Trigger clamps: Beauty over function?
We’re running a trigger (a.k.a. one-handed) clamp tool comparison article in an upcoming issue. I’m taking some of the photographs, so a few of the companies have sent me clamps to shoot.
I’ve owned three brands of trigger clamps, but the brand I most commonly use is my Irwin Quick-Grip. I’ve had three of these clamps for likely 25 years and they work well. I’m also very used to how they operate.
When it comes to operating a trigger clamp there are two main talking points: how you apply force via the gripping trigger (quite simple, really); and how you release the clamp when you’re done with it (there’s more variation on this point). The release trigger on my Irwin clamps is a small lever that works in the same direction as the trigger you squeeze to apply pressure in the first place. Both the gripping and releasing triggers are also accessible when you’re using the clamp with a single hand. In short, it’s a well-thought-out clamp that’s a joy to use.
New kids on the block
For this upcoming article, Pony Jorgenson sent me three trigger clamps. They’re very similar to the Irwin Quick-Grip clamps except for one detail – how the clamping pressure is released. While I find releasing the Irwin Quick-Grip clamps an intuitive process, I find the location of the pressure release on the Pony Jorgenson is a bit harder to get used to. It’s incorporated into the stationary part of the handle that fits into the palm of your hand while you grasp the clamp. When in use, the pressure lever is nicely positioned, but the release mechanism is actually too close to my palm to be easily pressed.
These clamps are still new to me, and I haven’t used them that often, so the jury is still out on the way they release and how these will work for me. It might very well be I’m so set in my ways from using my other clamps that I’m having a hard time changing between styles. Otherwise, the Pony Jorgenson clamps work great. They apply ample force, they’re comfortable in the hand and they have some nice features. They even have an interesting dovetail fixture on the ends of the clamps that allow you to gang them together to form one longer clamp out of two shorter clamps. I’ve not yet needed this feature, as I have more than enough clamps in my shop.
Did you catch that? I just said, “I have more than enough clamps in my shop.” We all know that’s a bold-faced lie. There’s not a woodworker in the world who has enough clamps, let alone more than enough clamps hanging on their walls.
The strange thing, at least to me, is that I find myself reaching for these Pony Jorgenson clamps more often than my older, more comfortable trigger clamps. I even asked myself out loud yesterday why I was reaching for these new clamps, even though I always end up fumbling with them when it comes time to release them.
A short tangent here: I tend to think of myself as a pretty simple guy. I choose tools that work and are most comfortable over anything fancy or flashy. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the process, and most importantly, the final product I’m creating. I’ve never really been the kind of guy who totally geeks out over a tool. It’s always about the potential a tool has to make my time in the shop go more smoothly and for my work to be more accurate.
So knowing that about myself, I was surprised to find myself constantly reaching for the tool that didn’t work as well, at least in my hands. Then it hit me: Maybe I’m someone who likes the flashier, fancier side of tools after all. You know, the side that truly doesn’t matter. I honestly think the reason why I reach for the Pony Jorgenson clamps so often is that they’re a nice colour. On the surface, that’s pretty frivolous, but maybe somewhere deep inside me is a natural desire to use tools that are beautiful. The other clamps aren’t ugly, but they’re more utilitarian in looks. The Pony Jorgenson clamps are an attractive coral orange and I like to see them.
I’m sure I’ll start to get used to how the new clamps work, especially because I’ll be reaching for them often.
I don’t think these are the nicest looking tools I own, but the colours are great. Do you find yourself reaching for a tool that looks more attractive, as opposed to the tool that might be more comfortable or is better suited for the job? Share your thoughts below or send me an email. I won’t blame you for not using the best tool for the job, as long as the tool you’re using looks great.
My new Pony Jorgenson clamps are some of the best-looking items in my workshop.
Can You See the Difference?
My old standards work great and feel like an extension of my hands. My new Pony Jorgenson clamps are comfortable and easily apply force, but they’re trickier to release. But more importantly, which one do you think looks better? I know my answer.