Making straight cuts with a circular saw, router, or jigsaw is a challenging task. While a cut with a few hitches in it may be just fine for rough carpentry, finish work demands greater precision. A straight edge clamp is a great solution. Unlike a standard clamp, which holds workpieces in place, a straight edge clamp provides a guide for cutting.
These handy woodworking tools consist of a straight piece of extruded aluminum that’s 36 to 50 inches long with a clamp at each end that allows the user to firmly attach it to a board, a sheet of plywood, or other material. Once in place, the straight edge provides a guide for making straight cuts with a variety of different types of power tools. These tools are also versatile, with attachments that allow for miter cuts and jigs for making precision cuts.
This guide takes a closer look at the features that make straight edge clamps useful woodworking assistants and offers a selection of some of the best straight edge clamps for the home workshop.
- BEST OVERALL: ProGrip Straight Edge Clamps
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Bora 36″ NGX Clamp Edge Straight Cut Guide
- UPGRADE PICK: Bora 5-Piece NGX Set
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: CMT PGC-50 Professional Straight Edge Clamp
- BEST EXTRA-WIDE: E. Emerson Tool Co. Straight Edge Clamping Tool Guide
- BEST FOR CIRCULAR SAW: Kreg Circular Saw Track
- BEST FOR ROUTER: Bora Router Dado Jig
- ALSO CONSIDER: DEWALT DWS5100 Dual-Port Folding Rip Guide
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Straight Edge Clamp
The quality of a straight edge clamp depends on its grip material, length, and the rigidity of its construction. Ahead, learn more about important factors to take into account when shopping for a straight edge clamp.
Straight edge clamps are made from extruded aluminum; extruded aluminum is rigid enough to hold a straight edge and durable enough to withstand repeated use. This length of aluminum is typically 2 to 3 inches wide in order to be strong enough to resist bowing when the pressure of a heavy saw is applied to one side. To ensure it is strong enough to hold the clamp firmly to the workpiece, the clamping mechanism is typically made from metal and rugged plastic. The clamping face should have a rubberized cover capable of gripping the material without leaving indentations that can damage it.
To be useful, a straight edge clamp should be long enough to serve as a guide for cutting across wide boards and large pieces of plywood that are too big to run through a table saw. With this in mind, most edge clamps range between 36 and 50 inches long. While longer edge clamps allow for making crosscuts on full sheets of plywood, that added length makes them difficult to clamp to smaller pieces of lumber, which are better suited for shorter edge clamps. Some edge clamps feature 50-inch extensions that can be added to the clamp for cutting longer pieces of wood, such as a full 4×8 sheet of plywood. Clamps with extensions should be wider, ideally 3 inches or more, to prevent bending.
The clamping mechanism holds the clamp to the material top to ensure a straight and accurate cut. The mechanism features a nonmoving end that presses up against one side of the material and a moving end that slides against the opposite end. This end features a lever that forces the clamp face against the piece, locking the clamp firmly onto it. If the clamping mechanism doesn’t work properly, it will cause the clamp to shift on the material while cutting, throwing off the cut. Many straight edge clamps have rubber feet that grip the material, creating a tight connection without causing damage. The clamping mechanism should clamp tightly on the material without damaging it and should be able to resist a significant amount of pressure placed against the straight edge.
Many straight edge clamps feature a swivel head which allows the clamps to grab the material at an angle to either create a straight fence for miter circular saw cuts or to allow the fence to attach to pieces of wood that don’t have parallel edges. Most swivel heads operate at a range of 0 to 22.5 degrees. It’s crucial for a straight edge clamp to have a strong clamping mechanism with a rubberized clamping head that creates a firm grip on the material for a swivel head to work properly.
Most straight edge clamps are designed with ease of use in mind. Straight edge clamps feature clamping mechanisms with large levers that allow the user to easily tighten the clamp into place on a large piece of material.
Some clamps include saw plates, which make using straight edge clamps with a circular saw, router, or jigsaw easier and more precise. These plates attach the fence on the saw or router to the clamp via the clamp’s T-slot. The plate holds the saw in place against the flat edge of the clamp as the cut is made, ensuring a straight and precise cut. The jig also makes the process of cutting safer by preventing the blade from slipping out of the material.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes into account material, length, clamping mechanism, and other important features to narrow the field to some of the best straight edge clamps on the market. Any of the models below will help the user make straighter cuts.
A broad range of sizes coupled with a wide profile makes this set of edge clamps one of the best on the market. With 24-, 35-, and 50-inch lengths, this set can handle narrower boards as well as crosscuts on full sheets of plywood. Each aluminum rail is 2.1875 inches wide, adding rigidity that prevents the rail from bending under pressure.
These clamps also feature an easy-to-use design. Simply place the fixed end over the board, tighten the adjustable end by pulling down the locking lever, and it’s ready for cutting. Unlike other clamps that use a single locking position, this model has three positions, allowing the user to select the right amount of pressure to hold the workpiece in place. Convenient standard and metric markings on the guides allow for convenient measuring.
This affordable model from Bora features a wide profile and T-track that supports numerous accessories for cuts with a circular saw. While most straight edge clamps rely on the user to push the fence of the circular saw up against it as a guide, NGX goes a step further. The grooves on either side of this fence engage with a circular saw guide that locks the saw into a track, resulting in precise cuts.
