If you are a woodworking enthusiast, you know the importance of using reliable clamps. They are very important in determining the quality of the joint. There are many reliable brands out there. In this article, we’ll focus on Bessey and Jorgensen’s parallel clamps. Both companies produce quality clamps. But what if you had to choose between them? What are the things to keep into consideration?
We’ll start by giving a short introduction to both types of parallel clamps. We’ll go through their main characteristics such as size, clamping power, building quality. Then, we’ll compare them and decide which one is the better choice.
In short, they are very similar clamps. There are only a few small differences in the way they are built, for example in the handle and claws. In my opinion, their impact is negligible, especially if these are the first premium clamps you are getting. Both Bessey’s and Jorgensen’s are solid choices, and you’ll probably be satisfied with both of them. If you are able to find a deal with one of the brands, I’d say to go for that one.
Bessey vs Jorgensen Parallel Clamps – A Quick Intro
Bessey Parallel Clamps Review
Let’s start by talking about Bessey. This company produces clamping tools for a wide number of applications. Their experience in various fields certainly has a carryover to woodworking. Their most famous woodworking clamps are the K-Body REVO Series, which we’ll focus on in this article.
The first thing to keep in consideration is the material the clamps are made of. This aspect impacts both accuracy and durability of the clamps. The main component, the rail bar, is made of steel directly milled at Bessey’s facilities, to ensure they are up to the task. The jaws are made of solid plastic. A nice touch is the pad they put on top of them. It gives a solid grip and it also prevents marring the wood.
Let’s talk a bit about clamp sizes now. Choosing the correct size is very important for the success of the project. Too large clamps are difficult to place and maneuver; on the other hand, clamps too small for the project at hand might end up being unstable. Bessey produces 9 different models, which are designated with their clamping capacity: 12″, 18″, 24″, 31″, 40″, 50″, 60″, 82″, 98″. Weight ranges from about 5 lbs for the smallest model to around 13 lbs for the biggest one.
Bessey claims a clamping power of 1700 lbs for all their clamps. It’s rather easy to reach the desired clamping force since the handle can be tightened with a hex key. Talking about the handle, it’s round-shaped and made of rubber, to provide additional usability.
Jorgensen Parallel Clamps Review
Let’s talk a bit about Jorgensen clamps now. Pony Jorgensen was founded in 1903 in Chicago, Illinois. It started by manufacturing hand tools, then it expanded its business into clamping products which is what made its fortune. For our purposes, we’ll be talking about the “Cabinet Master” Jorgensen parallel clamps series.
Let’s start with a few words about the materials. The rail bar is cold-drawn steel, while the claws are made of sturdy plastic. Unlike Bessey’s, there’s no additional pad on the claws; that’s balanced by their very large contact surface. Generally speaking, Jorgensen clamps are very heavily built. There’s no risk of bending the bar with these.
What about the different sizes available? According to their site, there are 8 different models available, from 12″ to 72″. Here’s the complete list: 12″, 18″, 24″, 30″, 36″, 48″, 60″, 72″. Weight goes up to 12.23 lbs for the 72″ version.
Another aspect to keep into consideration is the easiness of use. Many times, we focus too much on technical specs and then overlook this area, which is equally important. Jorgensen put a lot of thought into making your life as easy as possible when using their clamps. For example, they come with built-in clamp stands which make 1 handed use very simple.
Talking about clamping force, I couldn’t find reliable data for many of the models. The average clamping force amounts to 1000 lbs, while smaller clamps might stop at 600 lbs. Either way, it’s plenty for most applications.
Jorgensen clamps can be also used in spreading mode by simply rotating the sliding claw.
Bessey vs Jorgensen Parallel Clamps – Which Ones are Better?
Finally, let’s discuss some points that should help you choose one type of clamps over the other:
- Jorgensen’s are more heavily built than Bessey’s. This can be either a pro or a con, depending on what you are looking for. It makes them more stable but also more difficult to work with;
- There are no pads on Jorgensen’s claws, so you need to be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid damaging the compressed wood. On the other hand, the clamping surface of Jorgensen’s is larger, allowing you to spread the load more evenly;
- According to some, Jorgensen’s are more prone to jam than Bessey’s. On the other hand, Bessey’s might be harder to lock in place;
- Jorgensen’s handle gives more grip than Bessey’s;
- Talking about handles, a good thing about the Jorgensen’s is the screw being longer. This comes in handy when the claws don’t bite immediately. You’ll still be able to apply some pressure when they finally do, without having to redo the setup;
- Bessey’s have more clamping force: 1700 lbs vs 1000 lbs on average for Jorgensen’s. This isn’t a decisive factor in my opinion: 1000 pounds are more than enough for most woodworking projects; apply more than that, and you’ll end up marring the wood;
- Bessey has 9 models on sale, while there are only 8 Jorgensen’s sizes available. If you need large clamps (i.e more than 72″), Bessey’s might be your only available choice.
As I said before, both Bessey and Jorgensen parallel clamps are solid choices. They are precise and durable pieces of equipment.
Since they are so similar, why should you choose one over the other? The best thing to do is go through their differences and choose the ones that matter the most to you. A weak point for someone might be a strong one for another. We are all different in the way we work and approach things, so you might be better with one brand than the other for a unique reason.
If I had to decide, I’d choose Jorgensen Clamps. I like my equipment to be as heavy-duty as possible, even if that means giving up some user-friendliness. On top of that, they are a bit cheaper. It might not seem like much, but if you are planning on buying multiple clamps it will add up quickly.
Since you are likely to need more than just 2 clamps, I’d get a couple of both brands and test them out, to check which one feels better to you. Make sure to use them properly for a fair comparison.