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JOEL Joel's Blog

Where Should I Put My Holdfast Holes?


Where Should I Put My Holdfast Holes? 1
Since their introduction the Gramercy Tools holdfasts have re-energized the use of holdfasts in the shop. Now we see them everywhere as an essential workshop clamping tool. One question we still get a lot is where to put the holdfast holes in the workbench. In other words, what's the best pattern of holdfast holes on your bench? The answer to that question is: I don't know.
I own five workbenches. The oldest one I built in the mid 80s. I put in holdfast holes all in one row in the front. They're the wrong size and they're in the wrong place. The spacing is weird too.

I built a second portable bench specifically for hand tools in 2002. I put the holdfast holes in a one row in the front. But this time I got the size right. And then, realizing the error of my ways, I put a couple more holes around the center middle of the bench.
These are much more useful.

The final benches are all the same. These we use for demo purposes in the shop. They have holdfast holes in each corner, so we can fasten down moxon vises. And a couple of holes in the center for actually doing work.

The best advice on the subject I've heard probably comes from Chris Schwarz. He says to drill a hole, use the bench for a while, and if you need another hole, drill another hole.

He has a pretty good point here. When you do a glue up and you use three clamps to clamp up something, and then you realize you need another clamp in a different place, you just get another clamp and put it in a different place. A holdfast is a clamp. And sometimes as you learn what you're doing, you realize you need clamping in different places than you first thought. Actually when you think about it, all a workbench is, is a giant clamping surface.

I also give out one more piece of advice to people just getting holdfasts: when you get your holdfasts, go round and round the stems (not up and down) with coarse sandpaper that takes off any oil from manufacturer and gives the stems of the holdfasts some tooth to grab. (This is also why some rust on a holdfast isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's good for gripping.) Then take a piece of scrap the same material and thickness as your workbench, drill a 3/4" hole in it, and test out the holdfasts. 95% of the time they're be absolutely no issue. But for that other 5% of the time you might discover that you have to tweak something. There is a video on the holdfast product page that explains using holdfasts and some possible tweaks.

When my holdfasts are between jobs they sit
When my holdfasts are between jobs they sit, calmly, hooked on the front stretcher of my bench. They are a custom size to fit my weird sized holes.

Join the conversation
11/30/2022 Derek Cohen
Joel, I made a very short video on the Gramery holdfasts. For your interest:

Regards from Perth

Thanks Derek!
12/01/2022 Paul Bailey
Chris Schwarz' comment about using the bench to figure out where to put the holes reminded me of a similar story of this oblique kind of thinking; a college built some new dorms - but didn't put in any sidewalks because students always take the most direct route to their destination. After the students wore paths across the property the school went ahead and paved these paths - now that they had the perfect locations.
The same is true for your benches and workspaces - use them to find the most ideal locations for how YOU work.
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