I can't say I use clamps everyday, well I guess I could, but then I would be a liar. Since I don't use them everyday, I never really invested much money into clamps, since they just sit around. I finally bought my first set of clamps back in 2001 when I started building a coffee table. At the time I had the mind set of if I buy cheap tools, I can save the money, even though I am sure I spent it on other things. Anyhow, I got good use of the clamps for the coffee table and over the years I have used them, but not much. I started a bar project where we were building a custom bar, so I was excited about bringing my clamps out to use. Not really, but I was happy I had clamps and didn't have to invest in buying some. With my clamps and the clamps from the other guy who was building the bar with me, I figured we had more than enough. I learned two things from this project. First, you can never have too many clamps. Second, don't buy cheap clamps. The guy I was working with had some nice Irwin clamps and I had my cheap clamps. While I thought they would do the job, I was wrong. Out of the nine clamps, I had three break while working on the project, he didn't have any break. I had one break while the wood was sitting in the clamp and it ruined the work piece. Now to be fair, I bought these clamps a while back before my rude awakening of not to buy cheap junk as it will bite you in the end. I know I have my differences with Dan and others about buying cheap things, but that's for another day. A funny thing happened, I sent Dan a text with a picture of the bar to show him the finished project. It was at that time he told me Irwin just sent us some clamps. If you have been following Tools in Action, you know our timing is usually off. All I could do was laugh, even though I think I had a couple of tears in my eyes. I do have to say I was relieved because I just got done using some Irwin clamps for the project and had a chance to get good use out of them.
Of course, since the clamps and other tools were sent to Dan's place, I got last dibs on the clamps. Either way I was happy, at least I got something. I ended up getting 6 clamps.
- 4 – XP600 One Handed Bar Clamp Spreaders
- 2 – Parallel Jaw Clamps
Irwin XP600 Bar Clamps
During the project I was using the SL300, which are still nice, but they are a step down from the XP600. Both are clamps and spreaders, however the XP600 has 600 lbs. of force where the SL300 has 300 lbs of force. My first impression of the XP600 was heavy duty and built to last. One feature I really like about these clamps is the double locking swivel jaws. Sounds cool, but what does that mean? This really means that you get a better hold on your material. This set up allows the even distribution of clamping force. The clamps have a nice throat of 3-3/4″. The clamps move along an I-Beam bar which reduces flex and bowing. The face pads are also removable.
There are two features I really like about these clamps. First, the clamps are reversible so you can turn them into spreaders. Irwin makes this conversion very simple. The second item is the foot pad which slides up and down the bar. This allows the user to adjust the foot pad to any position. With other clamps, your work usually rests on the handle. With the foot pad, you can hang the handle over the edge and let it rest on the pad, which means when you clamp your work, it lays flat.
The XP600 clamps come in various lengths of 6″, 12″, 18″, 24″, 36″ and 50″
Parallel Jaw Clamps
The Parallel Jaw Clamps are very cool and powerful. In fact they provide up to 1,150 lbs of force. I tried to get Dan to stick his head in one, but I wasn't successful. With this clamp you get a precise 90° angle, which makes clamping much easier and produces a better finished product. As with the XP600, these clamps also have a 3-3/4″ jaw depth. One thing I can tell you about these clamps, is the locking system is awesome. Once locked, it stays in place no matter what. In fact we had three grown men try to figure out how to move the clamps and it took us a while. I am not saying we were three smart adult, just three adults. Once we figured it out, we just looked at each other and laughed because it was very simple.
Irwin uses a Resin body and jaws to prevent marring and also resists glue adhesion. These are extremely nice clamps and for the money, it's hard to go wrong. All I can say is I wish I had these when I was working on the bar project. This would have saved me a lot of time, frustration and I would have had better results. The Parallel Jaw clamps come in various lengths of 24″ and 48″.
Overall Irwin makes some great clamps. They are rugged and do exactly what you want. They clamp tight and stay tight, even over long periods of time. The XP600 and Parallel clamps are a great buy.