Sunday, October 12, 2008

Woodline Parallel Clamp Review

Many of you know that I recently bit the bullet and bought a few of Woodline's new parallel clamps. Yes, yes, yes.......I went astray from Jet because I was looking for a bit of a better value. I was also annoyed with Jet for jacking their prices so much over the last year and with Amazon for selling the 24" clamps for more than the 31" models. It came across as price gouging to me because the 24" clamps were more popular, although a few guys in the WoodWhisperer Town Square Forum (ahem, LordLQQK) did have some good points and revelations about Amazon's selling practices in particular. I also was looking at the Irwins, but it seemed the Woodlines were pretty good and the price was excellent. I've since let my temper cool towards Jet and, ironically, just noticed that Amazon is selling the 24" Jet parallels for $32.61 with free shipping. Well.......shit.

Anyway, let me tell you about the Woodlines. they are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as parallel clamps go, but they do have some different features that I liked. The over all size is comparable to most parallel clamps. The bar is heavy - arguably as heavy as the Jets. They have built in clamp pads recessed into the jaws and I'm curious as to how long it will last. They look like they might get chewed up a bit over time. The handle fits the hand really nice and has a solid rubberized grip. The handle will also cock to 90 degrees to give you some real torque if you need to pull a joint together or split a joint apart. Now, I would hope that your joints were cut well enough that you wouldn't need that kind of force, but I could see using it for disassembly and in bent wood lamination forms (not that I've done any, but I'm guessing you might need it to pull the laminations into a form). Also, if you're hands are the least bit arthritic, you're gonna love these. The clutch is a double plate type that you find on many F-style clamps. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it works better than the original Bessies and Jorgies in moving the clamp head along the bar. When I've played with the Jorgies, I usually have quite a bit of trouble getting them to close because of this. That was one thing that got me interested in the Jets (see Marc's "the Big Squeeze" episode) and was something that I was looking for when shopping for these new parallels. The clutch mechanism is still not as efficient as the Jet trigger design, but it does work. They have a plastic foot at the end of the bar to help keep it stable when sitting upright. The foot is not movable, and is kind of flimsy. When it comes to length, they offer their parallels in what I call +3" sizes. In other words, the typical 12 inch size is 15 inches. The 24 inch size is 27 inches, and so on. So, you have some play in the sizes to give you a little breathing room when gluing up. The clamp head is not the same as the Jets. The plastic looks a little lighter or cheaper, but they still feel pretty durable. As with many other parallels, they are still dwarfed by the Jets in overall size. Finally, they are red, so they fit in along side of Bessies and Jets in your collection if you're concerned about having all your clamps match.

So, the Pros:
  • Overall, a nicely built clamp with heavy components.
  • nice handle design in size, shape, and texture with a functional 90 degree option for more torque and weaker hands
  • double plate clutch is heavy, holds strong, and aids in moving clamp head along bar
  • slightly more length in each size to help in glue ups
  • they are red, for all those OCD woodworkers that need their clamps to match
  • the price: $28 for a 27 inch clamp. Shipping was $6 total for eight 27 inch clamps. I ordered them in the morning and they were shipped that afternoon. I had them in three days.
The Cons:
  • smaller jaws than the Jets
  • Plastic appears cheaper than Jets
  • built in clamp pads might get chewed up over time
  • flimsy, non-movable rear stabilizing foot is a poor design compared to the solid, movable Jet version
So, they are not Jets, but they are serviceable clamps. I'm posting some photos below to give you some side by side comparisons of the Jets with the Woodlines. For someone on a budget, I would take a serious look at them.


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