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".
clamping length mm
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
||29 x 9
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
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!
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
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
Bessey K-Body Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior
written permission prohibited
The basic design of the
"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
Note the enlarged threads which means less turns for
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