For a long time the traditional holdfast became somewhat overlooked as an aid to the woodworker but in recent years it’s popularity has started to return. These simple tools are incredibly versatile and I’d go as far to say that a workbench isn’t complete without one.
Traditionally holdfasts were fully hand forged and whilst there would have been no fixed shaft diameter the hammering process allowed the blacksmith to give a taper to it. This tapering teamed with the rough hammered effect enabled the holdfast to get a firm lock within the holes no matter what the top thickness.
There are many variants of holdfast produced today and it is still possible to commission a hand forged replica from a skilled blacksmith although this is certainly not going to be cheap! The closest alternative to this are the traditional style holdfasts which are machine bent or hand forged starting out with smooth round bar stock. These are the type of holdfast which I use and I have several versions including some that I’ve forged myself. The bar stock ensures a fixed diameter on each shaft which is perfect for our standardised world but this smooth and consistent shaft can struggle to get a grip in particularly thick workbench tops. With any top thickness approaching 4″ you can start to get a significant reduction in grip. The premium holdfasts such as the Auriou do have this in mind and come ready ‘roughed up’ with a coarse shot blasting.
In this quick video I demonstrate my method for increasing the holding power of a smooth shafted holdfast. It’s a simple process which gives a coarse texture to the front and back face of the shaft.
I simply use a centre punch to create this by hammering away to create small indentations on the surface. Don’t be concerned about being overly consistent or even but remember this is only required on the front and back faces.
And that’s it… done!
The holdfasts used in this video were the Tomes holdfasts and can be found here.