Bar Clamps Vs. Pipe Clamps – Which One Do You Need?

Did you know clamps have been around for over a thousand years? No kidding, even the Egyptians used them while constructing the pyramids. And the concept of the clamp remains the same to this day.

A clamp is a strap that secures things together using inside pressure to stop movement or breakage. It can make your job that much more comfortable by reducing the effort you need to put in. Clamps are essential for professional woodworkers and hobbyists alike. There are many types of clamps, each with different uses, for example, bar clamps, pipe clamps, bench clamps, c-clamps, sash clamps, and magnetic clamps. Among these, the bar and pipe clamps are the most useful for woodworking.

But what should you consider when choosing between the two, especially if you are a beginner woodworker? In this piece, I’ll discuss exactly that.

What’s a Pipe Clamp?

Pipe clamp

A pipe clamp is a unique device that consists of two main parts. One is the tightening clamp, and the other is a fixed clamp with a brace on one side and an open loop on the other. The two parts attach with a pipe, and the tightening part of the clamp can firmly join pieces of wood. You can alter the length as well, and this is precisely what makes the pipe clamp so versatile.

Uses of pipe clamps

  • Edge tightening: This is the most typical use of a pipe clamp. You can join several boards together to produce a wider surface area. Pipe clamps are perfect for making cabinet components and temporary tabletops. First, you fix as many clamps as you need on a workbench. Then apply pressure along the length of the boards that you want to join together.
  • Assembling cabinet and box sides: The pipe clamps keep the boards together and give the thing its structure. By attaching the clamps to the sides, you can bring them (sides of boxes and cabinets) together for tightening. You can even leave the clamps fastened if you don’t want to tighten them.
  • Cutting aligned corners: If you want to cut the corners of a piece at perfect 90-degree angles, you can use four clamps, placing one on each corner.
  • Storing ropes and hoses: Another great use of pipe clamps is for holding folded hoses and cords so that they can be stored with ease. Indeed, pipe clamps are handy for tidily storing most rope-like items.
  • Overhead pipe support: Pipe clamps are excellent for supporting and securing pipes hanging from the ceiling.
  • Fixing small leaks: Pipe clamps are also perfect for repairing small leaks in pipes. Be careful as they are usually not suitable for large leaks.

What’s a Bar Clamp?

Bar clamp

If you are a woodworker and you often manage large woodworking projects, bar clams are the ultimate solution for you. Like the pipe clamp, it comes with one moveable point and one fixed point. The movable section on the metal bar is the end of the clamp, where you can fix areas of the project to keep several separate parts together. The fixed point is positioned against a single area of the project.

Uses of bar clamps

  • Holding large and heavy pieces: A bar clamp comes with a metal and long bar. So, it can withstand the pressure of holding large workpieces. This is your tool for heavy-duty clamping needs because the bar is made of steel and is strong. Depending on the length of the bar, the clamp can hold wide workpieces in its jaws.
  • Bar clamps are usually used in pairs. Of course, you will need more for larger projects.
  • You can place them across the width or length of a workpiece, or even both if clamping is needed in both directions. Bar clamps are also useful when you need to cross one over the other.
  • Bar clamps are designed for woodworking, like joinery and carpentry. You can also use them for metalwork.
  • Perfect for making furniture like tabletops and cabinets. You will find it useful for tightening wood pieces together without problems.
  • Welding: Bar clamps are great for this purpose. It can be used to keep pieces together during welding.
  • You will find other types of bar clamps as well: Pipe clamps, T-bar clamps, sash clamps, fast-release bar clamps, etc.
  • Note: The only downside of a bar clamp is that it is not always suitable for smaller clamping jobs. If your work area is small, and you work with fragile pieces, the bar clamp may not be right for you.

Final thoughts

If you are still feeling unsure, I am listing some important considerations to keep in mind:

A pipe clamp is a low-budget and versatile choice for tightening up woodworking projects. However, if positioned incorrectly, it can lead you to trouble. Bar clamps are not as vulnerable to this issue, but then they can be quite expensive.

Also, pipe clamps can be versatile, and you can always replace them with a shorter or longer one as you need. You can even increase its size with a pipe union and taking another pipe. But with a bar clamp, you are stuck with the length you bought.

Pipe clamps themselves capable of producing high clamping pressure. A regular clamp can produce 370 pounds of pressure. Compare that to a pipe clamp (.3/4″) which can produce 1,050 pounds of pressure. But, a bar clamp reaches up to 1,350 pounds of pressure.

But as you can tell, in the end, the choice depends on your woodworking needs. So which one do you think is suitable for you? Do let us know about your experience.