Workbench Helpers: Tips on holding work
Holdfasts and hand screws make your bench more versatile
Synopsis: Vises are a fundamental tool for holding work securely at the bench, but they can’t do everything. These techniques from Chris Gochnour incorporate holdfasts and hand screws to extend the grip of your vise and enable it to hold wide or long stock without racking. Planing drawers is made easier through the use of two simple workholding jigs.
Every piece of furniture I make begins at my workbench and ends there, too. It’s where I lay out, cut, and fit joinery, plane surfaces, and glue it all together. At the end of the project, it’s where I do things like break edges and look for small defects in the surface. Because the bench is such an important tool, it’s critical that it be set up for effective and efficient work. This means it must be able to hold work reliably and securely, while still being flexible enough to get a handle on any part you throw its way.
A bench’s ability to hold work securely begins with its vises, but it shouldn’t be limited by them. When my front and tail vises are unable to get an adequate grip on a workpiece, I turn to other strategies. Most of them involve a holdfast or two. Holdfasts are quick to use, apply plenty of clamping pressure, and can be located just about anywhere on a bench where you can drill a hole. I’ll show you how I use them to supplement my vises, as well as a few other techniques that expand my bench’s workholding abilities.
My bench has a front vise with a wooden jaw, and a traditional tail vise. Both are great, but they have limitations. Luckily, there are simple ways to improve their versatility and effectiveness.
The front vise…