Best woodworking holdfasts, plans for garden bench with storage - Review

Categories: Wood Work Table Plans | Author: admin 14.08.2014

Mass-produced holdfasts we tested, front to back: Jorgensen #1708, Veritas, Woodcraft, Jorgensen #1716. Before the era of metal vises, woodworkers secured work to benches (horizontally and vertically) with holdfasts. The first holdfast we tested, an inexpensive imported model from Harbor Freight (#41885-OVGA, $3.99) was made from cast gray iron. The small Jorgensen (#1708) was the best performer among the mass-produced ones, but it had some quirks.
The angle between the shaft and the pad (82.5°) was nearly the same as that of our favorite, the hand-forged holdfast from Alaskan blacksmith Phil Koontz. The Woodcraft Large Bench Holdfast (#145479, $19.99) was the only product we tested that had an angle greater than 90° (it was 93°) between the shaft and the pad. As a group, the manufactured holdfasts were harder to use, didn’t hold as well, and were more temperamental than the hand-made ones. The process of hand forging alters the material used in the holdfast, and leaves it with an ideal set of properties – strong enough to be hit smartly, yet flexible enough to bend and act as a spring to hold the work. In addition to Weber’s holdfast, we also tested a prototype that will be offered by Tools For Working Wood. Phil Koontz, an Alaskan blacksmith, also provided us with a pair of hand-forged steel holdfasts that he sells for $100 a pair.
If you’re building a bench and planning to use holdfasts, don’t wait until the bench is complete to drill holes and choose one.
This article explains why my adding of 3″ of redwood to the bottom of bench failed to engage the holdfast.
That article is from a while back — from before the current Gramercy holdfasts were available.

Most of the time our efforts are rewarded with enlightenment, but in the case of holdfasts, we’re still a bit in the dark.
Until the 1920s these were so common that if you saw a workbench, you would likely see a holdfast.
A good holdfast drops in a hole in your bench, and with a few light taps secures a workpiece solidly to the bench. The angle of the holdfast’s shaft as it sits in the benchtop, as well as the angle between the pad and shaft are key elements.
We also found the most reliable performance in holdfasts when the angle between the shaft and pad was close to 83. Get your holdfast first, and experiment with different-size holes and different top thicknesses. Pretty safe to say that those of us who use holdfasts at PWM like the Gramercy version a lot.
The Gramercy holdfasts referred to in this article were prototypes, not the current production models. It seems that making and using a holdfast has as much in common with art or religion as science. As the holdfast’s pad hits your work, the shaft wedges itself in the hole and against your work. He made them using old wrought iron right before our eyes, and after a quick quench in the water, we took the holdfasts to his adjoining woodworking shop and gave them a try.
We also realized that the decline of holdfasts probably also was tied to the disappearance of the village blacksmith.
The only drawback to this style is that the holdfast sticks up high on the bench and can get in the way of your tools.

Go ahead and invest in a nice pair of hand-forged holdfasts (or pony up for the Veritas version of this device).
We found that holdfasts with an angle of about 83° between the shaft and pad functioned best.The type of metal used, and how it is made are also crucial. After a few walks back to the forge to tighten a bend and to slightly change an angle in each holdfast we got two examples that worked perfectly in almost all of our samples.
As manufacturers took over the fabrication of holdfasts, they no longer functioned as well and became less popular. The difference in performance of the hand-forged holdfasts far outweighs the difference in cost compared to the mass-produced versions, and you’ll be grateful every time you use them. We found a difference in performance between mass-produced holdfasts (such as the broken one shown above) and those that were hand-forged (the unbroken one above).
And after a frustrating week of pounding ineffective holdfasts, the Veritas was most welcome. With these workbench samples secured in a vise, we tried each holdfast to see how easily and how securely it would seat. We tried securing pieces of varying thickness, and tried to find the ideal bench thickness, hole and holdfast combination.The Scientific Method Lets Us DownAfter several afternoons of pounding we were unable to arrive at definitive, repeatable results. But with the mass-produced holdfasts, we found that we were learning how to get them to work more than we were learning measurable differences between them.Despite our best efforts, the diverse properties of holdfasts kept us from producing detailed, repeatable results.

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