Whether you’re creating high-end cutting boards or building custom cabinet doors, having the best parallel clamps can make glue-ups and assembly go smoothly. They create evenly distributed pressure that prevents joints from warping or shifting, providing a workpiece that requires less finishing and flattening.
Shopping for the best parallel clamps can be fairly involved, however. There are plenty of products on the market, and choosing the right one for your specific needs can be challenging. This guide will explore the most important factors to consider as you choose the best parallel clamps for your woodworking projects and then highlight the selections of some of the top products on the market. Keep reading to learn more.
- BEST OVERALL: Jorgensen Cabinet Master 24-inch 90° Parallel Jaw Bar
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: POWERTEC 71368 Woodworking Parallel Clamps 24-Inch
- UPGRADE PICK: JET 70411 Parallel Clamp Framing Kit
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Bessey KR3.524 24-Inch K Body REVO Fixed Jaw Parallel
- BEST KIT: Bora 4-Piece Parallel Clamp Set 571550
- ALSO CONSIDER: JET 70431 31″ Parallel Clamp (2-Pack)
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Parallel Clamps
The best parallel clamps are—by far—one of the most useful clamps for woodworking glue-ups and assemblies. These clamps provide even pressure, and they span a range of sizes and materials. It’s important to keep these and other considerations in mind when shopping for these handy tools. Read on to learn more.
With the large number of parallel clamps on the market and the range in price, choosing the best parallel clamps often comes down to the material first and foremost.
Parallel clamps are typically made from one of two materials: plastic and steel. While almost all parallel clamps feature steel bars, the actual clamping jaws are the focus here.
Plastic parallel clamps are all about both cost and weight savings. They can sometimes cost and weigh less than half of a steel model. However, because plastic isn’t as sturdy as steel, it can become damaged or deformed under enough pressure. Also, they’re unable to provide quite as much strength as steel parallel clamps.
Steel parallel clamps are the heavier-duty option, exerting a lot of force and resisting becoming deformed under pressure. They do tend to be more expensive than plastic models, and longer steel clamps can be heavy and awkward to set up until you are used to their design.
But there’s good news. Many of the best parallel clamps actually feature a plastic coating over the top of steel jaws, providing strength, a lightweight design, and a mar-free surface.
When it comes to choosing the best parallel clamps for your workshop, length is definitely a factor as well. However, keep in mind that while purchasing the longest possible clamp will provide the widest clamping range, it might not be the most logical move.
If you’ll be gluing mostly small projects, such as a cutting board or a picture frame, 24-inch parallel clamps will likely do the trick. These clamps are small, light, and easy to maneuver around a tight shop. For larger projects like cabinets and doors, however, 30-inch or even 48-inch clamps might be necessary.
For massive projects, many manufacturers do sell brackets to convert two smaller parallel clamps into one longer clamp. There’s also a method of hooking two clamps together—jaw to jaw—but the pressure isn’t quite as evenly distributed.
Avoiding gaps between boards or pulling together challenging joinery sometimes requires a bit of extra pressure from parallel clamps. While many clamps can exert a ton of force, only the best parallel clamps can do so while still retaining their shape.
Heavy-duty clamps can exert as much as 1,700 pounds of pressure, easily drawing bowed boards and tough joints together. And because of how parallel clamps slowly apply pressure, they work just as well for light-duty projects. Woodworkers can use the same clamps for gluing up thick hemlock doors as they can for ensuring perfectly flat maple cutting boards.
Jaw design is what makes parallel clamps stand out from the crowd among clamp types. The jaws are designed to be perfectly parallel under force, requiring substantial reinforcement at each jaw. Beyond the jaws, these clamps feature screw-type micro-adjustments to add more pressure to the workpiece.
To use parallel clamps, simply place the workpiece between the jaws, slide the clamps together on the ratcheting bar, and slowly apply pressure with the screw-adjustment handle. As the screw turns, it applies more pressure to the jaws, pulling joints and boards closer together.
Many jaws even feature quick releases, making releasing and spreading the jaws apart much faster—an excellent feature in production shops or when working one-handed.
When a clamp applies 1,500 pounds of force to the end of a board, there is a lot of potential for crushing the grain, marring the surface, and ruining the project. It’s important that the pressure is as evenly distributed as possible to avoid this damage.
For that reason, some of the best parallel clamps feature removable jaw pads that turn sideways, increasing the amount of surface area that comes in contact with the board’s edge. While this method might not target pressure particularly well over a small gap, it does help reduce some of the damage a powerful clamp can create.
Another point about surface protection: Some of the best parallel clamp manufacturers sell attachments or brackets that hold the workpiece up off the clamp bars. These standoffs keep the field of the workpiece from scratching or marring as well.
Setting up a long parallel clamp can be a bit of a headache. Between situating the clamp in the ideal spot and applying pressure without moving it, there’s some room for error. Working one-handed, which is often the case in woodworking glue-ups, can exacerbate the issue.
To help make setup easier, many of the best parallel clamps feature ergonomically friendly designs. Ratcheting bars for fast setups, quick releases for when the project is dry, and comfortable screw-adjustment handles with nonslip pads make setup and breakdown much easier.
