One blow of a mallet

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Blog entry by Chris Campbell posted 04-23-2012 11:47 AM 8951 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

turned this:

into this:

a close-up of the damage:

So, I really like using the iron hold-down clamps that go into dog holes on my workbench. I almost always tap them in a few times to get a good hold.

This time, however, I got lazy. I was holding down a piece of wood on the workbench to cut, and put this in the dog hole. I decided to, instead of my usual practice, just give it one good solid smack to set it.

It quietly and neatly snapped right in two!

Is this something other people have experienced? I am using the Rockler brand hold-down clamps. I do like using them, and would like to continue (which I will, for a while anyway – I have one more).

Are there other brands that might not have this problem? I certainly plan on not hitting them that hard in the future, but it seems like that’s kind of what they were designed to do, and I would hate to have to buy news every couple of months just because they tend to snap.

If that is the case, I will use something else, but, like I said, I really do like using them.

Insights and advice are always appreciated.

-- Chris, Minneapolis

20 comments so far

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2777 days

#1 posted 04-23-2012 12:00 PM

HHmm, looks like cast iron. I thought bench hold downs were made from rod ?
seems Rockler has a different aproach. I think you’ll find others, likely more expensive, are made from
tougher material.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3231 days

#2 posted 04-23-2012 12:13 PM

Yes, it’s an extremely common issue and has been for a while.

I have not used them myself (still need to build a real bench) but I did read Scharwz’s book and have read up on the subject elsewhere. Gramercy's tools (not the only place you can buy them) have a good rep, so you might want to try those.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2651 days

#3 posted 04-23-2012 12:36 PM

I second the Grammercy option as a good replacement choice…I have two and I beat the snot out of them, no problems yet.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3431 days

#4 posted 04-23-2012 12:55 PM

Cast iron is not as good material to use for this type of application because it is too brittle to survive heavy pounding. A better choice is forged steel, which I believe the Gramarcy ones are.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View rustfever's profile


752 posts in 3306 days

#5 posted 04-23-2012 01:45 PM

Just checked on the rockler site. Price of their cast iron HD is $12.79. The reach is 4.5”

When I went to Gramercy site. Their forgesdHD is $17.95 and has a 7.5” reach.

Rockler’s product is deffinetly much higher in real cost than the Gramery’s higher priced item.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15348 posts in 2615 days

#6 posted 04-23-2012 02:12 PM

I have used (and severely beat up on) a pair of Jorgensen hold downs for almost three years without issue, FWIW…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View dbhost's profile


5710 posts in 3228 days

#7 posted 04-23-2012 02:16 PM

I have written reviews on these holdfasts in several places, they are complete and utter junk…

I want a few of thsoe Grammercy holdfasts instead… Rockler should be embarassed to offer such a poor product.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3170 days

#8 posted 04-23-2012 02:31 PM

You are a large, powerful, formidable man, and I want you nowhere near my hand tools ;-)

-- -- Neil

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2994 days

#9 posted 04-23-2012 03:16 PM

The cast ones may last forever. They also might break with the first whack (or any thereafter). Cast iron is brittle.

I have some cast ones and some of the Grammercy holdfasts. I prefer the ones from Grammercy but I have never broken one of the cast ones. I think I paid $5 or so for the cast ones.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3148 days

#10 posted 04-23-2012 04:15 PM

Cast iron is the wrong thing to make holdfasts out of, it isnt springy. Check out the Gramercy ones from Tools for working wood. Cheap and good.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#11 posted 04-23-2012 05:55 PM

Woodcraft sells the same cast junk as well. I have a couple.

Next ones will either be a brand name with a warranty or forged steel.

For what it’s worth, temperature can have a very profound effect on the breaking strength of cast iron.
Was it cold in your shop when that one broke?

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#12 posted 04-23-2012 07:04 PM

That don’t even look like cast iron to me…..more like pot metal, which is about the sorriest metal there is…
But what do you expect from products that are made in China….they use a lot of pot metal in the junk they make…..I had 2 Grizzly machines that were made out of pot metal, and they both broke parts made out of this crap…..that’s one reason I don’t buy anything from Grizzly….it leaves a bad taste in your piehole…..

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2948 days

#13 posted 04-23-2012 07:47 PM

Another vote for the Gramercy holdfasts. For the price they can’t be beat!

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2651 days

#14 posted 04-23-2012 08:53 PM

^Brandon…I belive the reoccurring theme here is that they can be beat….a lot.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3105 days

#15 posted 04-23-2012 11:24 PM

Gramercy holdfasts are a different approach. I bought two and love them. They are neither forged nor cast. They wanted to mass produce but cast holdfasts are a poor approach because casting is not meant for products that are stressed in this manner. Holdfasts are supposed to be designed to flex. So instead of casting, they formed wire, (think wire used on extension bridges). They are solid, but they can take the stress of flexing to the mallet. They won’t break, they work well, and they are fairly inexpensive. There is a shipping fee so I would buy two at minimum to distribute the cost.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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