New clamps take center stage
Cabinet clamps also tend to be pretty heavy, and on a large but delicate piece, the weight and size can be problematic. Heavy clamps, especially in longer lengths, are really two-person tools, and I work alone. Trying to position a heavy clamp more often than not results in colorful epithets, a dinged work piece, or both.
Bottom line, black pipes are heavy, lack rigidity and are relatively inexpensive. Cabinet clamps are heavy, rigid, and relatively expensive. I wondered if a clamp existed that might be light but rigid enough for real work and moderately priced. Noodling about one day on the Highland Woodworking web site I entered “aluminum” in the search box (postulating that aluminum can be as strong as steel and much lighter). In addition to several other nice products, a listing for “Aluminum Clamp” popped up. A quick click and I was in Nirvana. I’m not real sure where Nirvana is, but I assume it is at least a few hundred miles south of Wisconsin!
The drop-down menu on the product listing provides size options for the clamps: the measurements listed are actual clamp capacity measurements, meaning that a 60″ clamp can actually clamp something 60″ wide. I bought two each in the 48″, 60″, and 72″ sizes. Now I want more. In fact, I want to replace all my pipe clamps with these star performers, which you can buy here. I may keep the pipe clamp head and tail stop assemblies in a box somewhere, along with a stack of black pipe, just for emergencies, but I cannot imagine ever inviting the gruesome Phantom back onto center stage in my shop: certainly not on a regular basis.