The recent Bagathon gave me a chance to fool around with some of the Gramercy holdfasts (thanks, Kirk), and the Lee Valley/Veritas hold-downs (thanks, Larry). I don’t really know what took me so long to try some, but there they were. I liked both of them, and probably the Veritas version is a bit stronger (and doesn’t require a mallet), but it costs $75 for one of those versus about $32 for a pair of the Gramercy holdfasts. So it was off to the Tools for Working Wood site last week.
They arrived today. So let’s do a quick rundown of what I was using before and how the holdfasts compare for a couple of operations.
For mortises, I was using a c-clamp to hold the work to the table:
It’s really strong, but your bench can’t be too thick, you can’t have an apron, and your work can’t be too big, or you’ll need a bigger clamp.
The holdfast provides more flexibility in positioning the work, and it’s a bit easier to set up than a clamp.
It’s not quite as strong as the clamp, at least not in a benchtop of this thickness (1.5″), but it still works fine.
For touching up tenon shoulders, I was using a handscrew in this configuration:
This requires a bit of fiddling, but it’s a little easier to position than the c-clamp. However, the work doesn’t always level so well, especially with narrower pieces. In addition, there’s a lot of stuff in the way. About the only advantage is that it’s easy to remove.
The holdfast is a great improvement. There’s far less stuff to obscure you while working, and it sets up in a flash.
I’ve also used a c-clamp for this. In this configuration, it’s even less preferable because you not only have to do a bunch of fooling around under the bench, but also have to do a lot of fooling around under the bench near a leg.
All of this is starting to lead to a question of where to put all of my bench accessories, because by now, I have a bench hook, shooting board, two holdfasts, a zillion little bench dogs, a Veritas Wonder Dog, and a few other little things, and I do have a few more things on my list. Should I see if I can make that second shelf under the bench, and if I do, will that interfere with the holdfasts while they are in use?
Oh well, I guess I’ll figure it all out in time. For now, I have to complete the shoe rack (finished two rows of mortises and a row of tenons today!).