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Holdfast And The English Workbench

Here’s something you don’t see mentioned (that I’ve noticed yet) in any British joinery text from Nicholson* until the present day. You do see the Record bench holdfast mentioned that operated using a metal collar in the bench top but not the simple crooked steel version shown above. When at college I worked at a bench that had a Record holdfast, I never used it, nor did anyone else. More fool me? Well the limitation with the Record version, if you can call it a limitation, is that it needs a metal collar let into the bench top and unless you want your bench peppered with metal collars you would have one or two clamping positions. This might be fine but it does create limits. Whereas with the simple holdfast shown above, drill a hole in any position and you can clamp. So why don’t they get a mention in the books. I think I can speculate that the main reason is the pace of change within joinery. The quality of sawn timber improved as mills became mechanised and eventually machines also did much of the heavy planing and morticing. So the need for these simple clamping devices diminished and then disappeared. Without much guidance from the books I took some advice from Richard Maguire . He uses a hold fast on a British style bench and get’s on with them just fine whether he is using it in his thick bench top or his thinner apron. I’m keen to try them and to see if they enhance life at the bench.

*They are clearly shown in the earlier Moxon book but his bench is nothing like the British joiners bench, the Moxon is much more like a French style of bench.