Clamps are essential in the woodworking workshop, but with so many options, choose the perfect one can be difficult. Pipe clamps and parallel clamps are two of the more versatile and common clamps. They are highly similar and can do nearly identical functions. But how do you know how to select between parallel clamps vs pipe clamps?
The difference between parallel clamps vs pipe clamps is that a pipe clamp uses a sliding pipe to allow the lower clamp to fit inside the pipe’s opening capacity. Larger jaws of a parallel clamp are designed to clamp thicker pieces of wood together with even pressure. Both are appropriate for large-scale projects.
Which of these you used to hold two pieces of wood together should seem like a simple choice, but the decision can get complicated! To help you with that, in this article, I explain the differences between pipe clamps vs parallel clamps in detail.
- Parallel clamps
- Pipe clamps
- Parallel clamps vs pipe clamps – which one is better?
- Are parallel clamps worth the money?
- Pipe clamps vs parallel clamps – conclusion
Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.
What Is A Parallel Clamp?
Parallel clamps are much loved by woodworkers and are seen as some of the best clamps to work with. If you could look inside many workshops, you will undoubtedly find parallel clamps.
Parallel clamps are strong clamps because the resin-coated jaws are reinforced with steel on the inside. Those jaws are in many cases 7 cm (3 inches) to 10 cm (4 inches) deep and are drawn towards each other in parallel directions.
Parallel clamps are known for their high performance due to their strong steel bars connecting the jaws, sturdy handles, and screws. Given all these properties, these clamps have a strong clamping force. Unfortunately, these fantastic clamps come with a high price tag.
What Can You Use a Parallel Clamp For?
A parallel clamp is a fastener used to hold objects tightly together, to prevent movement or separation, but as you will read further in this article, this is also the purpose of pipe clamps. So, for which specific tasks is a parallel clamp the better choice?
The parallel clamp provides large and wide opening capacities, whereby the clamping jaws always remain parallel, even under increased load. This prevents the bonding from being concave or convex after curing. Parallel clamps are often used for making doors, panels, cabinet doors, cabinet bottoms, tables, and other large parts to be bonded.
Parallel clamps have several benefits, but they also have certain drawbacks, which are listed below. All of these points about pipe clamps will be discussed further in this article so that you can make the greatest choice for your workshop.
Advantages of A Parallel Clamp
Parallel clamps are great because they ensure that you can always clamp perfectly because of the parallel movement that the jaws make towards each other. The planks are much less likely to bulge when they are put under pressure by a parallel clamp.
Parallel clamps are made to eliminate many of the problems you would encounter with other clamps, including a large pressure distribution area and high pressure applied to the wood for better bonding. If you can choose, go for parallel clamps.
Another advantage is the height of the jaws. They are much higher than the jaws of a pipe clamp, so it is possible to clamp thicker wood without having issues.
Disadvantages of A Parallel Clamp
Check with woodworkers and they will all agree, Parallel clamps are considered one of the best clamps to use. Therefore, there are not too many problems that people experience when using it.
The main problem with parallel clamps is that they are a lot more expensive than other clamps. Because of this, many hobbyists and beginners will tend to avoid these clamps. Moreover, you are nothing with 1 clamp and you will need several, which means that the costs can rise sharply.
Another drawback is the size of the clamps. The clamps are wider and heavier, so they take up more space to store.
How to choose a parallel clamp?
When choosing parallel clamps, the brand and length are, in my opinion, the two most important factors to consider. I’ll make a review post comparing the top items later, so sign up for my email list to be notified when it’s released.
The first thing to think about is the brand. Parallel clamps come in a variety of sizes and prices from a variety of vendors. I’ve trained myself to always go for well-known, high-quality brands, even if they are more expensive. Buying on the cheap has taught me that it nearly always leads to annoyances and double purchases in the past.
Another factor is length, and the only person who can give you advice on that is… yourself. You know perfectly which projects you want to work on and can therefore best estimate the length you need. If you want to make many cabinets, a length of 80 cm (30 inches) or 100 cm (40 inches) is recommended. However, if you work on smaller projects, you do not have to invest extra, and you can go for smaller models. Think carefully about your goals, and you will automatically arrive at the appropriate length.
How to use a parallel clamp?
In all parallel clamps, a fixed jaw on one side and a sliding jaw on the other move over the bar. On some models, you can slide the sliding jaw with your finger or by holding the clamp vertically. Other parallel clamps incorporate a finger trigger under the handle that activates the jaw, removing the need to set the jaw back while tightening it.
With a parallel clamp, perform the following steps: By setting the sliding jaw to the width of the workpiece, you can attach the fixed jaw to one side of the wood project and the moveable jaw to the other.
Tighten the clamp until the pressure is sufficient to hold the work together after hand-tightening the wood between the two jaws.
