Review By Dean Bielanowski  Bessey Website - http://www.bessey.de


Bessey K-Body Clamp
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

It's very hard to get by in any woodworking shop without some collection of clamps to hold your wood components together while the glue dries. Sure, you could use a nail and hammer or pneumatic nail guns, but in many instances, this is not desirable, or practical! As a result, in reality, the woodworker (no matter what level) will have a need for a selection of clamps, or will already have an arsenal of clamps in their inventory to suit their needs.

Clamps come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and each has their own purpose or use, from pipe clamps to band clamps, F-clamps, G-clamps, panel clamps, you name it! Depending on your country of origin, and your language, you might also call them "cramps".

The Bessey K-Body Clamp
Bessey is a German company that manufactures a wide range and styles of clamps for woodworking and similar uses. The K-Body clamp is perhaps the most famous. Viewers of the PBS series The New Yankee Workshop will instantly recognize the design as it has been the favored clamp of show host Norm Abram for many years. After fiddling around with sash clamps, F-clamps and pipe-clamps for a few years, I decided to take the plunge and buy a couple K-Body's to test out and review for you all. Hey, if Norm uses them, they must be good right?

The K-Body clamp is available in a wide range of lengths, all featuring the same sized clamping head and clamping mechanisms, only the bar length is variable (and the weight of course). The table below is taken from the Bessey homepage and displays the various models and lengths available. Note that these are given in metric. Imperial sizes are as follows: 12", 24", 31", 40", 50", 60", 82", 98".

Model Opening mm Depth mm Max. clamping length mm Rail mm Weight approx. kg
K 30 300 85 130 29 x 9 2
K 60 600 85 130 29 x 9 2,50
K 80 800 85 130 29 x 9 2,90
K 100 1000 85 130 29 x 9 3,40
K 125 1250 85 130 29 x 9 3,80
K 150 1500 85 130 29 x 9 4,30
K 200 2000 85 130 29 x 9 5,30
K 250 2500 85 130 29 x 9 6,30

Main Features & Use
For the higher price tag these clamps command, we would hope there are some nifty features to justify it, and there certainly are several.
Note that clamp jaw colors can vary.

The first thing you will note when holding the K-Body is its weight. As you can see from the table above, the weights of the clamps are higher than many other similar length clamps of different makes and brands. The K-Body is built as a heavy duty clamp and this certainly seems evident in the construction and materials used.

The steel rail is forged from cold drawn steel with a galvanized finish to prevent rusting. The advantage of this rail material and finish is that it wont stain or mark your material in any way. You may also note the wide cove-shaped profile featured on the side of the bar. This is designed to prevent flexing and bending in the bar and provide additional strength. Although I have only used the K100 and K60 model K-Body's, I have not had any problems with flex on the bar under clamp load. The rail is sufficiently thick to provide a good amount of strength over the entire rail length.

The jaws and jaw clamping mechanism are what probably provide the Bessey K-Body clamp with its inherent fame. One of the biggest problems with many other clamps on the market is that they do not provide equal and square clamping pressure over the entire area of their jaws as you "wind them up". If not careful, the woodworker can easily turn a potentially nice and flat panel glue-up into a warped or cupped mess! The K-Body is one of only a few clamp designs that provides even and square pressure to your workpiece when applied. No matter what position or angle you use your K-Body clamp in, you are pretty much guaranteed, through the design itself, that when you turn the handle to apply pressure, that pressure will be applied at 90 degrees to the bar rail, and to your joint/panel/workpiece etc. 

The steel constructed jaws are covered in a synthetic polyamid casing. This surface is supposedly glue resistant. I am not deliberately going to apply copious amounts of glue to my nice new K-Body's to test this claim. I have however managed to get a little yellow glue on them a couple times on glue ups and this was easily removed, both when wet, and dry. I can't tell you right now if it removes with the same ease with polyurethane or super-glue. If you want to subject your K-Bodys to such a test, I'll be glad to publish your results! :-)
The large jaw surface area offers more clamping area than most other types of woodworking clamps. When used on their sides, you can apply consistent pressure over a wider area, negating the need for excessive amounts of clamps on your project, particularly for panel glue-ups.