A fancy guide wouldn’t matter much if the clamp didn’t lock onto the material. This model does, thanks to a wide clamp face, featuring a rubberized face to ensure a tight nonslip grip. The guide can also handle wide boards. It comes in 24-inch, 36-inch, and 50-inch sizes. The purchase of an extension will increase any of these lengths by 50 inches.
With enough length to handle virtually any cutting need and jigs for making miter cuts and circular saw cuts easier, this set from Bora is a great option for serious woodworkers. It includes a 50-foot clamp and a 50-inch extension for a total maximum cutting length of 100 inches, enough to make a rip cut on a standard 4×8 piece of plywood. A saw plate fits into the two T-channels in the clamp and attaches to a circular saw for precision cutting.
It also includes a roll of nonchip strip tape for minimizing tear-out while cutting. Two swivel heads allow for miter cuts. The clamp includes a large handle that makes attaching it to a piece of wood easy. Rubberized ends provide a firm grip while not damaging the workpiece.
Bigger jobs require a fence that won’t bend under pressure. The 3-inch-wide extruded aluminum design of this clamp makes it significantly more rigid than clamps that are just 2 inches wide. This means it’s less likely to bend under the pressure of a router or circular saw. A wide clamp creates a tight connection to a board, while a scale with both metric and standard measurements is convenient for making precise measurements when setting up a cut.
This model also includes T-tracks on both sides that work with various accessories for making circular saw cuts and miter cuts. At 50 inches long, this fence is ideal for cutting wide boards, such as a 4×8 piece of plywood.
A straight edge clamp isn’t worth its price tag if it can’t hold a straight line under the pressure of a heavy circular saw or router. This model from E. Emerson Tool Co. uses extruded aluminum with reinforced tubes and a wide 2-inch profile that keeps it rigid for a straight cut. The clamping system includes a large lever that locks firmly into place, and 2.5-inch-wide jaws create a secure connection to the material.
Accessory ridges on both sides run the clamp’s entire length, allowing it to work with a circular saw plate, router plate, or a stop block. A story stick adds another layer of accuracy. The use of a story stick allows the user to easily line up the cut line on a circular saw before starting the cut, while easy-to-read metric and imperial measurements printed on the length of the clamp are convenient for making measurements.
While a standard straight edge fence will work just fine for guiding a circular saw, for truly precise cuts, having a track to guide the saw is ideal. This model from Kreg features a circular saw guide that locks into the saw, preventing it from shifting away from the cut or pulling out of it. The result is not only a perfectly straight cut but also a safer means of cutting with a circular saw.
At 50 inches long, this saw track will handle longer cuts, including cross-cuts across a sheet of plywood. With its two-piece construction, the track can be used as a smaller 25-inch piece for shorter cuts. Starting the cut is typically the most challenging part of using a circular saw. This guide solves that by including a starter track, which allows the user to set up the cut before the blade hits the wood for greater precision. Instead of clamps, this model uses anti-slip guide strips to keep it in place while cutting, making setup easy.
A standard straight edge clamp makes precise cuts with a router easier. This jig works with Bora’s straight edge clamps to take that precision to another level. This jig attaches to the router plate and the two T-tracks on the Bora edge clamp, holding the router and the cutting head firmly in place while executing a cut. This makes a standard router accurate enough for making precision dado, rabbets, and mortise cuts.
This jig is constructed of high-grade plastic tough enough to hold up to repeated use yet smooth enough to prevent damage to the work material. The jig’s cutting hole is large enough to handle .25-inch .375-inch and .5-inch router bits, and its mounting holes make it compatible with virtually any router.
While straight edge clamps are a great tool for making straight cuts, they do have their limitations. As many straight edge clamps max out at 50 inches, they won’t work for longer cuts. A folding rip guide, such as this model from Dewalt, is one alternative. It features a long aluminum guide that attaches to a circular saw’s fence and presses up against the outside edge of a board to hold the saw in place to execute a straight cut.
While it’s limited in the width it can cut, as the attachable metal arms allow for a maximum cutting width of 12 inches, it is capable of cutting boards of any length. This rip guide is made of durable aluminum and folds down to just 19 inches long and 3 inches wide for easy storage or transport. This model is compatible with Dewalt circular saws.
FAQs About Straight Edge Clamps
If you’re still wondering about how a straight edge clamp works, here are the answers to some of the most common questions about these tools.
Q. How do you use a straight edge clamp?
A straight edge clamp works with a circular saw, router, jigsaw, or other power saw to create a straight edge. Attach the clamp to the work material by pulling the fixed end of the clamp against the piece, and then sliding the movable end against the piece’s opposite edge. Then use the locking handle to tighten the clamp into place. Press the saw’s fence against the straight edge of the clamp while cutting to create a straight line.
Q. Can you use straight edge clamps to cut boards without parallel ends?
Straight edge clamps that have attachments for miter cuts allow the clamp to attach to a board with ends that aren’t parallel in addition to allowing the user to make miter cuts.
Q. How do extensions affect the quality of the cut?
While extensions are handy and can allow for cuts 100 inches long or more, keep in mind that a longer edge clamp is more likely to bend during a cut. The joint between the extension and main piece presents a weak area that can bend. Longer edge clamps should be wider to prevent this bend from happening.