Bessey Parallel and Case Clamps - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

The ideal choice for quick and easy, square glue-ups that deliver optimal clamping pressure.

Bessey Parallel and Case Clamps

Bessey Parallel-Jaw Clamps



If you've been working wood for any length of time, you'll know that the right clamp can often mean the difference between a successful, stress-free glue-up, and a complete, or near disaster. There are a wide range of clamp styles on the market, suitable for various clamping situations. When it comes to assembling carcasses and gluing up panels, the style of choice among most seasoned woodworkers are parallel-jaw clamps (also referred to as case clamps). These clamps are also great for a range of furniture glue-ups.

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I've found that parallel clamps offer a variety of advantages:
 
  • The clamping jaws remain parallel throughout the clamping process, eliminating racking, and making it easier to align material.
  • You can apply the right amount of pressure quickly and accurately.
  • The clamps are very fast to use, which can be crucial when using glue that sets up quickly.
  • The steel bars won't stain wood, and non-marring jaws won't damage the material.
  • After glue-up you can stand the clamped assembly on end to conserve floor space (a boon in small shops).
  • If not abused, the clamps should last a lifetime.
Bessey Tools offers four styles of parallel clamps. The clamps that are most useful to you will depend on the type of woodworking that you do.
 
 

K Body REVO

K Body REVO

This new version of the original Bessey parallel-jaw clamp has been on the market for several years, and comes with a number of improvements over its predecessor. The K Body REVO is available in 9 lengths (12", 18", 24", 31", ,40", 50", 60", 82", 98") and provides a stellar 1,500 pounds of maximum clamping pressure. Adjusting clamping pressure is made somewhat easier by the hefty 1-1/4" x 5-1/8" handles. I much prefer these rubber handles over the wood handles. They're more comfortable and I find that my hands never slip while turning the handles. I don't know if the average woodworker can actually torque the pressure up to 1,500 pounds. Regardless, it's certainly provides adequate clamping pressure for all the carcass and panel clamping projects I undertake.

The 
2" x 3-3/4" clamping face provides a large bearing surface, making it easier to clamp up big carcasses and thick panels. Once panels are clamped, I usually place them on end – the large flat fixed jaw enables the panel to stand upright, on it's own, conserving valuable floor space in my rather small shop. The replaceable black pads protect material from damage, and dried glue is easy to peel off the pads. Throat depth is a decent 3-3/4".

Moving the adjustable jaw back and forth is easy – the key is to tilt the handle upwards as you move it along the bar. There is a tendency for the movable jaw to slide down the bar when it's placed on either end. The handles are connected to the jaws with 
acme screw thread rods, which make for smooth, quick, and effortless tightening. This same rod is used on all the Bessey parallel-jaw clamps.

The super thick 3/8" x 1-1/8" steel bar barely flexes under pressure. The "H" shape of the bar may partly account for this rigidity. I haven't experienced any bar flexing on the shorter (50" and under) clamps that I regularly use in my shop. However, I've not used the longer (7' and 8') clamps, so don't know if these flex under load.

I really like the bar protectors – there are two movable plastic protectors positioned between the fixed jaw and movable jaw. T
hey serve to keep material from resting on top of the bar, away from the serrations on the edges of the bar that can mar material (the serrations engage the locking plates in the jaws and serve to keep them from slipping). The protectors help to keep glue drips off the bars. At the end of the bar is a removable 'end clip', which helps stabilize the clamp when you set it up on a flat work surface.

The price difference between the various lengths can be fairly insignificant. For example, the 12" length is priced at around $50, while the 24" length retails for $5 more. My advice when selecting clamps is to estimate the longest practical dimensions you're likely to assemble, and buy the next largest clamp size. Even if you rarely use the entire clamping length, when you need it, you'll be glad it's there.
 

Vario K Body

K Body Vario K Body REVO

The Vario K Body is essentially the same as the K Body REVO, except that it has a movable jaw, which you activate by depressing a button on the front of the jaw. Unlike the K Body REVO it only comes in four lengths: 40", 60", 78", 96". Being able to move the jaw enables you to adjust the balance of the clamp, which might prove useful in some situations. A secondary benefit is that you can use the clamp as a spreader. What you loose is the ability to stand a clamped panel on-end (without resting the panel against a wall) as the bar protrudes past the movable jaw. However, if you envision using either of these two features (clamp balance and spreader mode), then the Vario K Body makes a good choice.
 

