Workholding #1: New Leigh hold-down clamps: Workholding made easy

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Blog entry by Al Navas posted 12-08-2008 02:48 PM 6582 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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From my blog:

Christopher Schwarz made a terrific presentation at the Berea Hand Tool Conference in November: Forgotten Workbenches and Workholding.

During his presentation Chris covered workholding (it will appear in the videos for Parts 2 and 3 on this blog). As a result of this presentation, I started doing some serious thinking about my European style workbench, and how I could improve clamping of work pieces when hand cutting dovetails, clamping jigs in place, etc.

The existing setup was slow and cumbersome:

One option was to use holdfasts; but this meant drilling holes through the 3-1/2-inch thick bench top. And during The Schwarz’s presentation, a little light went on in my brain. I remembered Leigh Industries had announced a new product not long before the conference in Berea: Their hold-down clamps, available in two models. The capacity of the clamps is 3 inches, good for most work we normally do at the bench.

You can read a terrific review of these clamps by Dean Bielanowski, at I am not writing this to do another review; but rather, to share some uses I quickly found for these new clamps since I received them, 20 hours ago. In my opinion, these clamps solve many workholding problems at the workbench; they are terrific! Well, I did manage to include a quick review.

The two versions of the hold-down clamps:

Bench mount: This version allows use of existing bench dog holes and, therefore, would allow use close to the front edge of the bench. The bench mount is a quick, easy way to hold down even small work pieces:

A huge plus: The bench mount version is also used on the drill press! I have not tried it, but will dedicate one as soon as another clamp arrives.

Surface mount: The surface hold-down clamp provides another way of cutting dovetails at the bench:

Sometimes, clamping jigs can be cumbersome; it depends on the style of the workbench. My European-style bench, with the bank of cabinets below the stretcher under the top slab, created a challenge to use clamps. But holding down the FMT is no longer a challenge:

1. On the left side, the bench clamp:

2. And on the right, the surface mount clamp:

3. The FMT with both sides clamped – easy:

I now envision installing several anchors, to hold surface mount clamps along the front face of the bench. Think crochet (pronounced crow-shay) the easy way; but now you can have one crochet on the left, and one on the right-hand side. Great for edge-jointing, and a terrific way to hold a board on edge on the front face of the bench, in addition to using the face vise. I invite you to read several references to the crochet and its use in workbenches at the Woodworking Magazine blog.

I will not sell my D4: I have been asked several times if I want to sell my Leigh D4 dovetail jig, since I am improving my skill at hand-cutting dovetails. My reply is still that I cannot, and will not sell the D4; it is my workhorse when I make multiple drawers and large dovetails carcases. I am reserving hand-cutting dovetails for very small drawers, impossible to cut with the D4.

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

2 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3895 days

#1 posted 12-08-2008 03:51 PM

Thanks Al this was very informative. I’ve been working on hand cutting dovetaiils and my bench vise just does not do a good job – it’s a cheapy. I made my own vise that I have to clamp to the bench and it works, but it’s cumbersome. I’m going to have to look into these – they just might be the ticket for me.

Thanks for the post.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 3874 days

#2 posted 12-08-2008 06:52 PM

You are welcome, Betsy!

And the best part about it is that you may just be able to use them on your workbench!!! Please let us know if, or when, you make a decision, as it will be quite interesting to learn how you like them.

The front vise on my bench has screws under it, which prevent clamping of long, wide boards vertically, such as when hand-cutting dovetails.

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

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