When tightening, even pressure is created because the jaws remain parallel under increased load. As a result, you have a perfect connection at every place of the bonding with even pressure and therefore perfect adhesion.
What Is A Pipe Clamp?
Pipe clamps provide a good alternative to parallel clamps and manage to get the job done in much the same way.
A pipe clamp is a two-piece set that is purchased separately without a pipe. By attaching these parts to a galvanized pipe with thread, or black pipe, you get a pipe clamp. The length of the tube you use depends on the desired length of the clamp.
Two types of terminal sets are available. For example, there are kits designed for -inch or ¾-inch diameter pipes.
What Can You Use a Pipe Clamp For?
Pipe clamps, in addition to parallel clamps, are widely employed by woodworkers for attaching numerous planks edge to edge to produce a broader surface.
Pipe clamps are frequently used by those who build table tops or cabinet fronts. Pipe clamps can also be used to join four sides of a box together.
You can use the pipe clamp instead of parallel clamps when there is no risk of the planks expanding when they are secured together under pressure.
Advantages of A Pipe Clamp
Pipe clamps are often used in woodworking because they have many advantages. Pipe clamps are a lot cheaper than parallel clamps, and therefore also more affordable for the hobbyist or do-it-yourself. Especially if you take into account that you must have at least 4 or 6 clamps, the price difference can be a decisive factor.
Pipe clamps have a large clamping force. You can use it to press planks against each other under high pressure, even if they are slightly bent. Due to the high clamping force, any surface to be glued will fit perfectly without gaps.
Another advantage is that you determine the length of the clamps yourself. With just a few pipe clamps and pipes in different lengths, you can make combinations depending on the required span of your project. An additional advantage is that these clamps take up less space and are easier to store.
Disadvantages of A Pipe Clamp
Pipe clamps are a popular choice due of their price and versatility, as you can see from the benefits, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
The pipes you use as the clamp’s base can flex under pressure, especially if they’re longer than four feet. To avoid this, I propose using the widest diameter tube or numerous clamps on both sides of the adhesive.
Using pipe clamps with too much pressure can cause the planks to bend. This can be avoided by alternately applying pressure to opposite sides of the workpiece with clamps, or by exerting just enough pressure to tighten the joints.
Keep in mind that if the black pipe you’re using for this comes into contact with the wood, it will stain it. To avoid this, leave a gap between the pipe and the boards, insert a spare piece of wood between the pipe and the plank, or tape the pipe.
PS: If you have no idea what tape you should have in your workshop, check my article, 7 types of tape for woodworking you should have.
How to choose a pipe clamp?
When it comes to choosing pipe clamps, I recommend adopting the same idea as with parallel clamps: invest in quality and establish the proper pipe length based on your projects. Also, decide whether to use galvanized or black steel pipes.
Both will do the job, but the black pipe will be less expensive, making it a good choice for woodworkers on a budget. I’d like to point you that black pipes can leave scratches on wood surfaces, so you’ll need to be careful to avoid this. See the previous section of this article for the solutions I mentioned.
How to use a pipe clamp?
Pipe clamps are quite easy to use. Pipe clamp sets consist of two parts: a stationary foot and an adjustable foot with a flat plate that adjusts along the length of the pipe, as previously indicated.
Follow these instructions to utilize a pipe clamp:
To begin, ensure that the clamp is securely fastened to the workpiece between the foot and the adjustable head.
After that, the clamping plate is put on, and sufficient pressure is given to keep the planks firmly in place while the glued points set.
Parallel clamps vs pipe clamps – which one is better?
While pipe clamps are certainly not a bad option, it is recommended that you have a good set of parallel clamps in the workshop. Their large jaws and parallel movement make them perfect for gluing thick parts together without bending the wood. However, parallel clamps are a lot more expensive and therefore out of the budget of most DIYers.
If parallel clamps are too expensive, tube clamps are a good alternative to parallel clamps, provided they have a few small tricks that you could read earlier. This should allow you to avoid problems such as bending during your project.
Are parallel clamps worth the money?
In my opinion, parallel clamps are well worth their money because problems like bending can be avoided, and they avoid many frustrations. In the long run, these clamps will pay for themselves by working faster, avoiding mistakes, and having to throw away expensive wood because of bad glue.
In addition, you will also need fewer clamps than when using pipe clamps, which you have to place alternately on both the bottom and the top.
Pipe clamps vs parallel clamps – conclusion
If you’re new to woodworking and aren’t sure whether to use parallel clamps vs pipe clamps, this article should have provided you with more information about the differences and which is best for your workshop.
Parallel clamps vs pipe clamps can both be used for the same tasks, but they clamp the wood differently, have various thicknesses, and are acceptable for different budgets.
I recommend that you read my article, What Woodworking Clamps Do I Need? 3 Essential Clamps + Helpful Tips, if you want to learn about the different types of clamps used in woodworking.
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration