A great price on an acceptable clamp

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Review by HungryTermite posted 01-20-2010 07:20 AM 6495 views 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A great price on an acceptable clamp No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I was at the local Harbor Freight over the holidays and I noticed a bin full of 18” Ratcheting Bar clamps on sale for $2.99 each. The seemed to work well in the store and all were covered with a little bit of oil, presumably to protect the metallic parts. I didn’t really have a need for new clamps and I wasn’t sure if an 18” clamp would be useful or not but I figured I really couldn’t go wrong for only $2.99 (regularly $7.99 I think) so I bought 6 of them.

This was the first time I have bought a ratcheting bar clamp and the main reason I have stayed away from them is the cost. I usually see this size in stores for close to $20, and while I am sure they are worth the money, I usually buy cheaper and less convenient clamps, like the regular bar clamps from Harbor Freight.

Anyway, as it turns out, I have been making a lot of jigs and other items for my new table saw since I purchased these clamps and they really hit the spot for quick and easy one handed clamping. They hold really well!

There were some problems though. I really am not crazy about the faces of the clamp. They are not attached to the clamp so they sometimes fall off. Some carpet tape should fix that problem.

Also, I guess I used one clamp over and over and as I used it I noticed that the trigger felt squishier and squishier as I used it. Finally, the other day the handle snapped off while trying to clamp something to a table. Granted, I am pretty sure I was using excessive hand pressiue to close the clamp. What had happened was the plastic hinge pin that holds the trigger in place snapped under the load.

So why did I still give it 4 stars even though it broke after a week? Easy… the price. I opened up the clamp and the inside is filled with good looking metallic parts and the body is fairly decent thick plastic. Since the drive over to Harbor Freight to replace it would probably cost me $3 in gas and leave me with a clamp with the same potential failure mode, I went over to Home Depot to pick up a clevis pin and a cotter pin for under $2 and should be able to easily fix the broken clamp. This will make the clamp pretty rock solid for a total cost of $4.99. If any of the others break in the future the fix is pretty easy. I intend to create a blog post about the fix along with some pictures of the inside of the clamp.

So if you are looking for some inexpensive clamps and don’t mind having to fix one once in a while, try checking out Harbor Freight to see if they are on sale.

-- Good Judgement Comes From Experience. Experience Comes From Bad Judgement.

View HungryTermite's profile


90 posts in 3820 days

22 comments so far

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3878 days

#1 posted 01-20-2010 09:41 AM

I bought up a total of 16 of these HF clamps in 6” and 12” sizes about 7 or 8 months ago when I started woodworking, got them on sale for $1.99, and as of today all but 3 of them (one 6” I use as part of a fence on my bandsaw and 2 of the 12”) are still intact. Most of them had the handle snap, one the bar twisted, and on two the jaws pretty much shattered.

For the price I feel I got enough use out of em to be satisfied. I do see $1.99 coupons for the 12” all the time, and if I happen to have an immediate need for more I may grab some, but otherwise meh, nothing I would go out of my way for.

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View Viking's profile


882 posts in 3966 days

#2 posted 01-20-2010 02:26 PM

I have had similar experience to Jei with the HF bar clamps. A little bit pressure and the handle mechanism snaps. I will not be buying any more of these at any price. Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View AaronK's profile


1511 posts in 4235 days

#3 posted 01-20-2010 02:29 PM

yes, these are good for LIGHT jobs, for which they are really handy.

When the top DOES break off, see my advice on how to use it as a holddown on your bench :-)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3879 days

#4 posted 01-20-2010 03:08 PM

I have a few of their F style clamps which I have yet to have an issue with. The plastic ones are iffy but I have used mine for over a year. HF has a lifetime warranty policy for their hand tools and I am not 100% but you could try and get a replacement for them if they break. I also have a collection of their wooden hand screws which I find is the real deal on clamps there (when at half price), as well as their toggle clamps for jigs.

With the plastic clamps, there is what you need now and what you ultimately would like to have. I have loaded up some when they are on sale but have gradually replaced some with Besseys. I have used the HFs for the immediate need because they were cheap. But after using the HFs for awhile, I have really come to appreciate the feel, hold, and endurance of those Bessey clamps.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View tbreland's profile


60 posts in 4021 days

#5 posted 01-20-2010 05:55 PM

Be gentle. The slightest over-squeeze will snap them apart

-- Come down off the cross, we can use the wood. -Tom Waits

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 4229 days

#6 posted 01-20-2010 06:16 PM

I’ve got some Jorgenson equivalent clamps to these… they are getting “squishy” as well… I don’t think it’s neccesarily the clamp quality, but more the design itself… these aren’t meant for heavy duty clamping.

