The 10 Best C Clamps
This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Having a great C clamp is almost as good as having a third hand. These versatile tools can hold pieces of lumber together as you drive home nails or screws, secure hardware as glue dries, keep pipes steady for welding, or even serve as semi-permanent fastening solutions. We put the squeeze on this list's options, rating them by size, construction materials, and special attributes. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 30, 2020:
Removed the Great Neck Essentials in favor of the Performance Tool W286.
C-clamps are generally designed to be used with metals and other hard materials. Even if they have pads, they will dent wood so keep that in mind, particularly with softwoods like pine. We included the Performance Tool W286 because of the quick-release button. Without a doubt, one of the most annoying parts of using clamps is having to turn the handle an inordinate number of times to get it to tighten onto thin surfaces and then having to back it out to clamp on a thick workpiece. The quick-release allows you to simply retract the screw, place the jaw onto one side of the workpiece, and then slide the screw over and tighten a few turns. While it is made of cast iron (this is normally too brittle to be reliable for clamping), it has been heat treated to allow it to flex a bit under pressure without shattering.
Mild steel clamps like the Wilton 14256 and the Williams 410C use the ideal frame material along with being drop-forged. Drop forged steel is stronger than cast iron or steel partly because the casting process allows the grain structure of the part to form randomly as opposed to the much more uniform structure found on forged parts. This leads to a greater tensile strength that is associated with high quality tools like the Wilton and the Williams.
April 11, 2019:
C clamps can play an important role in a number of jobs, and are especially critical to a lot of wood- and metal-working projects. If you're looking for something simple to help you fix smaller broken items around the house, consider the Great Neck Essentials, a two-piece set that can help with a wide range of common repair tasks. The Harbor Freight and Shop Fox models are both excellent deep-throated models that, despite roughly similar shapes, will be useful at considerably different types of tasks. Anything involving sensitive materials may benefit from the aluminum Shop Fox's light weight, while carpenters looking to join wider planks of wood will really appreciate the Harbor Freight. Both Vise-Grip and CH Hanson offer excellent handheld locking options that are essentially modified locking pliers. These tend to not open as wide as a typical C clamp, but they're so quick and easy to use that they're a must-have for many craftsmen. The Bessey may come very much in handy for woodworkers or anyone with framing jobs to complete, while the Wilton and Williams are both purpose-built to accommodate welders, who generally have higher demands of C clamps than anyone else. But for cost-effectiveness and versatility, it's tough to beat the Tekton or the slightly more expensive Irwin Quick-Grip, which are both simple, as well as highly functional, and should last most users for years to come.