“You can never have too many clamps.” The folks at Craftsman seem to have taken that saying to heart, since they’ve developed a system that is actually five different types of hold-downs in one. It’s a vise, it’s a spreader, it’s a bar clamp, it’s a free-standing bar clamp and it’s a work station.(OK, that last one does require that you have two of the 5-in-1 systems, making it really a “4-in-1 plus an extra” system, but it’s still a cool idea.)
What you get with this product – the 5-in-1 Clamping System, item number 51867 in Sears catalogs – is a 22 1/2″ bar with two adjustable 3″ x 3″ jaws which mounts to a dome-shaped, glass-filled nylon base. Once you get it out of the injection plastic packaging (which I found to be the most frustrating aspect of this system), you can easily create the different hold-downs through a series of toolless adjustments.
To create the vise, for instance, you attach the base to your work surface and insert the bar into a slot on top of the base. A clamping mechanism within the base holds the bar in place, while a rotation release enables the base to index into positive indents every 45 degrees. To create the spreader, you press a release button and slide the smaller end of the clamp off of the bar, then reinsert it facing the opposite direction.
No adjustments to the provided pieces are necessary to use them as a bar clamp or freestanding bar clamp, while two 5-in-1 Clamping Systems set up in the vise configuration can constitute a work station.
It’s a clever idea, with only minor flaws: for instance, while the trigger handle on the bar clamp is an easy and effective means of tightening the clamp, I found the hand position needed to use the release button when you’re done with your clamping application to be counterintuitive – I was still using a grip that was squeezing the trigger, so I was trying to tighten and release at the same time.
I did, however, find that all of the clamping applications and tool adjustments were easy to achieve with one hand, though. Nothing required an extraneous amount of brute force ? except, again, for getting the system out of the silly packaging in the first place.
The 5-in-1 Clamping System comes with hard rubber clamping pads; Sears says that other configurations are available separately to hold various shapes of workpieces. All in all, the 5-in-1 Clamping System is a cool idea for a great price: $40 at Sears.