Ok, time for a stupid question.
Pipe clamps are cheaper than bar clamps, more versatile (simply change the
pipe to change the length), and available everywhere. But, the pipes are
So where do I get the pipes? Are the cut to length and do the ends need to
be threaded? Do I have to do that myself? If I have to do it, how? What
tools do I need? Which is needed more commonly in WWing, 3/4" or 1/2"?
Should I just say "fuck 'em" to the pipe clamps and get bar clamps?
What profession would you imagine might have a need for steel pipe? If you
can answer this you might realize where to look. Hint: the pipe can also
be found at very large "all-in-one" stores, sometimes with orange or blue
Mike is right: look for them at a plumbing supply store. Costs about
half what you'll pay at HD and Lowes. Here's what I did and my
Go for 3/4" black pipe. 1/2" works too, but will bow on longer jobs.
Galv. works too, but both surfaces will rub off and the Galv. is worse
(DAGS for past discussion of this. With either one you'll want to wipe
off the oil, run it through a grinder-wire brush, then wax it
lightly). At the local plumbing stores, it comes in 21' sections. I
bought 2, and cut them into 3 equal 7' sections at the store. They
were more than willing to let me use their outlet outdoors so I could
plug in my Sawzall with a bi-metal blade. Quick and easy, and the 7'
sections easily fit in my little truck.
You can use a hacksaw too, but it'll take a little longer. Bring a
clamping table or vise to hold them while cutting. Some supply stores
will cut/thread them for you at a reasonable rate, but most make you
do it yourself. That's the only benefit I see to the Borgs' system:
they'll cut and thread (for free, if I remember correctly) but the
cost is still higher.
Once home I cut each section into 4' and 3' sections, file the ends
down smooth and level, then I thread one end of each with a cheapo
import threader (Homier sells one for $20 that's worked fine for me).
Probably takes me about 5-10 min. per pipe, so having a store with an
electric threader do it would definitely be easier, but I enjoy doing
that sort of thing.
OK, now I have the pipe for (6) 4' sections and (6) 3' sections, the
combination of which suits most of my clamping needs. Buy a handful of
couplers at the supply store and you can combine those pipes into very
lengthy clamps if needed. You'll need to have two ends threaded for
this (another reason to have the threader around), and I like the idea
elsewhere in the thread to keep these ends clean with a PVC cap when
not in use.
On to clamps: I bought (8) 3/4" pipe clamps from HF for about $3.50
ea, then I got (4) 3/4" long neck (7") pipe clamps for heavy or deep
clamping projects. I got mine used, but Jet sells them for $12, and HF
has them on sale regularly for $8.
If you think Pony (the standard for pipe clamps) is worth it, then
spring for the $12 ea. for them. But HF sells them both, so you can
compare them firsthand as I have. I don't see any significant
difference between them.
For smaller clamps, HF's Pittsburgh clamps are fine in the 6", 12" and
24" lengths. Any longer than 2' and I see too much flex for comfort;
besides, my 3' pipe clamps are perfect for that length and their
strength is overkill.
I use naphtha because it is a really effective solvent. Who knows who has
been handling that pipe and with what. Naphtha will remove grease, oil,
wax, dirt, an whatever else is on the pipe. And it dries really fast. That
way I can get to shellacking the bugger right away as I'm an impatient SOB.
Take at look at any hardware store or home center and go to the plumbing
section. I preferred the 3/4" over the 1/2" pipes as they were much more
Eventually you will graduate up to bar clamps. The pipe clamps are OK but
tend to be very heavy and hard on your hands.
IIRC I saw some at our local Home Depot, but the easiest place to get
them is a plumbing supply store (or your local plumber) - they're used
for natural gas piping in homes. My wife happens to work at a water
filter & pump company, so I get mine from her (it's cheaper that way,
and they cut and thread to whatever specs I need :)
You want the 3/4" pipe, which is actually 1" outside diameter. Cut
the pipes about 6" longer than the intended maximum clamp range.
I.e. an 18" pipe makes a 12" clamp.
Forget cutting the pipe yourself. Go to your local plumbing supply store, or to
a borg if you don't want to do the plumbing supply dance, and you'll find all
the black pipe you want. Mostly, it comes in 20' lengths, but for a small
charge, the PS store will cut it to length and thread one end for you. You can
go to Big Orange or Might Blue and find the stuff standing vertically on
shelves in the plumbing supply area, in lengths from about 1" to whatever, in
about 6" or 1' increments, depending on the store. Usually both ends are
Bar clamps are great. You'll need some. Start with pipe clamps though. You're
out less than 10 bucks for a top quality 8' pipe clamp. Check out a fairly good
bar clamp price to note why pipe clamps remain popular.
