Bessey K-Body Clamps
Professionals Pick For Parallel Clamps
The parallel clamp is the most accurate of all the woodworking clamps sold. But it is also the most expensive. And while the best parallel clamps come down to budget and brand preference, there are also features of the top clamp brand to consider.
What is a parallel clamp? Surprisingly, it references the two jaws that stay perfectly parallel to each other during the clamp. While other clamps, like bar or pipe clamps, will tilt inwards during clamping pressure.
In this guide, you’ll learn the following:
- Features offered like a wrench tightening or spreader capability
- Clamping force comparisons
- Top brands and budget options
- Accessories like clamping block
As most woodworkers know, a parallel clamp is expensive.
While you can use bar or pipe clamps for gluing panels, a parallel clamp is a justified purchase when it comes to precision gluing without damaging the wood.
So what should you consider when buying? Well, given the cost you’ll want to consider:
- Clamp length is important as you’ll want to ensure you can clamp wide projects and short
- Clamping blocks that support the clamp from tipping while assembling
- Brand reputation like Bessey and Pony
- And, of course, reviews
Features That Matter Between Brands
- Jaws stay perfectly at 90 degrees while clamping
- Reversible jaws
- Clamping power in PSI
- Comfort of grip (it is a twisting force)
- Accessories like clamp blocks
- Variety of lengths
- Stainless steel bar
What is a Parallel Clamp
Let’s start with understanding what makes a parallel clamp unique. First, and as you might have guessed, the jaws are similar and offer a HUGE clamping surface that extends around 4″ from the I-beam design found on most of these clamps.
Key features of these clamps:
- Hand screw handle: most clamps use a screw handle to tighten the parallel jaws.
- Wrench tightening: Some designs offer a hex nut that can be tightened with a wrench for extra clamping pressure.
- Spreader: with the I-beam design and movable jaws, most parallel jaw clamps are both a clamp and a spreader
- Lengths: generally 12-50″ in total length
- 90 degrees: High-quality clamps will have jaws at a parallel 90 degrees during clamping.
- Non-mar jaws: Lastly, and most importantly, versus their close cousin, the pipe clamp, a parallel clamp, is designed NOT to damage the wood it is clamping.
Who Makes Them: Manufacturers
Best Parallel Clamps
First, best is only sometimes measured by most features. In fact, for many woodworkers, you can define best as meeting your budget OR a specific type of woodworking you do.
With that in mind, and after lengthy research, here are the best parallel clamps on the market:
1. Best Overall: Bessey K-Body Revolution
See on Amazon: Bessey REVOlution Clamp
When Bessey makes a clamp, they go all out.
And, with their REVOlution-series, they offer a collection of clamps that feature:
- 1700 pounds of clamping force
- Ergonomic handle with 6mm steel hex key socket
- Converts to spreading quickly
- Available in clamping capacity from 12-98″
- 3-3/4″ throat depth
- Heavy duty at just under 5 pounds up to over 13 pounds for a 98″ clamp
While these clamps are expensive, they offer a few unique accessories vs. the competitors that make them more valuable and worth the extra upfront cost:
- K-Body tilting adapter for broader horizontal pressure
- Framing set to hold clamps perpendicular (a MUST for four corner glue-ups)
- K-Body extenders for increasing clamping range (without upgrading clamps)
- Space clamping jaws for using multiple jaws on one rail
- And to round out the list: table clamps, spare jaw pads, rail protection pieces, and end clips.
2. Top Brand: Pony Jorgensen
See on Amazon: Pony Cabinet Master 90-Degree Clamp
In woodworking, clamps Pony and Bessey are always head to head.
And that’s because they engineer clamps with top quality, similar features, and have a solid brand reputation for durability over the long haul.
Key features of the Pony parallel clamps are:
- 1500 pounds of clamping force
- Rapid action jaws
- Can stand vertically without holding
- Available in clamping capacity from 12-72″
- 3-3/4″ throat depth
3. BORA Portamate Parallel Clamps
See on Amazon: BORA 571140T 40-Inch Clamp
You might have seen Bora before if you frequent big box stores like Lowes. And, like most, question if it’s a brand you can invest in or is a no-name import. If it helps, they date back to 2006 and are part of Affinity Tool Works.
