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Pipe clamps seem to be a low cost and versatile option for gluing up projects. However, they're prone to racking the work piece if not placed correctly.

Parallel bar clamps aren't as susceptible to this problem, but they're much more expensive. Other than cost, are there any other reasons to go with pipe clamps over parallel bar clamps?

  • A pair of pipe clamps with a block of wood joining them should make for similar distributed pressure. – Matt Apr 17 '15 at 20:52
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Pipe clamps are very inexpensive compared to parallel bar clamps (also called K-body clamps), and have a virtually infinite range of clamping capacities because you can always replace your pipe with a longer or shorter one, or extend it with a pipe union and another pipe. With a parallel bar clamp, you're stuck with the length you originally purchased.

You can also use cauls with pipe clamps (or any type of clamp) to produce even pressure across a surface. One type of caul more or less extends the jaws of a pipe clamp, while curved (or cambered) cauls are commonly used to distribute the pressure from two clamps across a long edge or face.

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  • When storing pipe clamps I typically leave them attached to a three foot bar as that is a handy size for most of the time I use them, (I have small clamps I normally use for small stuff) but I have used them with everything from three inch pipes (confined space, and I did not want to modify a good clamp) to forty foot. Everyone should have at least four pipe clamps for those times when you need them even if you almost never use them. If you run a shop, I would recommend against using pipe clamps on a regular basis, as they slightly increase your labor cost, but they will save you in a pinch. – hildred Apr 18 '15 at 1:56
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In addition to being much cheaper than bar clamps, pipe clamps allow for much higher clamping pressure. According to this article in Fine Woodworking, a typical parallel clamp can reach about 370 pounds of pressure. 3/4" pipe clamps can reach 1,050 pounds and the I beam style bar clamps can reach 1,350 pounds.

One of the downsides to pipe clamps was that they could be difficult to keep aligned when on the underside of a glue up. A lot of those problems can be eliminated by use of newer style clamps such as the Rockler Sure Foot clamps enter image description here

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Another advantage pipe clamps offer is that you can reverse them to expand even if you may need a pipe tap the first time.

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  • 2
    I can reverse my parallel clamps too. – Doresoom Apr 18 '15 at 4:49

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