Harbor Freight parallel clamps (compared with Jet and Irwin)

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  • Harbor Freight parallel clamps (compared with Jet and Irwin)

    I own a variety of clamps, and only recently started using parallel clamps. I own a few from Irwin and Jet, and I tried the Bessey clamps in the store. I recently got a sale flier from HF with a ridiculously cheap price on their parallels, so I had to try them.

    Overall impression: Better than the Irwin and Bessey clamps, not quite as good as the Jets but 1/4 the price.

    All of these clamps (Irwin/Jet/HF) have nice big handles. The Jets are hard plastic with three rubber strips for good grip. The Irwins are all rubber, and the HF are solid aluminum with a grained finish. That sounds less comfortable, but it's not, and gives excellent grip. All of the handles are just fine for comfort and power.

    The Irwin has the largest jaw face, and the HF the smallest. All of them have smooth jaws that stay parallel.

    The mechanism on the Irwin is the least desirable. It has a locked and a loose setting, but nothing in between. In the loose setting the head will slide with little provocation, making it very hard to pre-set them and then use them one-handed while holding a work piece. The Jet clamps have a release trigger, so they are locked in place until you pull the trigger. This is pretty easy to use one-handed. The HF has locked and loose settings as well as an in-between setting where you can move it with direct pressure but the head doesn't just slide around on its own. This is very easy to use one-handed. The Jet and HF clamps have teeth on the bar to lock the position, while the Irwin does not, which is why this works the way it does.

    The bar on the Jet is shiny and slippery, resists glue. The others are rough and glue does stick more easily. The Jets have inch markings on the bar, which is very useful. All of the bars are much stronger than needed for any amount of hand pressure you can apply, so bending is not an issue.

    If I was stocking up today, I would buy a few Jets as my main clamps and HF for my backups. The Irwins are inferior to the HF clamps in most ways, so I wouldn't buy them again. The Jet four-clamp cabinet kit is a good start, with two clamps of two sizes and four of the square-up clamp holders included, as well as a set of bench dogs.

    • dbhost
      #8

      dbhost
      commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by dstern
      These clamps are dangerous.

      I received a set as a gift, cursed them when used as invariably they pinched the web of my hand (btwn thumb and pointer finger). Found myself usually needing 2 hands to operate. unlike my much older, still working "Quik Grip" from Vise-Grip.

      Worse yet, not 1 but 2 broke when hand tightening. The ends snapped off w/ such force I didn't see where they landed. Very close to loosing an eye. BTW I shop HF often but mostly for disposable goods... bits, blades, gloves, etc. Hope to avoid someone a costly bargain.
      This review was for the Parallel Clamp, not the clamp / spreaders (Quick Clamp clones) that it appears you are talking about.

      I wouldn't completely write off HF clamps. I have a large selection of the HF bar clamps and they are every bit as good, and in some features, better than Jorgensens...

    • poolhound
      #9
      poolhound commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by billfrommich
      Were the clamps that broke the HF version of a "parallel clamp" or the HF version of some variety of "quickclamp" designed to be operated with one hand?

      I had heard that there might be some problems with the HF "quickclamps" but your post is the first I've seen regarding failure of the HF "parallel clamps" (if indeed that is what you are reporting).
      I can confirm that the HF "quick clamps" are a POS!! I got two and with my emmense Hulk like strength (not) was able to break them with just my hands. I wasnt even squeezing as hard as I would normally with my Irwins. The body basically has zero structural integrity and fails at all the screw where the side plate joins which essentially holds it all together. I drilled out the failed joints and replaced with bolts. They now only get used for light "holding" applications as a clamp they are NOT!

    • Carlos
      #10
      Carlos commented
      Editing a comment
      An update on these after a year of ownership and a few projects. They are holding up like new. I am still just as happy with them as I am with my Jet and Irwin parallel clamps. If HF made these in a longer size, I'd buy a few.

      Also in general I'm happy to have discovered the concept of parallel clamps. So much better for furniture-making than your standard basic clamps.
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