"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is
For an 8 footer, that's for sure :-). But up to 30"-36" the cheap
Pittsburgh ones from Harbor Freight work pretty good.
Codepath, if you're not aware of it, HF has them on "half price" sale
several times a year. 6" for $1.99, 12" for $2.49, etc.. But make sure
they're Pittsburgh. HF has another brand and they're junk.
and when I needed to clamp the table top glueup, I didn't have a clamp that
would reach that far and I needed 8 of them. I went to Harbor Freight and
got me 8 of these:
1/2" Pipe clamps. They were on sale for $1.99 2 weeks ago. I then went to
the Borg and got 8 60" prethreaded 1/2" pipe nipples and went home and
scrwed it all together. They worked like a charm.
8 - $1.99 = $15.92
8 - $4.86 = $38.88 (price from memory but close)
+ sales tax = $59.32
$60 for 8 good 60" clamps is a bargain any way you slice it.
Sorry Bruce, but while your math is correct your assumption of quality is
not. Those things pale in comparison to Jorgensen's.
And yes I have used both so I do know what Im talking about before anyone
jumps on that one.
I'm satisfied with the clamps. I wouldn't debate that they are inferior to
Jorgensens because I've never used them and I am aware that there are
better quality items out there.
But let me attempt to give you a lesson. Everything in this world is a
compromise. These clamps to exactly what I want them to and they do it
without failing, with no undue difficulties. That defines quality for me.
I would consider myself an idiot to spend 5X as much for a Jorgensen clamp
that will not fundamentally do anything this one won't. Anything above the
basic requirements may be nice but you can't logically argue that it is
Tell me you're not an engineer please? Or if you are, I'll bet you work
for the government.
Ok Bruce that's fine, now its my turn to give you something to ponder. As I
stated I own and have used both types of clamps. The cheap HF and the Jorgs.
Ok? Now then I'm glad you didn't experience any bad things when using your
HF clamps. Here's your lesson. Others have, myself included. I don't know
what you clamp, I don't know what you do with yours, I only know what I do
with mine. That said, I can now say that for me they pale in comparison and
DID NOT do the job intended so therefore I would NOT be an idiot for
spending more money to get better clamps to get MY job done. Make sense to
you? The lesson learned? What works for one doesn't always work for the
masses. Mine slipped and one even broke under moderate reasonable pressure.
I wasn't even cranking hard on it when it broke. So there you are a simple
case where we learned something. Didn't we?
I understand what you are saying. You will not see me cheerleading
everything that HF sells because they sell a lot of real crap. I do not
believe the HF 1/2" pipe clamps fall into the crap category.
As to your actual experiences, if one broke it must have been a poor
casting. I would agree that you are less likely to get a poor casting from
Jorgensen. Of course, at 1/5 the price you could break 4 and still come
I would guess that your breakage experience was an unusual thing. I'm
leaving for the gym as soon as I post this. I bench 265lbs and squat 375.
My point being, I would be surprised if you could tighten your clamps any
tighter than I tightened mine. I tightened my 8 clamps when building my
bench, to glue the top and to glue the legs mortise/tenon joints. When I
did, I turned them until I couldn't turn them any more. None of them
cracked or broke. There was also some bowing in the pipe. This has
nothing to do with the clamps though, a Jorgensen would have bowed
identically, and in fact, it illustrates how hard the clamp is pulling.
The real problem was that 60" is about the limit for 1/2" pipe and had I
used 3/4", it would be fine.
One of them was harder to tighten than the others, but it did work. What
happened was that the body twisted a bit due to the pipe hole not being
tapped perfectly straight. I would not expect to see this with a
Jorgensen. Again, if I shitcan that one, I'm still about $6 ahead.
As for slippage, I'm not sure how you can blame a clamp for slipping. What
do you suppose caused it to slip that wouldn't cause a Jorgensen to slip?
I misunderstood what he was saying slipped. I agree that the ones with the
cam locking mechanism from HF slip as I originally bought some of those.
The heavy duty ones have 3 tabs and I assure you they do not slip at all
and instantly lock up.
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