Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamps - Tool Review
by Jeffrey Fleisher
New Market, VA
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Ever need a third hand? Fingers getting too close to a moving blade when using a jig? Those dovetail boards moving around on your bench as you try to clean out the waste? Well, Bessey's Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamps are the thing you need to solve those problems....and many more!
Bessey is well known for their wide variety of clamps and are used everyday for small to large glue ups. However, not as many people know about their toggle clamps and how useful they are around the shop. Toggle clamps have been around for a long time as well but Bessey's new ones have a unique adjustment feature that eases use and speeds up your work.
There are two horizontal toggle clamps and one inline toggle clamp. The horizontal toggle clamps come in two sizes, 2" and 2 3/4" maximum opening. They both have a clamping force of between 25 - 550 lbs. and a holding capacity of 700 lbs. The horizontal toggle clamp presses 'down' onto a board to hold it secure. The inline toggle clamp moves back and forth horizontally with a 1" travel and has similar clamping and holding forces as the horizontal clamps. All three use a clamping pad with a pad diameter of 7/8". The pad swivels which improves it's holding power, as you'll see later in this review. All the clamps are made using heavy gauge steel and have extra large handles which make it easy to press down to lock the clamp.
The unique feature of these new clamps is the automatic locking adjustment mechanism. The toggle clamps automatically adjust to different workpiece thicknesses while maintaining constant clamp pressure. An adjustment screw sets the clamping force anywhere from 25 to 550 lbs, depending on the amount of pressure needed to hold your work solidly.
What this means is that you can set the toggle clamp once for a particular amount of holding power and then use the same setting for a wide range of clamping thicknesses. No more needing to fumble around changing the setting every time you have a different thickness board or boards to clamp.
The typical use for toggle clamps is on jigs and fixtures. In the photo here I'm using the Bessey toggle clamp on my 45 degree shooting board.
When shooting a 45 degree angle the board has a tendency to slide away from the shooting plane. The toggle clamp adds the downward force needed to keep it in place and prevent it from moving.
As I've mentioned already, the real benefit of these new clamps is the automatic adjust feature. In the following photo I'm clamping a 3/4" board to my work bench.
I can now add a second 3/4" board, for a total thickness of 1 1/2", and clamp the two boards together without readjusting the clamp. Just open it up, add the second board and press down....done!
One of the unique features of the toggle clamp is the swivel head. In this close-up photo you can see how the clamp pad stays flat and parallel on the board even as it changes thicknesses. This is important to maintain uniform clamping pressure.
One of the nice things about toggle clamps is their versatility. I can use them on jigs and fixtures like I've shown here and also use them as a hold-down on my work bench. By making a small platform for the clamp, I can move them among my workbench dog holes. In this case, I mounted a 3/4" dowel in a small piece of plywood and then screwed the toggle clamp onto the plywood platform. Using the clamp like this I can position it anywhere I need to on my bench.
This arrangement makes if very convenient, for example, when working on dovetail boards. You can easily clamp the board to the workbench while using a chisel and mallet to form the dovetails. If you like to stack multiple boards so that you can work on multiple waste areas with one setup, you can easily do that with this toggle clamp.
Toggle clamps have always been a very useful accessory to have in the shop to enhance the holding power on jigs and fixtures and to add that 'third hand' at the workbench. The new Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamp from Bessey now makes the clamp extremely easy to use and very flexible. You can now set the amount of holding power you want once and use the clamp for all sizes of wood. I have found that this significantly reduces my setup time and increases my productivity.
Purchase your own Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamps today!
Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He was the past president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.