The bottom line: if you’re price comparing, these are a solid clamp with all the essential features in a Jet or Bessey. But for a lower price.
4. JET Clamps
See on Amazon: JET 70411 Parallel Bar Clamp
JET is a well-known manufacturer of woodworking supplies and has a wide range of sizes in parallel clamps. And as a testament to their durability, their clamps come with the JET RED Assurance lifetime warranty.
- Size range from 12″ to 98″
- Non-marring composite resin jaw faces
- Precision-rule measurement system
- Up to 1000 pounds of clamping pressure
5. BESSEY K-Body Junior
See on Amazon: Bessey Junior REVOlution Clamp
For parallel clamp precision but in a more compact form, Bessey offers the “K-Body Junior” collection of clamps that range from 12 to 50 inches, weigh just under 3 to almost 5 pounds (varying by length), and offer up to 900 pounds of clamping force.
Why choose these? Well, consider the following:
- Smaller projects
- Projects with many clamps required (cost, weight of glue-up)
- Compact for storage or use in a construction vehicle
6. POWERTEC Clamps (Budget Pick)
See on Amazon: POWERTEC 71368
If you want quantity versus high-end cost, Powertec is a niche woodworking manufacturer producing various woodworking products.
And at a worthy discount to other manufacturers of parallel clamps that lets you buy a few more clamps.
- 3-3/4″ throat depth
- 880 pounds clamping force
- Pressure release
- Removable end rail clip
- Soft grip handle
While every clamp type is unique, there is usually a clamp or two that can be substituted. And the pipe clamp is arguably the closest in design and function you’ll find as an alternative.
Parallel Clamp vs. Pipe Clamp
If you’re not sure, you need the precision features of a parallel jaw clamp, a pipe clamp is one of the best alternatives to a parallel clamp.
- Advantages: Pipe clamps are cheaper, length can be customized with the black pipe they use, and they can apply a massive clamping force
- Disadvantages: Pipe clamps can damage the wood if the workpiece isn’t padded, have shorter jaws, and aren’t designed to be parallel.
Screw Clamp vs. Parallel Jaw Clamp
The deep-throat screw clamps are a great utility clamp. But, their design is inherently clumsy for the one job a parallel clamp is best at precision clamping.
Sash Clamp vs. Parallel Jaw Clamp
Meanwhile, the robust sash clamp is the king of wood clamping power. And while most commonly used to glue up heavy-duty tabletops, a sash clamp can be used for many of the same jobs as parallel jaw clamps.
How to Use a Parallel Jaw Clamp
Once your parallel clamps arrive, you’ll want to play around with them to make sure you find the best uses for a parallel clamp.
Tips to Using
Like most clamps, there are always a few ways to use them right. And a few ways to use them wrong.
Here are a few pointers on parallel clamps you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Glue: be careful with the glue to keep it off the clamp body, especially the non-mar pads.
- Framing body: Bessey is #1 because they offer the framing body that will allow you to stack two clamps perpendicularly.
- Clean bars: please be sure to clean the bars after every use. While pipe clamps are easy to “slide and scrape,” you’ll want to keep your expensive parallel jaw clamps clean as a more precise tool.
See on Amazon: Parallel Clamp Rack
First off, I’m guilty of just storing my pipe clamps anywhere. And while they have a rugged design that’s impossible to break, a parallel jaw clamp should be treated with care. So either invest in a manufactured storage rack or custom build one for keeping these clamps safe from accidental damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need parallel clamps?
If your woodworking projects include cabinetry or making high-quality small furniture, consider adding a non-marring parallel jaw clamp to your toolbox. Due to a precision 90-degree jaw, non-mar pads, and a massive clamping force, they will easily handle delicate jobs.
How many clamps do you need?
For this type of clamp, I recommend starting with just two. And, if you find you want to buy more after use, you’ll know the lengths and quality you’ll want in your next purchase.
How long of a parallel clamp should I buy?
With the primary use of these being for cabinet door assembly and similar-sized boxes or furniture, a 24″ or 40″ pair is a great starting point. Due to weight and space, a longer clamp may be too much. And a 12″ clamp is too short for most panel-sized glue jobs.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the best parallel clamps feature and what might be best for your projects.
If this is your first time using one, you’ll quickly find they are a premium woodworking clamp and one to add to your shopping list.
- About the Author
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Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.