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Bessey EZS One Hand Clamp
Why the other (clamp) guys are looking over their shoulder
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 4-23-2009
For years, the Irwin™ Quick-Grip™ clamps garnered the major portion of the one-hand clamp market. Beginning this August (2009) Bessey will jump into the middle of that fray with the release their new Bessey EZS Clamps.
In this exclusive first look it becomes evident that Bessey's tradition of never doing clamps half way means that market share distribution is very likely to change dramatically. The new Bessey EZS One Hand Clamps are designed to produce industry-leading clamping force yet be exceptionally user-friendly and to do both at standard clamp
prices. Bessey's long time commitment to producing high-end products is likely to have the other manufacturers in this segment of the clamp market looking over their shoulders - at least initially. I for one won't be surprised to see the Bessey EZS Clamps grab a major portion of this hotly contested segment of the clamp marketplace and to do it in short order.
The Bessey EZS Clamp is built around a tough steel bar. As you might expect, the bar has the familiar hourglass shape that Bessey developed many years ago and has made famous ever since. This bar design has proven itself to be tough and very rigid giving Bessey no reason to mess around with it.
While the basic shape of the bar remains constant, the length varies to produce Bessey EZS Clamps with capacities of 6", 12", 18", 24" and 36".
The Bessey EZS Clamps feature tough, composite jaws that are designed to resist flex and the tremendous clamping loads generated. The jaws have a throat capacity of 3.2" and have recessed inner edges that provide more clearance, making it easier to clamp projects up square and true.
Each jaw has a large, molded-in clamping pad that distributes the pressure over a greater area, reducing the chance of denting the project wood. Each clamping pad is fitted with a slide-off plastic cover that helps eliminate marking of the wood plus they make removing glue transfer much easier.
The clamping pads are closely aligned with each other, unlike many similar clamps I have seen from other manufacturers. Having the jaws closely aligned with each other makes it easier to apply even pressure to your project. With misaligned jaws the clamping force is applied at an angle which can literally press your project out of square.
The Bessey EZS Clamp fixed jaw has a unique push-button release that makes converting to spreading mode simple and tool free. The push-button also eliminates pins or screws that can be lost or difficult to reinstall. The push-button has molded-in graphics on both sides that show which one locks or unlocks the jaw. Plus, the locking side of the button is flush with the jaw body when in the locked mode making it easy to see if it is engaged or not.
Another thing I like about the Bessey EZS Clamp jaw button is that the mechanism engages on its own as the jaw is slipped back onto the bar. When it clicks into position you simply depress the locking side of the button and the jaw is secured to the bar.
At the heart of the Bessey EZS Clamps is the pistol grip style clamping mechanism that makes these truly one-handed tools. The handles have a smooth contour that fits the hand well. Both handles have a rubberized overmold that makes them comfortable and slip-resistant. Those qualities make it easier to put the clamp where you need it and to apply pressure without disturbing the project pieces.
Each full squeeze of the handle moves the jaw a full 1/4" which makes closing the jaws on the work piece fast and easy. Equally important is that the internal mechanism develops bunches of clamping pressure without bunches of effort. While most other similarly sized clamps in this category are capable of producing 200 to 300 lbs of clamping force, the Bessey EZS Clamps generate up to a remarkable 440 lbs! Compare that to the much larger Irwin™ Quick-Grip™ XP 6" clamps that despite their physical size produce only 550 lbs (per the Irwin literature affixed to the clamp) of pressure!
Clamping pressure on the Bessey EZS Clamp is released with a trigger that is built into the stationary handle. Despite the protected location of this trigger it remains easy to reach and use. Continue depressing the release trigger and the clamping jaw can be repositioned anywhere on the bar quickly and easily. Release the trigger and the jaw is locked in place.
Within the Bessey EZS Clamp is a surprisingly well made mechanism that both moves the bar and locks it in place between strokes of the handle. There are more plates that are better made than I have found in similar clamps on the market. Plus, all of the plates are controlled by oversized springs that enhance their grip on the bar. The Bessey EZS Clamp goes another step by fitting the handle that moves the bar with a plated metal pivot pin where other brands commonly use composite or plastic pivots. That metal pivot working against the steel plates also makes applying pressure with the Bessey EZS Clamp super smooth and dependable.
In the Shop
Using the Bessey EZS Clamps in the shop clearly demonstrates the high level of design and manufacture. Their clamping action is smooth, positive and very predictable yet releases easily when you are done. Close the jaws on the wood, give the grip a surprisingly light squeeze and the pieces are firmly clamped together. Even warped joints that resist closing could be firmly seated without straining to apply the necessary pressure with the Bessey EZS Clamps. And, applying clamping pressure in the spreader mode is just as easy and predictable.
Changing to the spreader mode is much easier with the Bessey EZS Clamp than with similar clamps I have from other manufacturers. Push the button, slip the jaw off, slip it on the other end of the bar and click the button into the locked mode. There are no pins or screws to replace or get started. After pushing that little button to lock the fixed jaw, I could not find any slip or movement. The moveable clamping jaw assembly also stays put even under the tremendous pressure the Bessey EZS Clamps develop.
The clamping surfaces are generously sized and make applying the Bessey EZS Clamp to a project easy. The removable clamping pad covers are another a nice touch that do a good job of protecting the wood and will undoubtedly save you from lots of unnecessary sanding time.
Bessey EZS ClampsThe Bessey EZS Clamps are very well made and bring new thinking to this popular form of clamp. Woodworkers who trust the Bessey brand will find that the quality and utility of the Bessey EZS Clamps will only bolster that loyalty.
Because the Bessey EZS Clamps will not be on the market until August of 2009 I do not have an actual street price. However, with suggested retail prices very close to similar clamps currently on the market I expect the Bessey EZS Clamp to be priced very competitively. Factor in the traditional Bessey quality and features and the Bessey EZS Clamps are certain to be a solid value for woodworkers.
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