No one clamp is perfect for every task, in fact, after the end of this review I will have barely scratched the surface in terms of specialty clamps which are required for much more unique challenges. Instead, I will walk you through the most common tasks and explain the best woodworking clamps for each application.
Best Woodworking Clamps
In order to limit any confusion in the event that you are unaware of the type of clamp you need, I will be arranging the various options by task starting with the most common one.
Edge gluing panels
Bar and pipe clamps are best for edge gluing wooden panels together. These types have a bar or pipe that has enough length to span the width of the glue up. Additionally, the bar or pipe provide support for the panels to make sure you get a nice flush connection.
The best bar clamps should provide a wide stable base for your project and this particular option made by Bessey has a clamping width of 36″, 1-3/8″ bar width, and handles up to 7000lbs of clamping force. That may sound like a lot, however all Bessey IBEAM clamps offer the same force limit. What’s most important about this particular brand is it’s going to be a pretty straightforward model; it will get what you need done with little to no hangups.
The pressure capacity is practically unmatched and compared to most models you’ll see and for good reason. It is designs to handle larger material portions for projects that are otherwise impossible to assemble with cheaper options.
If you’re a little hung up on whether a bar or pipe clamp is a more suitable option for your woodworking project, I should point out that the best pipe clamps are an economical option capable of being modified in order to reach your preferred length. With an H style option, it provides a base capable of preventing your project from tipping over and has long legs to elevate it above the work bench making tightening an easier process.
I should include a handy feature that is otherwise not always considered when searching for the best woodworking clamps: soft jaw caps are included. Soft jaw caps are used in order to prevent whatever material you are working on from getting damaged when it is clamped.
Pipe models are often favored between these two options due to two main advantages: they can clamp parallel and they apply force over a greater surface area. If you’ve been woodworking for any length of time you’ll already understand how valuable that ability is. It is cheaper than the alternative but try avoiding a black pipe since it could potentially stain the wood you are working on. Although, that’s nothing a little sanding can’t fix.
An F-style clamp is best utilized for this woodworking method. There are plenty of jaw depths available for this clamp type which extend the point of force further from the edge of the work piece. In other words, the desired jaw depth is dependent on the size of the material.
Feel free to pick whichever size depth you prefer, Yost Tools offer 6 different sizes from 6″ to 36″, although I find that the 12″ is a reliable size to go with. It utilizes a threaded handle for fastening your material into place and a 3 plate clutch system of simple, easy adjustments. Similarly to the Bessey pipe clamp above, this has a swivel jaw pad created to grip a variety of shapes and that handy plastic cap to keep even the most delicate materials safe from damage.
Parallel clamps are great for situations that require your material to stand upright during assembly, the most common example being assembling a cabinet.
“Whew, parallel style is a pretty penny! Is this even worth the money?”
Yes and yes. The large face and parallel action will pull your assembly together right the first time. Pipe clamps are a much cheaper option and can certainly get the job done but won’t be as good at tackling larger projects, plus the parallel ones are noticeably nicer to use.
Its optimized pressure distribution from the deep 3-3/4″ and material application versatility (wood, composites, plastics, light metals, and mixed materials) easily make it among the best parallel clamps available.
On top of 90 degree clamping capability, the simple, quick jaw opening and closing offer a convenience that makes being a woodworker that much more enjoyable.
If you’re at all serious about woodworking and know you’ll be committing to more projects then it’s smart to get a couple for now and fill the rest out with bar clamps. One of the biggest advantages they have is they are able to act as a reference surface because you won’t have to be concerned with marring the material like you would with pipe clamps.
Don’t exactly need a clamp but need to maintain parts in a perpendicular position? Assembly squares are right angle jigs that are meant to serve as a position holder. They don’t add pressure for connecting material, however they’re convenient enough to have but not enough to spend to much time shopping for. You don’t need the “perfect” assembly square in the market, just one that’ll get the job done.
Attaching solid wood edging & repairs
When working with sheet goods, this is a pretty common task. So you’re familiar at all with this then you probably already know what a bandy clamp is, and probably already have one.
A bandy clamp is a type of spring clamp that are quick and easy to use. Unlike general spring clamps, these have grippy clamp pads and a rubber band to eliminate slippage. Rockler’s model has pivoting jaws which serve as an accommodation for angled pieces that allow contact from the whole pad regardless of stock thickness.
The freedom of mobility that bandies have are unique for quick repair jobs as well. Without the added hand screw or pipe like you’d typically see on a clamp, this one maintains its tension within the spring of the handle for easy applicable repairs.
Securing parts to workbench
No matter the part (jigs, work piece, material, workbench tool, etc.) quick grip clamps specialize in super easy attachment, adjustment, removal, and hold a variety of things securely.
I wouldn’t confuse its simple and easy usability with its effectiveness. This quick grip is able to apply 150lbs of force to maintain work stability. IRWIN offers an alternative model with a clutch lock, a threaded handle, for additional pressure, although you most likely won’t be implementing that feature more often than you would expect.
Holding work piece on edge
A hand screw clamp operates like a make-shift vise when clamped to your bench. It fits between two blocks and can be securely tightened to maintain the material’s edge side up position.
The best wood clamps are often simple in design. In the case of the hand screw simple design, it has 4 major parts: 2 threaded steel rods attached to large, easy to grip wood handles and 2 adjustable wood jaws. Thread the rods through the jaws to tighten the pieces around your material for a well supported position.
No doubt that this is a convenient tool for gluing material together, however if this is the only type of clamp you have available that might be a minor issue. The hand screw attaches to the work piece and will need additional clamping to your work bench to keep it from wobbling or tipping over.
The wood jaws, being the essential backbone to this tool, are long enough (10″) for larger sized panels.
Banding Around Parts
Specifically for wrapping around an assembly, a ratcheting band clamp is most widely used to hold multiple pieces together. It wraps around the designated assembly parts and then can be tightened to the desired tension.
POWERTEC possibly has the best woodworking clamps for sale thanks to their affordable available options and ability to adapt with square, round and irregular shaped material parts. This particular model has a hand screw for simple tightening and easy adjusting as well as quick release paddles.
It’s worth noting that this style can only apply so much pressure to the joints of whatever you are assembling. If you are using these for clamping glued boards together it could come out botched with glue gaps that make it look like an amateur did it (no offense to amateurs). The primary challenge for straps in this case is getting the tension even so that they pull straight. However, they are great for holding everything together so that the glue can set with most awkward shapes that don’t lend themselves to straight clamps.
Since we are on the subject of tightening, the jaw’s frame are a hard plastic and will not mar the surface while applying tension.
There’s no specific best woodworking clamps for every scenario. Some are more temporary than others which could be used to simply position components while assembling, and others could be a permanent second or third hand.
Pipe and parallel clamps are going to be your most used tools for practically all common woodworking tasks so spend some time (but not too much otherwise you won’t get anything done!) finding out which you prefer and grab a couple then get to working!