Solid and versatile for the home or shop
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 9-14-2010
All too often we run out of hands at critical points of a project. The JAWHORSE by Rockwell offers simple sawhorse type support along with vise-like clamping in a portable package that you can easily take to the job or closer to a power source. Add the available Welding Clamp (RK9100) accessory and the JAWHORSE becomes a desirable target on the metalworking radar screen as well. There are many other accessories available for the JAWHORSE and detailed information on those is available at the Rockwell link at the end of this review.
At its core, the JAWHORSE is a three-legged sawhorse with a large capacity clamp built into its top. However, the JAWHORSE has more utility than that simple description implies. The three-leg design allows the JAWHORSE to stand firm on surfaces that are less than flat.
The JAWHORSE would be a welcome addition in the general home workshop. When equipped with one or more of the available accessories the JAWHORSE even more versatile as well as having even more usefulness in the more specialized woodworking or metalworking shops. For our purposes here we will look at the JAWHORSE outfitted with the Welding Clamp accessory.
The JAWHORSE is made primarily of steel with plastic components where you might expect, mar-resistant jaws, leg ends and a few function knobs. With an overall weight of just 43-lbs the JAWHORSE can support a maximum of 600-lbs, clamp objects with opposing surfaces with a dimension of 0 to 37”. The clamping mechanism is capable of exerting a full ton (2000-lbs) of pressure which would seem to be way more than you or I need in all but the most extreme cases. But I like things with more capability than I need because in normal use they are not straining to keep up and that usually translates into a longer life.
Set up and ready for use the JAWHORSE is 39”-long by 39”-wide and 35”-tall. Collapse it for transport or storage and those dimensions shrink to 29” by 14” by 13”. When in the stowed (and locked) position the single leg functions as a carry handle. Flip that same leg out and it becomes a tow handle. A wide roller on the other end of the JAWHORSE body makes it easy to take it where you need it before setting it up.
The JAWHORSE has a pair of 2-7/8”-tall by 8”-wide jaws that let you grip large and small objects securely. Both jaws come with no-mar plastic covers that protect fragile objects being clamped.
A nice feature of the JAWHORSE is the foot-operated clamping pedal. This allows you to use both hands to position the work to be clamped in the jaw and then apply clamping pressure with your foot. This sounds more awkward than it is. Because the pedal is under the operating end of the JAWHORSE applying force to the work piece does not require circus-level feats of balance.
A up and down slider switch on the end of the JAWHORSE below the jaw actually engages the jaw lock. With this lever in the unlocked position the moveable jaw can be positioned anywhere within its travel. Set the work piece between the jaws and you can slide the jaw against the object. Move that switch into the locked position and step on the pedal to apply pressure. A built-in ratchet holds the pedal at that point and locks the jaws in place. To release the pressure move the switch to the unlocked position and apply pressure to the pedal until you hear the click of it releasing. The pedal comes back up and the moveable jaw is again free. This is one of those operations that takes way longer to explain than to do.
If there is a concern with this pedal power design it might be the ability to apply more pressure than you really need, particularly for woodworkers. The length of the peal gives the operator considerable leverage so if you are not paying attention, more of the 2000-lb clamping power could be used than you intended. The solution is pretty easy though, pay attention. For the metalworking crowd, crushing the project is a bunch more difficult but not impossible.
Welding Clamp Accessory
For this review we equipped the JAWHORSE with the Welding Clamp kit that is available separately as an accessory. This kit includes a slide-on base for a 15”-tall post, a double joint box that connects the included 16”-long arm to the post and a 3”-capacity C-clamp that is mounted on a double ball joint that allows almost infinite adjusting of the C-clamp position.
The Welding Clamp kit also includes a pair of 8-1/4”-long by 3-1/4”-tall cast metal jaws that replace the non-marring (plastic) ones that come with the JAWHORSE. These metal jaws are each attached with a pair of wing screws that make setup virtually tool free. Each of the metal jaws has a cast-in lug that projects off of a lower corner and can be used to attach the ground clamp for a welder. The jaws each have a deep V-groove pattern cast into their face that makes holding round and other odd shaped objects very easy and secure. They also have plenty of flat surface area for securing flat work as well.
Once the Welding Clamp kit is installed, the jaws of the JAWHORSE work just as they did with the plastic jaws. But now you have the arm and clamp that you can position anywhere needed to hold a second piece for welding and many other operations. This is a very simple design but very effective.
In the Shop
The JAWHORSE is surprisingly well made for a tool at this price point. I also like the overall sizing of it. The height is comfortable and its length and width of stance offer good stability without taking up too much space in a crowded shop or work site.
The pedal operation of the jaw appears to be a little awkward until you do it once or twice. The convenience of having both hands free more than negates any difficulty you might perceive in using the pedal to apply pressure. After just a few minutes playing with the JAWHORSE I was absolutely convinced that the pedal is a great idea.
The Welding Clamp kit is also very easy to set up. Slide the main post base over the JAWHORSE moveable jaw assembly, install the arm /C-clamp you are just a few minutes away from having it adjusted to hold your first welding job. I quickly found that I could “rough set” the arm and C-clamp and then use both hands to fine-tune the positioning before tightening everything down for welding. Once adjusted, the arm and clamp assemblies stay put and let you concentrate on welding or whatever you are doing.
I also like the Welding Clamp setup for grinding because the metal jaws can withstand the heat generated quickly by the 4-1/2”-angle grinders so many metalworkers use daily. I also found the JAWHORSE to be very handy for many drilling jobs. Just being able to clamp a piece of metal securely and have both hands free to guide a drill does a lot for creating accurate holes.
With a street price of just $177.99 (9-13-2010) the JAWHORSE is not the budget-breaker I thought it might be. The Welding Clamp attachment itself sells for $69.99 (9-13-2010) making the whole setup as reviewed here a very good bargain. The heft of the construction means that with a little common sense care, the JAWHORSE and Welding Clamp attachment should last for a very long time.
The JAWHORSE is one of those tools that consistently seems to find new ways for you to use it to make your work easier, more accurate or even safer. For all of those reasons, I think the Rockwell JAWHORSE with the Welding Clamp accessory is a very good tool that you need to consider for your shop.
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