An honest real world review of the most inexpensive parallel clamp on the market, the Harbor Freight Bremen Parallel Clamp.
I’ve seen (and read) a lot of clamp reviews over the years. Most of them cobble together a series of pseudo-scientific testing parameters and torture tests that seem important, but actually do very little to tell you how the clamps will perform over the course of years in your shop. So when I decided to conduct a review of the Harbor Freight Bremen Parallel Clamps, I knew I had to approach this with a common sense frame of mind. We won’t be testing the flatness of panels, the squareness of the heads, or the clamping force available (watch this video to see why – The Truth about Parallel Clamps). Instead, we’re going to do something incredibly ground-breaking: we’re going to use the clamps for a few months. I purchased four clamps directly from my local Harbor Freight and used the clamps in numerous glueups. In between glueups, the clamps were exposed to daily stress via mock glueups. One of the clamps was designated as the “abuse clamp” and received a little more rough treatment than the other three, which included some rough handling as well as repeated dragging of the head over the serrated bar.
The video goes into a lot of detail so be sure to watch it if you want the full story, but here’s a quick summary. Out of the four clamps, one failed after a few months of use as evidenced by constant slipping under pressure. After dissecting the clamp, it appeared that the malleable head material was ground smooth, which lead to the premature smoothing of the serrated teeth on the bar. As a result, the head could no longer grip the bar. Oddly enough, the clamp that failed was NOT the clamp that received the additional abuse. We tested the Lifetime Guarantee by returning the clamp to our local Harbor Freight and the clamp was exchanged for a new one with no questions asked.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and performance of the Harbor Freight Bremen Parallel Clamps. In spite of the premature failure I experienced, I think many woodworkers would be well-served by these clamps especially given the cost savings and the peace of mind provided by the lifetime guarantee. But if you put a lot of hours on these clamps, I suspect you’ll be testing that return policy sooner than later.