I often notice people ruminating over the prospect of their first K-body purchase and what size they should get. Invariably they speculate that the 40" clamps seem like the best compromise because they'll be able to do all the small clamping they need to do plus they'll have all 40" available for the larger jobs. After all, you can use a long clamp on short stock, but you can't make a clamp longer, right?
I always chuckle at this point. You see, I did the same thing. When I first bought K-bodies I ordered 4 40" clamps, figuring exactly like in the previous paragraph. Here's the flaw in the thinking: K-bodies are heavy. Lugging around and positioning clamps that are 60% or more longer than you need for a particular application is exhausting. Well, tiring, maybe.
Moreover, when you have a lot of extra bar sticking out from your work area when you're clamping smaller stock, you will quickly discover that you wish you had some shorter clamps. Finally, when you are doing 18" panels with 24" clamps, the clamps will lay flat (jaws vertical) on both jaws while you push and pull the work in preparation for clamping. That same panel in the 40s will have the jaw on the end several inches above the surface with the movable jaw acting as fulcrum. Very frustrating.
Trust me on this. Two or four new K-bodies will not be your last purchase. Get 24"ers and thank me later when you finally do have a need for longer clamps, buy them, and later use them on short work. As I often tell SWMBO, my kids, and my cousin that I woodwork with sometimes, "all will become clear."
I used to agonize over the 12"ers, saying, "I wish I could justify a couple of the 12" K-bodies." It just seemed like I ought to have them, but I never seemed to need them; particularly when they are nearly the same price as the 24"s. However, I extorted my kids into getting me one from each for Christmas, so I'm released from my agony...for now.
In my work, I've never needed any 31" K-bodies, but a lot of my acquaintances seem to like them. However, my advice remains: make the 24" K-bodies your first purchase.
Last updated: 27 January 2009