-- San Diego, CA

View Pdub's profile


926 posts in 3951 days

#7 posted 01-20-2010 06:21 PM

A few months ago my boss was making a trip and would be visiting a HF store. He agreed to buy some clamps for me. I don’t remember how many I bought between 12-16 clamps ranging from 18” to 36”. About half of them slip when I try to use them and started this on the 2nd or 3rd use. I bought them because they were cheap and I guess I got what paid for. I may try to repair them and see what happens, but I won’t buy any more. I also don’t like the way the trigger sits in the handle. It sits in your palm instead of in your fingers. I know I could just turn it around in my hand but it just seems akward. I’ll stick to my Erwin clamps in the future, even though they are more expensive.

Hungry Termite- I’ll keep my eyes open for the repair blog. Maybe it will change my mind about them.

-- Paul, North Dakota, USAF Ret.

View BreakingBoardom's profile


615 posts in 3852 days

#8 posted 01-20-2010 07:01 PM

Yeah, as most people are saying, this are one of those “You get what you pay for” type things. If you try clamping them to tight the handles will snap or break but are good for light duty use. I use these pretty often as I am limited on budget and clamps are very necessary. I also have some F clamps from HF and they haven’t given me any probalems at all. I’d definitely buy more of them, but maybe pay a little more for some Irwin quick clamps or something instead of stocking my entire shop with these.

-- Matt -

View SteveMI's profile


1157 posts in 4065 days

#9 posted 01-20-2010 07:52 PM

I only have four of the same HF and have only used them for smaller jobs like clamping drawer sides during glue up and spreading table legs for alignment during gluing. They have worked fine and my only complaint has been that the release button takes too much effort to release the clamp.

I bought four 3 1/2” Homak clamps with same design at Woodcraft that didn’t last a second use with very minor clamp load. WC gave me quite a hassle when I tried to return them.

My favorites for smaller jobs are the Quick-Grip clamps by Vise Grip.

For bigger jobs my budget only goes up to the Jorgensons at HD. I sure do covet the Bessey’s.


View RedShirt013's profile


219 posts in 4432 days

#10 posted 01-20-2010 08:20 PM

Like PDub I bought a few of these type of no name clamps before, and was useless as those metal plates inside couldn’t dig into the metal bar and slips. Now I stick to Irwin quick grips. Kind of made me rethink buying no-name parallel jaw clamps even though they felt pretty solid when I tested it in store

-- Ed

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4858 days

#11 posted 01-20-2010 10:29 PM

You gotta know wh0o or what you are3 dealing with.
The metal C clamps are great for the price. Haven’t had one of them break on me yet.

I, too, was teken in by the price on these clamps. Taken in are the operative words.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View JKC's profile


23 posts in 3998 days

#12 posted 01-21-2010 01:01 AM

I call em explod-o-clamps cuz they just seem to explode in your hand.

View zlatanv's profile


691 posts in 4005 days

#13 posted 01-21-2010 05:11 AM

I have a bunch of the F clamps and 1/2 in bar clamps and haven’t had any problems with either, recently bought more of the bar clamp attachments for under $2 since I had good luck with the others, these not so good. over half of them had bad treads and I couldn’t screw in the pipes, when they did go in they were not in straight and when i clamp them the clamp faces are not parallel. Some grinding with a dremel and it fixed it. Cheap price, couple of hours of manipulation and frustration and you have an ok clamp. Depends on what your time sanity is worth. HF is a hit or miss, you never know.

-- Z, Rockwall, TX

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3831 days

#14 posted 01-23-2010 09:50 AM

Also check any swapmeets. Sometime they have new ones in cheap prices.

View alexbarlage's profile


41 posts in 3813 days

#15 posted 01-27-2010 11:44 PM

I’ve read a couple posts on here about slipping bar clamps, I was going through some old magazines a few weeks ago and came accross a trick for this problem.

Simply take a metal file, and run it across the gripping part of the bar clamp. Do this at roughly a 45 degree angle and you really only have to go across the bar once.

Skeptical I did this to one of mine that was lacking holding power, and to my amazement, problem solved. It was now better then new. I then had to do all of my other bar clamps, the work is never done.

-- The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.

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