A year ago I wrote about the demise of America’s clamp manufacturers and my choice to try a few inexpensive alternatives for the obsolete Pony, Wetzler and the like. We decided to buy a few types of Harbor Freight clamps and give them a try. A year of use has passed and here are my thoughts on the matter.
- Harbor Freight F-Clamps. We got six small clamps and I have to say that they work like a charm. The price is very affordable ($3 each) and the materials they are made of, together with the reliable construction makes these clamps feel and perform very well.
- Harbor Freight Aluminum Bar Clamp. These clamps are very handy when clamping boards edge to edge to make wide panels. In addition, they are excellent for holding workpieces in some planning situations, especially when you don’t have bench dogs and other jigs. I was introduced to this method via Paul Sellers. To strengthen his Aluminum clamps Paul inserts into the extruded bar a wooden beam. Following Paul’s idea, I made oak and ash inserts for our clamps too. The other advantage of these inserts is that they inoculated the bars from being crushed or buckling when clamped in the vise. I shaped my inserts on the table saw and milled a wide groove along their top edge to accommodate the bar’s teeth row. Rubbing some wax on the wooden beam made inserting it easier.
In the pictures and video below you can see how we use these clamps when shaping stool legs for our 8th-grade project.
- The C-Clamps that we got from HF proved to be a success too. These cast iron and steel clamps are as simple and straightforward as can be. By the way, they have a fine-medium Acme screw thread. If you get such clamps or any clamp for that matter remember to oil and grease their moving as necessary.
- The HF Ratcheting Bar Clamp…ouch. These ended up as a total disaster. The pump-action mechanism has an unreliable clutch plate that kept slipping. I will try to fix them by corrugating the bar (see my blog entry about reforming bar clamps here) in hope that I can save them.
– Yoav Liberman
Woodshop Furnishings Digital Edition
By The Editors of Popular Woodworking
Trick out your shop with 7 inexpensive projects!
We’ve gathered seven articles from past issues of Popular Woodworking Magazine and Woodworking Magazine to help you add storage and efficiency to your workshop, at little cost. Most of these shop projects are built using inexpensive dimensional lumber or plywood, and can be completed in just a few hours. And all of them will help you make your workshop work better!
$30 Lumber Rack
by Christopher Schwarz
There’s no need to buy expensive brackets of build bulky shelves to store lumber. Here’s an inexpensive and flexible system that’s simple to build and takes up little space in your shop.
Mobile Clamp Cart
by Robert W. Lang
From F-style clamps to cabinet-assembly clamps to handscrews, this small cart puts the clamps you need within easy reach.
Benchtop Router Table Stand
by Troy Sexton
Build this smart shop cabinet that puts your router table at a comfortable working height, plus creates lots of space to store your bits.
The Butterfly Horse
by Don Williams
Make this clever and sturdy workholding device – it’s easy to fold and stow away when not in use. Better yet, make two.
A Better Miter Saw Stand
by Robert W. Lang
This inexpensive and practical workstation for the miter saw combines stationary and rolling stands, material storage racks and a convenient place for scrap.
by Christopher Schwarz
An essential shop fixture, this cross between a sawhorse and workbench will quickly become a dependable assistant – particularly if you saw by hand (or need a place to sit).
Storage & Assembly Bench
by David Thiel
This handy rolling assembly bench provides ample room for storage, and features a sturdy, height-adjustable top that makes a great extra work surface or outfeed table.
Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.