K Body REVO JR

K Body REVO JR

If you don't need the clamping power of the K Body REVO clamp, and would rather a lighter weight clamp, then take a look at the K Body REVO JR. These clamps comes in 12", 18", 24", 36", and 50" lengths, and have a maximum clamping force of 900 lbs. While I do have a set of 60" K Body REVOs that I use when clamping up large panels (typically for table tops), 90 percent of my clamping is with the shorter 3' to 4' clamps.  

The REVO JR clamps have a somewhat smaller clamping face (1-1/2" x 3-1/4"), though the throat depth, at 3-1/4", is virtually the same. As with the larger model, the pads are removable. With a smaller clamp you get a thinner bar (1/4" x 1"), and a smaller (1" x 4") handle. Even though the bar is not as robust as on the larger REVO, I have never experienced flexing, even when racking up the clamping pressure to it's maximum. I'm not particularly keen on these wood handles. It's smaller, and not as comfortable as the rubber version. I also find it has a tendency to slip when hands are moist. 

Still, this is my clamp of choice. It's lighter weight, adequate clamping pressure, rigid bar, ease of jaw movement, and slightly lower price, make it a solid winner.
 

UniKlamp

UniKlamp

I use a lot of light duty clamps in my shop, particularly cam clamps, which are ideal for narrow stock, mouldings, edge trim, and small parts. However, they only provide a clamping pressure of around 40 pounds. The next best clamp are these Bessey UniKlamps, which provide a maximum clamping pressure of 300 pounds. They comes in three lengths, 6", 12", and 24". I find the 24" length provides the best combination of value and functionality. The 6" and 12" UniKlamps are easy enough to source, but, for some reason, quite a few dealers don't stock the 24" models (though most can special order them for you.)

The UniKlamps are super light in comparison to the REVO JR clamps, though the clamping jaws, at 1-1/4" x 3-1/4", and with a 3-1/8" throat depth, aren't significantly smaller. I find that the movable jaw quicker to move along the bar than on the REVO clamps. However, once tightened up, the jaw stays firmly in place. The jaws don't have protective replaceable pads, and you don't get the handy bar protectors. However they do come with end clips, which makes them stable when placed on a flat work surface. You can also use the end clip to hang the clamp when not is use. The  non-marring, impact and fracture resistant jaws seem very durable, and dried glue is easily flicked off. You can remove the end clip, reinstall the movable jaw with the face turned 180-degrees, and use the clamp as a spreader.

As you might expect, the bar, at 3/16" x 3/4", is significantly smaller than on the REVO JR. The result is that you do get some flexing, particularly on the 24" model, but, in my view, not enough to merit concern. The UniKlamp comes with a wood handle that at 7/8" x 3-1/8" is only a tad smaller than the REVO JR handle. 

I think that you'll find these clamps a real pleasure to use in the shop – their super light in weight, provide adequate clamping pressure for most light to medium duty clamping, don't loosen when pressure is applied, hold stock squarely, and are quick and easy to use.

Considering how much use clamps get in a typical shop, you'll be ahead of the game buying professional quality gear that's designed to last a lifetime - which is what you can expect with Bessey.
 
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KEY FEATURES:

 K Body REVOVario K BodyK Body REVO JRUniKlamp
Lengths12", 18", 24", 31", ,40", 50", 60", 82", 98"40", 60", 78", 96"12", 18", 24", 36", 50"6", 12", 24" 
Clamping
Pressure
1,500 lbs1,500 lbs900 lbs330 lb
Pad Size2" x 3-3/4"2" x 3-3/4"1-1/2" x 3-1/4"1-1/4" x 3-1/4"
Throat
Depth
3-3/4"3-3/4"3-1/4"3-1/8"
Bar
Thickness
3/8" x 1-1/8"3/8" x 1-1/8"1/4" x 1"3/16" x 3/4"
Handle
Length
1-1/4" x 5-1/8"1-1/4" x 5-1/8"1" x 4"7/8" x 3-1/8"


COMPANY:Bessey Tools
MODELS:K Body REVO, Vario K Body, K Body REVO JR, UniKlamp
PRICES:K Body REVO: $50 to $75
Vario K Body: $63 to $95
K Body REVO JR: $46 to $72
UniKlamp: $35 to $41
MADE IN:Germany
SOURCE:Distributor Search

Author: 
Carl Duguay
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