The ultimate clamp for cabinetmakers is the parallel jaw clamp. They clamp down tight, they evenly distribute force, and they have resin coated jaws that won’t mar or damage your project. Check out Irwin’s entry in the parallel jaw clamp game: 24” and 48” models.
One of the big complaints about these style of clamps is price, but at $25 and $30 respectively, they’re even cheaper than Harbor Freight’s versions! The Irwin models are blessed with deep 3-3/4” jaws encased in Irwin’s signature blue resin. A secure locking mechanism built into the ProTouch handle prevents the jaws from slipping, while the handle itself provides an ergonomic grip when tightening the clamps down. You can also flip the removable head around to use the clamp as a spreader.
Irwin’s website claims that they’ll provide 1150 pounds of clamping force, but after seeing what similar models from competitors are putting out in real world testing, I’m not so sure. Wood Magazine tested parallel jaw clamps in their September 2007 issue, and no one even came close to that figure except the Stanley parallel clamps that put out 1,071 pounds of clamping force. The rest were between the Jet’s 496 pounds and the Harbor Freight’s 806 pounds.
Their testing, by the way, was based on the average maximum pressure applied by 15 different woodworkers to similar pieces. The Irwin models weren’t pitted against the others as they had just been released at press time and they weren’t able to get them into the test.