When it comes to versatility, most parallel clamps have a trick or two up their sleeves. Not only can you purchase separate brackets for connecting clamps together, but many clamps can also spread objects apart.
By removing the adjustable jaw and spinning it around, a clamp becomes a spreader. It can pull tight, friction-heavy joints apart with the same amount of pressure and force as when securing them together. This can be especially beneficial in humid shops where wood tends to swell quickly during test fits.
And remember—for other woodworking clamp types, you might consider a right-angle clamp or a trusty set of spring clamps.
Our Top Picks
With a bit of background on parallel clamps, shopping for a set for a workshop becomes easier. Keep reading to discover these top picks for some of the best parallel clamps on the market. Be sure to keep the abovementioned considerations in mind when comparing these products, as there is an option for almost every application.
When it comes to all-around quality, value, and capability, this two-pack of Jorgensen Cabinet Master Parallel Jaw Bar clamps is hard to beat. This set of clamps features a 24-inch capacity and plastic-coated steel jaws for gluing up smaller projects without marring the work surfaces. The adjustable jaws are reversible, converting these clamps into spreaders.
These parallel clamps also offer several ergonomic features that many woodworkers will appreciate. The jaws have flat-bottom surfaces and built-in stands that allow them to stand on their own for one-handed setup. The clamps create up to 1,000 pounds of force and feature rapid opening and closing action for quick setups and breakdowns. Cinching down on the workpiece is easy as well, thanks to the rubber-molded, screw-adjustment handles for applying plenty of force pain-free.
This two-pack of Powertec Woodworking Parallel Clamps might be the most affordable way to apply pressure to smaller projects. These clamps boast a 24-inch capacity, applying up to 880 pounds of pressure per clamp on cutting boards, small cabinet doors, and other projects that require square, even pressure.
For the price, these clamps provide a lot of value. They feature plastic-coated steel jaws that deliver plenty of parallel clamping strength without marring the work surface. The clamps also include small brackets that snap to the bar, holding materials up off the bar surface to prevent damage. The jaws also reverse, transforming these clamps into spreaders with a 29-inch capacity.
Achieving a perfectly square glue-up has never been easier than with Jet’s Parallel Clamp Framing Kit. This kit includes two 24-inch clamps, two 40-inch clamps, and four framing blocks for 90-degree corner pressure. The blocks and the resin-coated jaws work together to provide mar-free pressure on the edges and fields of boards. The kit also provides a set of bench dogs for securing the clamps to a workbench.
Each of these parallel clamps can exert 1,000 pounds of pressure across a workpiece, thanks to their comfortably soft micro-adjustment handles. Jet’s Slide-Guide trigger also makes setup and breakdown easier. Additionally, users can reverse the adjustable jaws, turning these clamps into powerful spreaders.
For badly bowed boards, tight joints, and absolutely airtight glue-ups, powerful clamps are a must. This two-pack of Bessey 24-Inch Fixed Jaw Parallel Clamps provides more than enough pressure, with each clamp creating 1,500 pounds of force—enough for truly heavy-duty applications.
Bessey has increased the jaw size by 30 percent to better distribute the force on these clamps, and they also feature a plastic coating for protection. The rubber-molded, screw-adjustment handles are comfortable for cranking down on as well. This kit also provides several plastic bar brackets for holding the workpiece up off of the surface while clamping, reducing the chances of scratches and scrapes.
For small projects, it’s hard to beat the overall capability of Bora’s 4-Piece Parallel Clamp Set. This kit includes four clamps—two 24-inch and two 31-inch—offering plenty of square-clamping capacity for cabinet doors, picture frames, cutting boards, and other woodworking projects. Plus, each clamp can exert 1,100 pounds of force, creating tight joinery and clean glue-ups.
These clamps feature wide padded jaws for providing even pressure without damaging the edge of the workpiece. The jaws also boast a quick-release function for faster setups and breakdowns, simply requiring the user to lift on the handle to slide the jaw.
For quick setups and breakdowns on medium-size projects like chairs, shelves, and countertops, check out this two-pack of Jet’s 31-Inch Parallel Clamps. These clamps feature Jet’s Slide-Guide trigger, which allows users to quickly set the clamp to size or break it down with one hand after glue-up. Each of these two clamps creates up to 1,000 pounds of pressure, and the large screw-adjustment handles help provide a secure grip for applying that force.
These clamps also provide built-in stands for easy setup as well as plastic-coated steel jaws to prevent marring. They also include built-in measurements on the rails for quick reference while clamping. The reversible jaws easily turn these clamps into powerful spreaders.
FAQs About Parallel Clamps
If you still have questions about the best parallel clamps, the following list addresses many of the most frequently asked queries about parallel clamps. Be sure to check for an answer to your question below.
Q. What is a parallel clamp used for?
A parallel clamp has many uses, but it’s most frequently used for clamping boards into one wide surface for countertops, tabletops, and doors or for clamping tight joints for assembly.
Q. What size clamps should I buy?
You can never have too many parallel clamps, so a pair of each size is always a good idea. But 24-inch clamps are the most frequently used.
Q. How many parallel clamps do I need for my woodworking project?
It depends on the size of the project. A full-size door could require 10 clamps during glue-up, while a cabinet door might require only four clamps.