The 6 Best Parallel Clamps in 2023


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May 19, 2023

The 6 Best Parallel Clamps in 2023

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Keep your cabinets, drawer boxes, or picture frames secure and damage-free during glue-ups with a pair of parallel clamps.

An important aspect of woodworking—especially when it comes to custom furniture and cabinetry—is clamping. A reliable set of clamps securely hold glued workpieces together as they dry, and parallel clamps are some of the most useful. Their large, flat, jaw faces are set at 90 degrees to the bar, which results in a lot of surface area in contact with the wood, spreading the clamping pressure across a wider area. This design, combined with polymer-coated jaws (as opposed to metal) allows parallel clamps to apply a lot of pressure while still keeping your workpiece free of dents or scratches.

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The first thing to consider when choosing a parallel clamp is the size of the items you’ll be clamping. Take the time to measure the length of your project to ensure that your clamps are long enough. If you’re not sure, it could be worth purchasing a set that includes a variety of lengths.

You should also think about any extra features that you might find useful in addition to straightforward clamping. Many parallel clamps can be reversed and used as spreaders, which are handy for popping apart stuck joints that may have been positioned incorrectly. Other models feature quick-release mechanisms, which completely release the jaws without having to unscrew them manually, and removable bar pads, which are little brackets that sit on the clamp bar to provide a stable platform for better stabilizing your workpiece.

In addition to heavy-duty pipe clamps and lightweight bar clamps, I've used parallel clamps frequently as a residential and commercial carpenter in New York City. I kept this hands-on experience in mind when putting together this list of options, making sure to include brands that I’ve come to trust—specifically Jorgensen—as well as models with helpful features like end clips and ergonomic handles. I also did my best to include a range of sizes, too, so regardless of the scope of your clamping task, you should be able to find an option that fits your needs.

Jorgensen has been manufacturing high-quality clamps for over 100 years, making these parallel models an easy choice for our best overall option. The 24-inch length is sufficient for clamping a range of workpiece sizes, and the reversible head allows for spreading as well.

The jaw width and throat depth also ensure that they apply optimal pressure throughout, and the plastic shells prevent scuffing or marring to your workpiece. Plus, since they’re capable of applying up to 1,500 pounds of force, you shouldn't have any issues maintaining a firm hold.

Despite the low price, these Powertec clamps still provide the function and stability needed for a good parallel clamp. They feature removable jaw pads that sit on the clamp rail, providing extra support for flat workpieces. The textured grip on the handle makes them comfortable to tighten and loosen after you’re finished, and the removable end cap allows for easy transitioning to a spreading tool.

These clamps probably aren't durable enough for everyday use, so busy woodworkers should probably opt for a more robust option—but for occasional DIYers, this is an excellent pick.

Bessey clamps have a great reputation, and although this set isn't cheap, the high-quality German construction makes it a great value. It includes two pairs of clamps, at 24 and 40 inches, so they can handle a wide range of workpieces and project sizes.

I'm especially impressed by the two-part handle design that allows you to tighten the clamp by twisting the handle, or, thanks to an integrated steel socket, use a hex key to tighten even further. The addition of four plastic support blocks makes this a great all-purpose set.

If you’re working with small or delicate pieces, these compact brass clamps are much more convenient to use than bulky parallel clamp options. By using two simple screws to adjust the jaw position, they’re also well-suited for projects that require ultimate precision when it comes to pressure.

Plus, since these clamps are so thin and narrow, they’re especially convenient for those who have a small workshop or just don't have much storage space. The brass construction isn't as forgiving as the plastic, though, so you may need to apply a wood or cloth spacer between the workpiece and the clamp.

The 48-inch length of these Jorgensen clamps makes them perfect for working with large items like cabinets, art frames, and panel doors. The built-in stand makes them even more convenient for big projects, allowing you to use them one-handed while stabilizing the workpiece with the other.

I’ve always been a big fan of the bright orange color of Jorgensen clamps, which lets you to easily spot them in a crowded garage or workshop. With a 1,500-pound maximum load limit, security and stability shouldn't be an issue, either.

If you’re working with delicate or odd-shaped items that need a gentler touch, consider this light-duty Bessey clamp.

Although technically a "case" clamp, not a parallel clamp, this tool still provides the stability and workpiece protection offered by parallel clamps, and could be a useful option to have on hand.

The large contact surfaces ensure that pressure is spread evenly, and the low 330-pound clamping force greatly reduces the chances of over-tightening and damaging your workpiece. A removable end clip also lets you easily convert it into a spreader.

Alex Rennie is a freelance writer who specializes in the Home Improvement, DIY, and Tool space. As a former residential and commercial carpenter, Alex uses his hands-on experience to write practical buying guides, how-to articles, and product reviews. His work has also appeared in Business Insider's Insider Picks, and before his writing career, he was a full-time carpenter living in New York City. There, he worked as part of a team designing, building, and installing large furniture pieces, as well as performing a variety of home repair and maintenance projects. Alex currently lives in Los Angeles, CA, and spends his free time exploring the beaches and mountains with his fiancé and their dog Louie.

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For more great woodworking accessories, check out our top picks for the best routers, table saws, and shop vacs.