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Durability, versatility and affordability - all at once
Text, photos and Video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 1-21-2009
While the adage of "never having enough clamps" remains an apparent reality, budget concerns can make versatility of the clamps we buy as important as sheer numbers. The Bessey DuoKlamp brings unique versatility, quality and Besseys' trademark innovation to the shop at a truly reasonable price.
Bessey began with the bar, using thoughtful design, high quality materials and high-end processes to fabricate the backbone of the Bessey DuoKlamp. This bar provides the flex-fighting foundation to which the rest of the innovative components are applied.
The Bessey DuoKlamp jaws are very rigid and generously sized. The jaws are made from reinforced polyamide, a material that resists impact and fracture type failures. The overall shape and internal webbing have been designed to insure that these jaws remain square to the bar and each other under pressure. The outside faces of the jaws also have flat, square surfaces that are used in the unique spreading mode the Bessey DuoKlamps have.
The jaw faces are 1"-wide (1-3/16" with the soft pads) to apply clamping force over a wider area. That also helps to avoid marring more delicate woods. Because the jaws are centered on the bar, all four sides can be used for clamping. This design makes using the Bessey DuoKlamps easier in more situations.
Probably the most visible difference on the Bessey DuoKlamp is the parallel operating handle. Orienting the squeeze handle this way makes this a truly one-handed clamp. Despite being easier to use, this handle and its internal mechanism generate 260-lbs of clamping force on the 3-1/4"-jaw models and 180-lbs on the 2-1/2"-jaw versions, more than any of us need. In addition, this style of operating handle is very comfortable to use.
To make initial setting of the Bessey DuoKlamp faster, they added a release button just above the handle. Pull this button back and the moveable jaw can be repositioned anywhere on the bar quickly with the same hand that applies the clamping pressure. Release that button and squeeze the handle to apply pressure. It doesn't get easier or faster.
A really unique feature of the Bessey DuoKlamp mechanism is behind a simple-looking dial. Turn this dial 180-degrees and the clamping force reverses direction. You do not have to slide the moveable jaw off of the bar, turn it around and then try to feed it back on the bar as you do with mere mortal clamps. On the Bessey DuoKlamp you simply turn the dial and that is all that is needed to change from clamping to spreading. It's really that simple.
In the Shop
As the Bessey nameplate promises, their DuoKlamps work very well. I wondered at first if the horizontal handle was a hot idea but as you might suspect, it is a good thing that Bessey designs the clamps and I just use them.
Surprisingly (for me anyway) the horizontal handle makes the Bessey DuoKlamps feel well balanced, very comfortable and easy to use. This handle arrangement also makes controlling the amount of pressure applied simple. If your intentions are to clamp wood rather than trying to squash the life out of it, the Bessey DuoKlamp handle generates plenty of clamping pressure with minimal effort.
I know that some will be disappointed because the Bessey DuoKlamp clamping pressure generated does not run into the thousands of pounds. The ugly truth is that too many woodworkers are far too fascinated with the big pressure numbers. In the real world if you need more pressure to close a joint than the Bessey DuoKlamp generates, your wood is not even close to being correctly prepared. It is also very likely that the joint will fail in the not-so-distant future.
The jaws remained as square as I could measure in all even remotely common clamping situations I tried. The soft pads do a good job of holding the stock being clamped without leaving marks and can be repositioned for spreading in seconds without tools. The release button makes adjusting the moveable jaw for the job a truly one hand event. I also like the speed with which a couple pumps of the handle applies pressure.
The reversing dial may not be used every day but is very handy when needed. I think woodworkers will be more likely to use the spreading feature on the Bessey DuoKlamp because it is so easy. There is no difference in the clamping action or the pressure generated by the horizontal handle in either normal or reversed modes.
The Bessey DuoKlamps are well made and bring a full load of Bessey ingenuity that will make your woodworking a little easier. Bessey DuoKlamps are available in sizes (measured between the jaws) ranging from 6" to 24" and have street prices from $22.99 to $27.99 (1-20-2009). The surprisingly low price for real live Bessey clamps means you can come closer to having "enough" for less money!
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