Over the years I've been doing a lot of woodworking on various projects. From wainscoting to doors, and desks to shelves, I've been slowly honing my skills and tool collection to support my new found love and appreciation for the sometimes infuriating task of woodworking. Though I had some familiarity with the basics of saws and sanding, coming into my life as a homeowner I didn't possess much more knowledge than the average Joe when it came to one of the necessities of almost every woodworking project -- the bar clamp.

I've worked on many different woodworking projects that range from the very simple to the (in my opinion) extremely complex. In nearly every project there comes a point where I need to glue and clamp some component of my work. Just this last weekend I was working on the new french doors for the front of the house, and once again had to add a bit of material to the side of each door. This whole process would have been quite difficult, if not nearly impossible, without the right style of clamps. Here's one of our doors from over the weekend, all clamped up with the glue drying.

If you'll notice, these aren't your every day tension clamps. The clamps I'm speaking so highly of are actually the more specialized bar clamp sometimes called cabinet or K body style clamps. The primary purpose of these clamps are to hold your work securely in place, but the unique function and design of the clamps allow them to exert a tremendous amount of pressure in an even and gradual manner. This particular style comes in very handy when I need to clamp shelves, doors, or (go figure) cabinets to secure a tight joint and to allow the glue to set completely.

As you can see from the photo, I actually have a mix of several types and brands of clamps. I've been buying them as we've needed them over the years, trying out different approaches as each project requires additional items. While this means my clamp set isn't nearly as neat, matching, plentiful, and organized as the New Yankee Workshop's collection, it does mean I've been able to try out different brands and styles to see what I like best.

My collection includes a Jorgensen Cabinetmaster series set (orange clamp with wood handle), some Rockler aluminum crank style clamps, and several generations of the Bessey K Body clamps. After using each in multiple projects I have settled on a favorite that I will buy if a future project ever calls for more clamps.

From this point forward my cabinet clamps of choice are the Bessey K Body Evo series. I received the set I have as a Christmas gift from my in-laws several years ago. It may sound like an odd thing to ask for as a gift, but it has been one of the most useful tool gifts I've received.

This particular style of clamp, based on their earlier successful designs, improves upon an already functional product. The portion of the clamp that comes in contact with your work has a larger surface area to prevent damage to the material. The handles are substantial and ergonomic to allow for easy adjustment and tightening, and each clamp has a small plastic kickstand at its tail to ensure the clamp and work sits level while supporting from the bottom.

The set I received comes with a set of plastic blocking that allows you to configure all four clamps on a small door or frame while maintaining a level surface to ensure your pieces aren't warping. And best of all, if you've got something really long to secure, these K Body clamps can be joined to each other to effectively extend the length of the clamp without sacrificing function.

Other clamps I've used have been quite good, and I still use them all often, but the Besseys are always the first ones I use when I need a strong and consistent hold, especially for overnight glueing. I may have a few years of clamp buying before I can be quite as awesome as my woodworking idol, Norm Abrams, but at least I have a good start and I know what to buy from this point forward. Check out his shop courtesy of NewYankeeWorkshop.com.

Do you have a particular style or brand of cabinet clamp you prefer? Let me know what you think, and also let me know if you have any cool tricks I can use while working with my set.

Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to learn more about our first-hand experiences with other tools, devices or items used throughout our renovation? If so, check out our complete list of product reviews in our Toolbox Tuesday section. 

Note: We weren't compensated for this review. We simply want to share good products when we see them, and hope that learning from our mistakes can help save you time, money and frustration.

Comments 7


maureen brady Johnson
9/6/2011 at 2:31 PM
I read Mr. J this column...He understands completely!!!!
Maureen Brady Johnson
9/6/2011 at 2:37 PM
That door is GORGEOUS!!!!
Old Town Home
9/6/2011 at 2:56 PM
Thanks Mrs. Johnson!
9/7/2011 at 11:45 AM
How do you store your clamps? My husband has a bunch of clamps in various sizes/styles. I think I've got a solution, similar to the clamp-stand in Norm's workshop - but ours will hang on a wall.
I really need a better storage solution, something like a wall mount clamp hanger would be perfect, but we have very limited basement space. Right now I actually clamp them to the joists that are exposed in the basement ceiling. It actually works kind of well. Whenever I need a clamp, they are always just above my head. It can be a bit of a pain to get them back into place, but I'll take that to have them up and out of the way.
9/15/2011 at 11:45 AM
Alex, you and my Handy Hubby need to hang out and talk about clamps and tools generally! We live in Arlington so I can make that happen!
Sounds like fun! (I guess you know you're a house nerd when talking about clamps sounds like fun.) :-)
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