Gramercy - Holdfast (Rating: 5)

When I made the move to replace my junk bench with an actual woodworking bench, one of the first things I wanted, accessory wise, was a pair of holdfasts. For the uninitiated, holdfasts are an ancient method for holding a work piece to a bench. The construction is simple, a metal bar with a hook on it that uses compression to hold a work piece to the bench. You tap the bar in a dog hole, the bar will flex in the dog hole like a compression spring and the piece is secure. The picture tells the tale.

Note - picture is from the vendor website

What makes the Gramercy ones so special?

Holdfasts were/are typically made by blacksmiths who forge the metal. The reason for this is because of the compression I just described. The metal has to have give or flex a little, otherwise the workpiece will not be secure. If you do not have this flex, then you might as well set a barbell on whatever you are working on. It may not look pretty, but it would at least be held down. Forging doesn't work well for mass production. As an alternative, some companies have created die cast versions of these. The problem is that cast metals are not designed to flex. If the force is sufficient to make them try, they will break. If they do not break, they do not flex, and the compression is absent so the holdfast does nothing more than sit on the piece.

The folks at Gramercy tools came up with a brilliant idea. They made the holdfasts out of wire. When I say wire, think of very thick wire (or maybe cable) that would hold a suspension bridge. The piece can be formed, will not bend from normal human strength, but will flex with the proper pound of a mallet to get that proper resistance which keeps your project very secure.

I use these a great deal. When planing, I use them to secure boards as planing blocks so my boards don't go flying off the bench. If I need to chop a mortise or route an edge, they hold the piece securely. I am not sure about the cost for forged holdfasts, but I am sure the 50 bucks I paid for a pair (including shipping) is far more reasonable a cost.

I really have to give these folks credit. I watch many tool companies rehash an unsound manufacturing practice because they do not understand the physical nature of the tool itself. I cannot praise the manufacturer enough for understanding the nature of this tool and utilizing a whole different concept of material to make this a mass production possibility.