Aluminum Bar Clamps

This style of clamp provides a great balance between clamping strength and light weight—about 13 that of comparable-length steel or pipe clamps for both aspects. Are they the only clamps you’ll need? No. But for panel glue-ups and carcase assemblies, it’s hard to beat aluminum bar clamps, especially when you need to lift a clamped assembly off your workbench. After testing seven brands in our shop, we recommend these three.

Dubuque Clamp Works Universal (above)

Lengths: 24", 36", 48", 60", 72"
Price range: $29–$41
Available at Woodcraft, 
800-225-1153, woodcraft.com

Our favorite in the category (made in Iowa); every part of each clamp, except for the steel handle screw, is aluminum, so it’s even lighter than the others. The tail-jaw notches sit 58" apart, giving you more options, with less screw travel, when clamping. Because the head jaw doesn’t wrap around the bar as with other brands, it doesn’t bind under pressure. And the butterfly handle works well when applying pressure and unclamping.

Jorgensen 

102218083.jpg

Lengths: 24", 36", 48", 60", 72"
Price range: $41–$81
Pony Tool Co. 
312-666-0640, ponytools.com

These Chicago-made clamps scored highest in fit and finish, with smooth, polished components and no sharp edges or corners. Their bars sit 38" higher above the benchtop than the Dubuque clamps, and even though the tail-jaw notches are located 1" apart, the head has greater travel than the Dubuques to offset the difference. This model achieves greater clamping force, but you have to watch that the bar doesn’t flex and cant the jaws.

Pittsburgh

1022180845.jpg

Lengths: 24", 36", 48", 60"
Price range: $10–$18
Available at Harbor Freight Tools, 
800-423-2567, harborfreight.com

This would not be our first choice based on performance in our testing, but if you’re on a tight budget and need to buy a lot of clamps, you can outfit a shop for 13 or less what it would take with the other brands shown here. The bars flex easily under pressure and the head jaws sometimes bind. And, unlike the other clamps, the stated length indicates the length of the bar, not the clamping capacity, which is about 312 " shorter.

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