My favorite jobsite clamp is the Stanley FatMax Xtreme Auto Trigger Clamp. It delivers a potent 450 pounds of clamping force and is spring-loaded to snap the jaws against the work at the press of a button. You only have to pull the trigger once or twice to apply the force. That’s especially handy when you’re holding up a material with one hand while clamping with the other, such as when clamping a temporary brace to a fence post or a guardrail newel to a deck joist. The clamp also converts to a spring-loaded spreader in a heartbeat.
All good, except that Stanley Black & Decker recently replaced that clamp with the new DeWalt Rapid Return Bar Clamp. Like the Stanley, it comes in a 6-inch and a 12-inch version. I tried both sizes to see if they work as well as their predecessors.
According to the specs, the DeWalt clamps deliver 350 pounds rather than 450 pounds of clamping force, though I couldn’t really tell the difference in my limited trials. The DeWalt’s throat is about 3/4 inch deeper for a better reach. Like the Stanley, the DeWalt uses a coiled steel spring to speed the closure.
In use, the DeWalt 6-incher worked as well as the old one, consistently springing the jaws shut when I pulled the release lever. But the 12-incher sometimes stalled and needed a manual assist. That might be because the new spring is about 1/16 inch narrower than the old one, though there also seems to be more friction in the new design. DeWalt says the sliding action should improve with use. I’ve seen the two sizes priced as low as $20 and $22 online. —Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC.