design on these clamps slightly. They now have grey pads and knobs instead of the bright orange. There was a little sign that said new better design but they looked pretty much like the same thing..

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View AnthonyReed's profile


10165 posts in 3494 days

#2 posted 12-19-2012 09:47 PM

Stubborn resourcefulness thwarting disposable consumerism.

You most definitely win Don. :)

-- ~Tony

View Mosquito's profile


11043 posts in 3346 days

#3 posted 12-19-2012 09:50 PM

I like it

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17269 posts in 3672 days

#4 posted 12-19-2012 09:51 PM

Oh, Man! Is Don Yoda dissin’ on the vernerable Stanley #203? ScottyB Yo put you up to this didn’t he??

(Very clever, and frugal. Two of my favorite things. Well done, Don!)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3652 days

#5 posted 12-19-2012 10:05 PM

Nice idea Don, I hate those clamps. I think I have broke every one of the three or so I bought, most on the first use. Just chalked it up to my super human strength…or that they were cheap, poorly manufactured POS, which ever.

View RussellAP's profile


3105 posts in 3340 days

#6 posted 12-19-2012 10:06 PM

I bought a half dozen of those once. Never use them.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View shipwright's profile


8703 posts in 3851 days

#7 posted 12-19-2012 10:29 PM

I bought one 12” about a year ago. Would have bought more but they only had one. Got it home and it was broken as you describe. I did the same fix and it never broke again.

Now here’s the fun part:
I liked the clamps and at $2 per, they were too good a deal so I went back a week later when they had new stock, bought five more and on my way home I hit Ace Hardware for about a buck and a half worth of bolts. The joke was on me. They had re-engineered the clamp and in the time since I haven’t broken one. I still have the bolts… just in case.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Mauricio's profile


7166 posts in 4205 days

#8 posted 12-19-2012 11:38 PM

Wow, awesome post, I’ve thrown away at least 4 of these. I even stop people from buying them in the store if I see they are about to. I think I have one in the scrap bucket. I’ll try out your trick.

The new ones with the gray handle still break, just a little harder to break. I tested it out in the store before buying it, they broke to but it took a lot more cranking.

I ended up getting a two pack of the small irwins for $20 I was so fed up with the HF ones.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Don W's profile

Don W

19988 posts in 3621 days

#9 posted 12-20-2012 01:02 AM

Smitty, the 203 has alluded me. I’ve bid on so many! I don’t like the idea of widening the holes . IT just wasn’t meant to be.

Scotty, I assume the checks in the mail?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 3122 days

#10 posted 12-20-2012 01:08 AM

Bought a few, used once, trashed them. Not worth 50 cents IMO.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View Mark Smith's profile

Mark Smith

509 posts in 3093 days

#11 posted 12-20-2012 01:09 AM

I just saw these clamps being used like this someplace. I think it was in a woodworking magazine. I’m going to convert some I have for use just like this.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 3108 days

#12 posted 12-20-2012 02:54 AM

awesome, i have a broken one

-- Joel

View NormG's profile


6508 posts in 4057 days

#13 posted 12-20-2012 07:12 AM

Great idea

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 3894 days

#14 posted 12-21-2012 03:52 AM

Not thats a mod I can get a grip on. Nice one Don.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

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