Why doesn't Paul use a holdfast?

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    David R.

    Saw this one on youtube and I again wondered (also while watching the Texas style table video), why @paul-sellers doesn’t use a holdfast. It appears to be immensely useful for dovetailing, i.e. it would remove the need to switch from vice to bench top repeatedly while chiseling out the waste between tails and pins; you can tap perpendicularly and safely go in from the side to remove shavings.

    Maybe there is some drawback I don’t see?


    EDIT: clamp -> vice

    from Germany


    Maybe it’s because he finds the vice simpler and faster? I don’t actually use anything when I’m chopping dovetails until the end when I put the workpiece in the vice and pare to the baselines.

    Joseph Sellers

    I split this off from the original video topic as it strays off topic. Please make a new post for a new conversation with a link if you think it relates.



    George Bridgeman

    It’s probably because he didn’t use them when he was an apprentice. They’re also more of a luxury/convenience and quite expensive. I just bought a pair of Tomes holdfasts, which are well made and far cheaper than most, but still £54 delivered. You’ve then got to get a suitable drill bit (3/4″ or 19mm), choose where to bore the holes, then make sure you get them as close to square as possible. It can all be done but it’s quite a faff and adds to the financial cost and time involved.

    They do give some advantages, like for mortising, planing long thin boards, and removing dovetail waste as you mentioned. All of this can be done in the vise though and I think that’s why he doesn’t use them or say they’re required for getting started.

    A couple of photos of how I use them are attached. I’ve used the vise for both these tasks and will still use it some of the time, but if the board being planed was much thinner or longer it’s much easier to do it this way as it’s supported by the bench top. Mortising this way means I can keep the work over the bench leg and not have to use shelf liner to hold it in the vise.


    "To know and not do is to not know"

    David R.

    Sorry for being OT. Thanks, Joseph, for rectifying this.

    This is the actual one which shows, what I mean in regard to dovetails (from 5:13):

    I see what you mean in terms of cost and effort. I seem to be able to get some simple ones (7″7/8 or 20cm by 7/8″ or 22mm) for 20€ here in Germany, though. Since it is a one time investment, I suppose it pays of rather handily after a little while. Paul does makes a point of being able to do much with few tools, so I think it was counterproductive to introduce this convenient helper in WWMC courses.

    Looks like you watched the holdfast and the batten video:


    from Germany


    I think they’re more in the ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘really need’ category. I’ve not yet encountered a woodworking situation that I couldn’t get around with either my vise or clamps. I must admit that one would have been handy when I was doing a load of fibreglass work last year; it would have helped with the demoulding process.

    Mind you, it probably all comes down the the type of work you’re doing and the bench you use. Paul’s bench has an apron and the benches I’ve seen a holdfast used on tend not to have one. If I had the dosh for a holdfast, I’d spend it on clamps so they could be used across a wider range of tasks.

    Keep Calm and have a Cup of Tea


    I consider my holdfast to be essential. How else do you clamp down a board from the middle of the table whilst allowing you to work unencumbered along its edge? No clamp has a throat that can reach that far.

    The Lie Nielsen holdfast is also excellent value.


    I still use the vice for most workholding situations but holdfasts are very useful where you need to clamp flat to the bench. They can also work well for clamping to the front apron if you put a few 3/4 in holes in it.

    If you are thinking of getting some, this thread might be of interest.

    Gramercy holdfasts 'in the UK'

    Pauls blog entry:

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