Pipe Clamp vs. Bar Clamp: Which to Use?

Pipe Clamp vs. Bar Clamp: Which to Use?

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If you are planning on doing some woodworking, chances are that you will need to glue two or more pieces of wood together. However, glue needs to be held in place while it dries, which means that workpieces need to be clamped together.

There are many different types of clamps that you may use to hold wood together as glue dries, with two very common and popular types including the pipe clamp and the bar clamp. Today, we are going to determine what these tools are, what makes them different, and which one you need.

Pipe Clamps and Bar Clamps: The Basics

Before we start talking about similarities and differences, let’s first figure out what both bar and pipe clamps are.

What Is a Pipe Clamp?

Pipe Clamp First, we have the pipe clamp, which is a very interesting type of clamp, because it doesn’t actually come assembled. When you buy a pipe clamp kit, what you get are two different pieces, both of the clamp heads that fit onto the ends of a pipe. However, that pipe will usually not be included in your purchase. The size of the pipe may differ here, although usually these clamp heads are designed for pipes between ½” and ¾”.

Here, you will see that one jaw or end of the pipe clamp is attached securely to a pipe using a special type of stopper, and this end also features a rotating screw that is used to tighten and loosen the pipe clamp on a workpiece. The other jaw or end of the clamp is able to slide up and down the pipe, therefore accommodating different sizes of workpieces. There is then a special spring-powered mechanism, also known as a clamp plate, which applies pressure to the pipe, therefore keeping the head in place.

If you are gluing together many individual boards side by side, whether two or ten, then a pipe clamp is a very good option to consider, because they allow you to glue many pieces of wood together side by side, while applying relatively uniform pressure across the board. For example, if you are making one large sheet out of many smaller boards, then the pipe clamp is a good option to go with.

A pipe clamp is also ideal for fairly large projects because the only thing that the capacity really depends on is the length of the pipe itself. Just keep in mind that if the pipes are too long or too thin, and you apply too much pressure, it may cause the pipes to bend, or the wood to bow or warp. Keep in mind that those pipes may also leave stains on your wood.

What Is a Bar Clamp?

Bar Clamp Then, we have a bar clamp, which is technically a type of parallel clamp. This is an extremely popular and common type of woodworking clamp, and it’s something that most experienced woodworkers will have in their arsenal. Here, as the name implies, there is a metal bar that holds together both ends of the clamp, with some of these bars reaching as long as 80”, or longer.

Here you will see a set of jaws that are reinforced with steel and covered with resins, which are on both sides of the bar, with one jaw being on either side. These jaws generally have throats that are anywhere between 2” and 4” deep. One of the jaws is stationary, so it cannot move, which acts as the stopper.

We then have the other jaw on the other end of the bar, which can slide up and down on the bar, which also has a screw handle that you can tighten, therefore clamping two pieces together. This is a very versatile and useful type of clamp, although also quite expensive.

That said, one big advantage of the bar clamp is the fact that you can apply very uniform and even pressure, even on bigger workpieces. The jaws stay parallel to each other, and it should help prevent uneven bowing and dimples from occurring.

Similarities Between Pipe Clamps and Bar Clamps

Now that we know what both pipe clamps and bar clamps are, let’s figure out what makes them similar.

1. Used in Woodworking

For one, both of these clamps are commonly used in woodworking. in fact, they might just be the two most common types.

2. The Same Basic Function

Another similarity that you will see here is that they both function in very similar manners. Yes, one features a metal bar that is attached to the clamp heads, whereas the other requires you to attach the clamp heads to a pipe. However, both feature a long bar or pipe in between the clamp heads, with both having jaws on either side of this bar or pipe, with one of the jaws featuring a screw mechanism to allow for easy tightening. In this sense, both of these clamps are relatively similar.

3. Both Have Fairly High Capacities

The other similarity shared between these two types of clamps is that they are rather ideal for large projects. Because they both have long bars or pipes in the middle, they can accommodate fairly large workpieces or multiple pieces of wood at once.

Differences Between Pipe Clamps and Bar Clamps

Now that we know what makes pipe clamps and bar clamps similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Assembly Requirements

One of the main differences here is that bar clamps already come fully assembled with all of the components attached. On the other hand, pipe clamps do not come fully assembled, and when you buy a kit, you just get clamp heads, meaning you need to buy the pipe separately. You therefore then need to actually assemble the pipe clamp yourself.

2. Security

Another major difference here is that the bar clamps generally feature rubber or some other kind of teeth on the clamp heads, allowing for a very secure hold. On the other hand, pipe clamps usually have flat clamp heads, and therefore don’t provide quite the same amount of grip.

3. Capacity

Another difference to consider here is that bar clamps are limited by the length of the bar, whereas pipe clamps are limited by the length of the pipe. However, you can buy some extremely long pipes to use for pipe clamps, so they generally have a higher capacity. On the other hand, bar clamps are a bit more compact, and are therefore ideal for fitting into tighter spaces.

4. Uniform Pressure

The other difference to consider here is that bar clamps generally have larger clamp heads than pipe clamps, therefore allowing them to apply more uniform pressure across a greater surface area, reducing the chances of the wood warping or bowing.

Pipe Clamp vs. Bar Clamp: Which of the Two Should You Use?

Pipe clamps are often used to hold wood while it is being finished, whereas bar clamps are more commonly used for gluing purposes. That being said, both can be used for the same purposes, with bar clamps being a bit better in terms of applying uniform pressure but more limited in terms of capacity.


Now that you know what the major similarities and differences between bar clamps and pipe clamps are, you can make an informed decision between the two.