The cold drawn steel bar features small serations on both top and bottom. Along with dual set screws on the inside top and bottom of the sliding arm, the K-Body provides a positive and strong lock on two surfaces simultaneously. In use, you slide the un-fixed clamping head up to your workpiece and then begin to turn the wooden handle to apply clamping pressure. You can see the whole clamp head/jaw move parallel to the rail. The twist threads are deliberately oversized to allow more clamp movement with fewer turns, which might certainly be useful for those with wrist problems. The K-Body can apply up to 1100 pounds of pressure to your workpiece. It's a little overkill for most all woodworking clamping needs, but hey, I'd rather have more capability than less... wouldn't you?

Slide action fo the clamping head up and down the bar is smooth and fast. If you lift the wooden handle up slightly, it disengages the set screw threads from the rail slightly allowing a smoother travel.

The K-Body as a spreader
The K-Body allows you to reverse the main clamping assembly to turn the tool into a spreading clamp. In the right hand column I have taken a picture of the rail end which has a black plastic rail support. This support provides support for the end of the clamp when using it on a flat surface, and is a neat inclusion in itself. This same support can be removed, and once removed, the clamping head can slide right off the bar and be reversed for spreading applications (see photos). Admittedly, I don't often find many uses for a spreader clamp, but it can be project dependant. I have used spreading clamps in the past to apply cleats and other fixtures to the undersides of furniture, and you can actually clamp 2 cleats at once with one clamp, if they are located parallel to each other on the project (mirrored). You might also do the same for drawer runners on the inside of cabinets if you do not have a brad nailer to hold them temporarily while waiting for the glue to set up. The spreading function is a handy addition to the feature range of the K-Body, and although I don't often have a need for it, it is good to know it's available when I do!

Conclusion
I was hesitant to lay down the extra dollars these clamps cost in the beginning, but after using the K-Body for even a short-period of time, I can honestly say that I will think twice before buying any other style of clamp in the future. The K-body is far less "fiddly" than other clamp designs, clamping operations run smoother with less problems and overall, they just feel "right" in use. I once thought all clamps did the same job, and essentially they do, but some do it FAR better and you don't realize it until you have the opportunity to use a quality clamp like the K-Body. If price is a concern, might I suggest the following... and this is what I did myself. Buy one of the smaller length (less expensive) K-Body clamps. The engineering is exactly the same, only the bar length changes between model numbers. If you like how it works, and I am confident you will (Norm Abram can't be wrong... can he?) then you can buy more of the longer K-Body's. If you don't like the design or the results they give, you are not out of pocket by a large sum. I think my walls will soon be supporting a great number of K-Body clamps.

Congratulations to Bessey for producing a well designed woodworking clamp that meets the demanding needs of woodworkers worldwide.

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Bessey K-Body Clamps
Bessey K-Body Clamps

Rockler.com

12" K-Body Clamp

24" K-Body Clamp
40" K-Body Clamp
50" K-Body Clamp
In Australia:

www.northwoodtools.com.au

Bessey K-Body Photos
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The basic design of the
Bessey K-Body


"Ergonomic" wood handle.


Galvanized, cold drawn steel rail design provides great strength, resists bending/flexing and is resistant to rust.


Synthetic polyamid casing encloses the steel jaws of the K-Body clamp.


Note the enlarged threads which means less turns for more movement!


The plastic rail support stabilizes and levels the clamp, and can be removed to reverse the clamping head so it can be used as a spreader...


And here it is... In under 10 seconds, the K-Body now becomes a spreading clamp!


2 K-Body's ensure this small panel glue-up for a jewelry box lid (joined from 6 smaller pieces) comes out as flat, and square as possible.

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