Woodworking meets Blacksmithing

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Project by BTKS posted 02-22-2011 05:28 AM 4656 views 6 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I finally got to mix woodworking and blacksmithing. My brother in law wanted some holdfasts. Turns out I was interested in them after seeing a few used by Roy Underhill on the Woodwrights Shop. I did a little more research. Popular Woodworking had an article The Mystery of Holdfasts, Sep 1, 2005. None of the research would give the needed dimensions. I guessed and chose cold rold steel, 11/16 in dia for use in 3/4 in holes. I went with cold rold hoping it would have more spring action. My BIL’s table top is 2 1/4in thick. I got lucky and all three holdfasts work wonderfully. The flat holdfast with the low profile is a little more difficult to remove but holds the same as the crooked pair.
The circus like mallet is for setting and removing them. I didn’t want to damage the holdfasts or mess up any hammer faces, mainly the hammers!!!!! The mallet is honey locust head, ash handle and attached with a 1 / 7 through dovetail. The wood was pulled out of the firewood pile and in about an hour it was a mallet. The first glue up failed but followed up with gorilla glue and seems okay.
The process for making the holdfasts started with drawing, flattening and setting a rough angle on the pad. The crooked fasts were turned around a pipe with the pipe and rod clamped in a steel bench vise. I quenched the crook then tested. I clamped the test holes, see photo two, to the side of the steel bench reheated the pad and set the final angle with the fast set firmly in the test holes. I decorated the pads with some cross peening then filed the tips to a rounded finish. I decorated with a little cross peening, scuffed the shafts with 120 grit and called it good. Turns out the cold rold is more expensive but I think it was a good gamble.
Turns out, I’m keeping these and the BIL will get to help make his own.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

19 comments so far

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 3220 days

#1 posted 02-22-2011 05:36 AM

Sweet! So is your way cheaper than buying them? I’ve seen where some will attach a small piece of leather to the hold fast so that it doesn’t mar the wood.

Great job.

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3430 days

#2 posted 02-22-2011 05:53 AM

ChunkyC: glad you mentioned the leather. I forgot to say, I’ll either make a boot to put over the pad or gorilla glue the leather to it. I beat the life out of em like they are on a piece the piece of ash in the photos. I couldn’t see any marks but it is rough sawn. I eased all the edges on the pad. Seems to work okay, but I’ll definitely pull out some leather, even if it means just putting it between the pad and wood.
I don’t know how much of my dad’s oxygen and acetylene I used so I don’t know how much that cost. The material needs to be purchased in 20 foot sticks to avoid cut charges. A 10 foot piece with a cut charge is about the same as buying a 20 footer. I can get 12 holdfasts out of 20 feet. Comes out to 3 or 4 dollars in steel. I’ve got all the hammers and clamps I need for project. Overall, much cheaper than buying or hiring them made. Some hand forged, wrought iron ones go for as much as $100.00 per pair. Those are made by someone who really knows what they are doing instead of an amature like me.
Thanks for looking and posting the question.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View againstthegrain's profile


117 posts in 3718 days

#3 posted 02-22-2011 06:05 AM

OK, As I DREAM about building my Roubo, NOW I am drooling over your holdfasts!! Very nicely done!! Wondering if I can fit blacksmithing tools in the shop with all the wood tools. Do you think they would all play nice? I do, but the wife might kill me if I expand the tool addiction :))

-- Anchul - Warrensburg, MO: As a Pastor, I am just trying to get closer to Jesus. He was a woodworker too.

View jack1's profile


2103 posts in 3993 days

#4 posted 02-22-2011 06:14 AM

Nice work you can use. You’ll have these for years and years!

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3430 days

#5 posted 02-22-2011 06:22 AM

Thanks Jack. This was a fun project, both the wood and the metal.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View dubsaloon's profile


621 posts in 2760 days

#6 posted 02-22-2011 06:40 AM

That is worthy of our thanks. They look simple enough. Nice project.

-- The works of evil people are not the problem. It is the "Good" people standing by and watching not speaking up. Dubsaloon

View steliart's profile


2595 posts in 2654 days

#7 posted 02-22-2011 08:52 AM

cool hold fasts there…!!!

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2854 days

#8 posted 02-22-2011 12:19 PM

Too bad you don’t have access to a forge. Coal is cheaper than acetyline and O2.

Nice job though. How do you like going back to the old way of holding stuff down versus the “modern” way with things that involve knobs and screw threads? A lot of the time, older is better!

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3753 days

#9 posted 02-22-2011 04:20 PM

So you made some tools, then made a tool to use on those tool that you made. Sweet. You could sell these if you wanted.

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3430 days

#10 posted 02-22-2011 04:26 PM

Big Tiny, I really enjoy goin back to the old ways when I can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up my power tools anytime soon! I actually have a forge. It’s my grandfather’s along with the old hand cranked blower. It’s pretty big, about 3 feet across just for the pan then the blower stands off to the side of that. Without making a huge hood and chimney system I would have to have it outside, etc, etc. I do plan on setting up a forge of some kind at the shop.
I like using the holdfasts. They are quick and versatile but I can’t decide where to put the bench holes. It’s going to be tough to punch a bunch of holes through my top. I was surprised, with my hardboard top being fairly slick, they hold amazingly well. The best hold is in line away from to toward the shaft. They will rotate with harsh lateral forces but no worse than most clamps. Two together work great!

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2832 days

#11 posted 02-22-2011 06:28 PM

These turned out great and will be very useful to you.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2906 days

#12 posted 02-22-2011 10:13 PM

Great stuff! I’ve been wanting to make some for years…it is somewhere on my to do list while I struggle along with clamps and bits of wood!
The steel you used is ordinary cold rolled mild steel right? You are inspiring me to move holdfasts way up on my list!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3430 days

#13 posted 02-23-2011 07:00 AM

Div: Yes, 11/16in diameter, cold rold common or mild steel. These were made especially for 3/4 in dia bench holes. If you already have holes, I would just size slightly smaller. I think I spent about 10 or 15 minutes on each one. That included cutting to length. Would have taken longer on a forge fire.
Hope this helps, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View wilterbeast's profile


44 posts in 2615 days

#14 posted 02-24-2011 06:32 AM

Nice looking hold downs, I’m fortunate to have a brother that really an awesome blacksmith, i can’t get him to do crap for me but he’s always at the end of my phone to answer my questions!

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2918 days

#15 posted 10-13-2011 12:07 AM

Yep, very nice….I am envious. I always fancied myself as a blacksmith, maybe in a former life I was! The weekend before last, my wife and I toured a blacksmith shop dated to the early 1800s. I love that stuff. Yours is some nice work, Bravo!!!

For padding on the foot of the holdfast: I found these 3/16” – 1/4” felt pads at a home improvement store, the ones you would use to put under a table leg for use on a tiled or hardwood floor to prevent the legs from dinging them up. They are adhesive backed and seem to be very durable. I have had my holdfats padded with these for the last two plus years and not once have they slipped or come off. And they were easy to install.

-- Mike

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