Over the last few years, Stanley has worked to funnel their tools into three categories: “Stanley-branded” tools, which offer a competent basic line of features; “Fat Max” tools, which include improved materials and/or features; and “Fat Max Xtreme” tools, which usually include one significant additional feature beyond the “Fat Max” line.
So what’s the new clamp’s “significant additional feature?” It one-ups the Fat Max’s quick-moving trigger system with a spring-loaded closure mechanism that snaps the clamp closed all at once with the touch of a button.
Read on past the jump for our hands-on experiences with the Fat Max Xtreme trigger clamp along with lots of pictures.
Thankfully, the Xtreme doesn’t ship in a box — or (shudder) clamshell packaging. So other than tearing off some marketing material, there’s not much to “unboxing” this clamp.
In terms of material and construction, this clamp is virtually identical to the Fat Max trigger clamp, with the exception of color — the Xtreme is gray while the Fat Max is yellow — and the auto-close mechanism, which consists of a long spring that runs in a wide, flat channel down the clamp’s length when unfurled, rolling up into the grip as the clamp closes.
You do pay a small price for the auto-close feature: while the Xtreme’s outer jaw remains moveable to allow you to position the clamp anywhere along the bar, it’s not removable, so you can’t reverse the jaw to apply the Xtreme as a spreader. Correction: it is possible to switch the Xtreme into spreader mode! Our bad. Check out our correction post for photos.
Without using the auto-close feature, the Xtreme requires 18 “pumps” of the trigger to travel from fullly open to fully closed — neatly cutting the middle betwen the fast-moving standard Fat Max (8 pumps) and Irwin’s not-so-aptly-named “Quick Grip” (43 pumps).
Of course, if you’re like us, you’ll never “pump” the Xtreme more than a couple of times. When we first picked up the Xtreme, we immediately pushed the clamp open and hit the release button to see the jaws close. And close they do, in less than a second. We also noticed right off that you can “throw” the clamp open by holding the release lever, flinging the clamp downward, then releasing the lever to “catch” the clamp open. As strange as this sounds, it’s actually quite easy and allows you to apply the clamp single-handedly in seconds — just fling it open, tap the release button again to close it around your workpiece, then squeeze the trigger a few times to apply clamping force.
To provide a real-world test, we timed ourselves clamping an object with each of the above three clamps, starting the clock when we picked up the clamp and stopping it when we’d successfully clamped a piece of 2×4 to our workbench. The results: eight seconds with the Fat Max, a whopping 17 seconds with the Irwin, and just four seconds with the Xtreme.
Wide open, the Xtreme will fit a 6-1/4″ object, which is pretty standard for trigger clamps. If you’re expecting to work with larger stuff, you should probably look for a standard bar clamp.
To adjust the “fixed” clamp, you simply tip it forward at the top and slide it along the bar. This feels a little strange at first, but works well and doesn’t hinder the Xtreme’s clamping power in the slightest. And this feature proves quite useful when you’re working in tight spaces as you can position the clamp so the bar isn’t sticking in your face while you work.
The Xtreme’s body is made of plastic — like all the others we’ve seen — and seems pretty durable. We dropped it (accidentally and on purpose) from bench high numerous times with no damage. In fact, the Xtreme feels quite solid overall.
Read on to page two for our conclusions.
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