Forging holdfasts

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Blog entry by hungryJ posted 12-03-2019 03:04 AM 611 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

so this all started a long while back when I built my workbench and didn’t do enough homework. not knowing every commercially available bench accessory is made for a 3/4 dog hole I drilled my bench with 1” holes. since I’m cheap and didn’t want to spend money on brass dogs I was just planning to use wood dowels with plywood caps, 1” seemed like it was a sturdy enough dowel for planning stops and whatnot. again, didn’t research. now that I had my bench made up and was looking to get some work holding devices. I found out about holdfasts and realized I had jumped the gun. after a long period of procrastination I got around to picking up some 7/8 steel round bar. left it at my folks place and another while passed until I was visiting with time to kill and fired up my dad’s horseshoe forge to try and make my own holdfasts.

Having never forged a thing in my life, and dad’s experience limited to hot fitting premade horse shoes we figured we had nothing to lose. Like usual I did no research, now I realize you tube is full of videos on how to forge holdfasts. By brother, dad and I looked at an image search and figured we could copy the duck billed, shepherds cane looking variety. so we started heating and hammering and repeating. if you are trying out forging, keep the iron hot. beating on cold iron is tiring, going back to the heat more often for shorter stints of hammering is actually way more productive than long heats and long hammering stints. since I started as a carpenter that needed to learn patience through woodworking, hammering suits me just fine. I would like to expand on the new found interest but I live in town and I think my neighbors would have something to say about me beating on an anvil a stone throw away when they would like a peaceful Saturday. Through the forging process we were playing a guessing game of angles. Since my bench where I would use the holdfasts was a couple hours away from Dad’s forge. we kept holding it against the doorframe to the outside where we could see the shape better than the dim barn and gauge our crook to be a bit under 90 degrees. side note: good to forge in dim lighting to gauge the heat of the steel better, hard to tell the difference between spectrum in full daylight.

once we were done forging we threw them in snowbank to cool down. I took them home and did a bit of clean up with a wire wheel and grinding wheel. they hold very well. I was a bit overzealous with the mallet and split the head in half. Quick re-glue and dowel reinforce. I am still playing around to see what I would change about the design. it doesn’t hold as well as on thicker stock. here are some pictures of the project. appreciate feedback and ideas.

-- just a goon with a hammer.

2 comments so far

View 55woodbutcher's profile


91 posts in 1106 days

#1 posted 12-03-2019 07:18 AM

Nice work! One great thing about less research is you get a LOT less negativity.

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12908 posts in 3731 days

#2 posted 12-03-2019 04:15 PM

Really well done.

I use a dead blow to set them ( I also split a wood mallet!) and I glued a leather pad on to prevent marking my work.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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