I purchased a pair of Bessey Revo 51″ parallel bar clamps a few months ago, and meant to order a bunch of smaller sizes when they were on sale at Home Depot, but I didn’t. I also own a pair of 24″ clamps, but couldn’t find them.
But, good news – I had brought up a small cache of Irwin parallel clamps that they had sent me a few years ago at my request. I have 6 of the 24″ clamps in my possession, and they ended up in storage until recently.
Great! Just what I need for my weekend project.
I was gluing up 8 drawers that I had cut and sanded last weekend, and they needed some strong clamping, stronger than my Woodpeckers corner box clamps could muster.
I had built these drawers using Festool’s Domino joinery system. With the dominoes being spaced close together, and each being somewhat tight fitting individually, light tapping with a mallet (or scrap piece of 1.5″ x 1.5″ maple stock) wasn’t quite enough to pull everything together. Hence the need for good parallel clamping action.
How do I put this nicely? These Irwin parallel clamps didn’t exactly work out well for me.
Or, as my wife would say, these parallel clamps are so bad, if I saw the designer in the street, I’d want to kick them in the shins.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t run to get some lights and a real camera, as I was more focused on getting the drawer properly glued and set, but you should be able to see how uneven the clamping was.
On some drawers I sawn decent results using the parallel clamp on one side of the box, and then reversing it to tighten up the other side.
But I shouldn’t have to do this. Parallel clamps should deliver parallel pressure.
Doubling up on clamps did the trick, but I shouldn’t have to use 4 clamps to glue up a single 4.75″ tall drawer.
My Bessey Revo clamps were kind of awkward to use, seeing as how they’re 50″ clamps and I only needed 23-something inches of a 24″ clamp’s capacity. But they pulled the joints together perfectly.
Adding insult to injury, some of the Irwin clamps were finicky to use. They wouldn’t open to set up again unless I loosened the handles fully, jiggled things, and even then not all of them would behave as commanded.
On one hand, I was grateful for those Irwin parallel clamp review samples. They pulled me out of a pinch. I was unprepared for the clamping job, thinking my many Irwin box clamps would be enough, when it turned they weren’t. I’m also glad that the Irwin samples were where I could reach them without too much trouble.
On the other hand, I’m frustrated at the lousy quality.
I researched parallel clamps a while back, and Bessey and Jet usually get top recommendations. Between those two companies, I think I’d prefer Bessey Revo clamps, although I believe I once read about Jet clamps doing better in a woodworking magazine’s parallel clamp review. I also won a Bessey Twitter giveaway once, and have a box of Bessey parallel clamp accessories sitting in a box somewhere.
I was hoping that the Irwin clamps would prove to be competitive, comparable, or just plain decent. They’re none of those things. They complicated my project, slowed things down, and while I guess they proved themselves more useful than not, it was a pain having to clamp down on one side and then reverse the clamps, hoping the joint would hold tight throughout, or doubling up to glue each drawer in shifts with 4 clamps in place of 2.
And don’t believe the Amazon product page description where it says these are made in the USA, as they’re not.
I find this to be rough to say, but I would never buy these for use as parallel clamps. They provide strong pressure, but only close to the bar. But lesser bar clamps can provide single-point clamping pressure while costing a lot less. And, as mentioned, the movable jaw can be finicky to adjust back and forth.
I can’t recommend these clamps. I can’t even find a situation where they’d be recommendable. I guess I could recommend them if they were on sale for a fraction of the price of Bessey clamps, but even then they’d have to be a LOT cheaper since you might need 2 Irwin clamps to do the job of 1 Bessey clamp.
Price: $40 (for the 24″ size)
Buy Now(via Amazon)
The Buy Now link is more intended for reference purposes. I would instead encourage you to look at Bessey clamps. Jet clamps also typically receive high recommendations.
I have had great experience with Irwin’s quick grip clamps, with this being my first negative Irwin clamp experience.
See Also(Bessey Revo Parallel Clamps)
Thank you to Irwin for providing the review samples unconditionally.