I bought the twelve most common 24″ trigger / one-handed clamps and put them each through a series of tests and measurements to see which, if any, would be crowned the king of clamp value. With only one exception, each clamp is rated for a certain number of pounds of clamping force so I wanted to put that to the test and see how each held up to its claims.
What We Measured
- Price (at time of purchase)
- Build Quality
- Bar Size
- Clamping Length
- Throat Depth
- Bonus Features
- Bar Deflection (measured in relation to one another)
- Comfort (subjectively rated by me)
- Pad Size
- Number of Squeezes to travel 24″
- Rated Pounds of Clamp Force
- Actual Pounds of Clamp Force
- Rated:Actual Percentage
For this comparison, here are the clamps we’ll be looking at:
- Irwin 600#
- Bessey 600#
- DeWalt 600#
- Harbor Freight Bremen 375#
- Irwin 300#
- Bessey 300#
- DeWalt 300#
- Pony-Jorgensen 300#
- Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 287#
- Bessey DuoKlamp 280#
- Wood River 180#
- Harbor Freight Pittsburgh $6 Clamp (no rating)
Many of the measurements could be done with calipers or a measuring tape and are objective while others are simply my subjective ratings based on my testing experience. In order to measure the clamping force, I built a funky little rig with some 2″ tube steel and some horrible welds. It’s all kinds of ugly but it got the job done. It leverages a crane scale that is rated for up to 650 lbs of force, though I discovered it actually goes up to about 685 lbs.
To provide all needed details for each of the clamps, I put together some infographics with all of the results. A few notes to consider:
- Unless otherwise noted, all clamps are 24″
- For the Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 287# clamp, I wasn’t able to find a 24″ so I used a 36″ clamp
- For the Bessey DuoKlamp, I wasn’t able to find a 24″ so I used an 18″ clamp
- The Harbor Freight $6 clamp doesn’t advertise a clamping force
- Every clamp claims to have either a lifetime warranty or a limited lifetime warranty – the big question that I don’t have answers to is exactly how easy it is to obtain a replacement for each of them. Harbor Freight clamps are generally really easy to get replaced but I can’t speak for the others.
The Individual Results
Wherever possible, I included a relative graph, showing how the measurement or result compares to all other clamps for that specific metric. Here they are:
There were quite a few surprises in this mix. Here are the ones that stood out:
- The Wood River clamp had the best rating to actual force comparison
- Both Harbor Freight Pittsburgh clamps exploded during testing. This isn’t shocking, but I was surprised that they were the only two that broke.
- The Harbor Freight Pittsburgh 287# clamp had the most rigid bar of the group, with the least amount of deflection. Very impressive!
- The $6 Harbor Freight clamp was plenty strong to do just about any glue up, whether soft wood or hard wood.
- In overall performance, the Bessey clamps didn’t really stand out in any way. I have always heard that Bessey’s are the best, and while they are really good clamps, they didn’t tend to perform better than the competition. On that note, they also weren’t the most expensive – DeWalt took that title.
- Even just in testing, I found the Duoklamp to be the most comfortable and enjoyable clamp to work with by far – that goes a long way when you’re using clamps on a regular basis.
- I scream like a little girl when things explode unexpectedly.
OK – so you made through all of that? Here’s the breakdown so you can see how they all compare side by side. If you’d like you can click here to view it directly in Google Sheets. If you have an update or change to make, please leave a comment here rather than requesting edit access. Thanks!
Want to see the video that goes along with this? You can check it out here: