Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poor Man's Holdfasts

You know how you have a list in your head of things you need for the shop? Some things shoot right to the top, get purchased and crossed off. Other things get removed from the bottom of the list because after a while you realize that you don't need them after all. But a third group of items seems to float in limbo right in the middle of the list - not so important that you make it happen, but not so unimportant that they get dropped. For me, that would be holdfasts.

I've been wanting to buy a pair of holdfasts for a long time - maybe Gramercy's or maybe some from Galena Village Blacksmith. But here's the problem; I made a pair some time ago, and while not perfect, they ARE functional, and thus the purchase stays in list limbo.

Here's my setup being used for planing a large rabbet:

Just some rived spruce, oversized holes to allow pivoting, washers, wing nuts and long carriage bolts. The bolts go down through my dog holes, with wing nuts and washers on the bottom.

The wing nuts are for adjusting the amount of play in the system. The real clamping pressure is from the wedging action of the small blocks of wood under the ends of the arms. Slide the blocks in towards the bolts (fulcrum) and the pressure increases - slide them out and things loosen up. Pretty simple really, just a little slow, especially when I need to remove and then replace them multiple times, and they take up a lot of real estate on the bench.


  1. Those are clever. I'll keep them in mind as a supplement to my Gramercys. Never can have enough holdfasts.

    I really like the Gramercys. Since my bench top is relatively thin, I added doubling blocks at the holdfast locations and the Gramercys dig right in.

  2. Very resourceful, Dan! The wood won't mar your work the way metal holdfasts will.

  3. I've also seen somewhere how you could use rope for a manual holdfast. You run the rope through the wooden "holdfast" on top, and the rope goes through your doghole to a board at the bottom, which you step on to hold it down.

    Never tried it though...

  4. Very creative solution there Dan! I will say that I do have the Gramercy holfasts and after using them for a couple of years, I wouldn't be without them. Their biggest benefit is speed. You can set them in place, knock them in, work, knock them out to reposition your work and then re-knock them tight in a matter of seconds. The problem of the metal foot marring the work can be solved by double stick taping some wood pieces to the feet or using some rubber cement or contact cement and leather. They really are a joy to use.

  5. Dan: Just had an Idea on your Holdfast. Not sure if I can explain it very well...

    Make a Square Dog to fit in the Hole, But at the bottom of the Dog, You have it "T" off, So it looks like a Spike, This way it's entered in from the bottom of the Dog Hole.

    Then you Round off the "T" of the Spike slightly enough, and Taper the Dog it's self along the Shaft, This will allow for Slight movement back and forth, but not side to side, But first, you Drill a Hole all the way threw to allow for your Carriage Bolt.

    There you have it, a Functional Holdfast that can pivit front and back. I suppose if you have the Money, you could just get a Longer Carriage Bolt, Feed it in from the bottom, and Apply the Wing nut to the top, so you have adjustability from the upper area and not the lower.

    Anyway, Just an Idea!


  6. How did I miss ALL THESE COMMENTS?!

    Bob - Good idea on the doubling blocks - how are they attached?

    Kari - I think I read somewhere you can add leather pads to metal holdfasts to prevent the marring. Have you ever tried that? Any ideas on how they would be attached? My wife gave me a pair of Gramercy holdfasts for Christmas - and they rock! But they do mar the wood if I hit them too hard.

    Eric - good idea - I think I saw that referred to somewhere as a "carvers" rope clamp? or some such. No reason it couldn't be used by non-carvers though... Oh, and I recently saw an awesome "double ratcheting femur" clamp that someone had invented - wait, that was you!

    Bob - Thanks! You just answered my question from above! I have only used my Gramercy holdfasts for a couple of days now, but I can tell I will love them. You are so right, they are fast!

    Handi - Thanks for the idea - I think you explained it very clearly. I might try that design on my next pair of shop-made holdfasts - if I ever make more - the Gramercy holdfasts are quite sweet! And I can't remember why I didn't put the wing nut on top in the first place. I'm pretty sure I did have a reason though - smashing my hand/fingers? I hate it when I can't remember the reason for a design feature...


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