Gramercy Holdfast works well after tuning

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Review by ic3ss posted 04-26-2015 11:42 PM 6039 views 5 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Gramercy Holdfast works well after tuning Gramercy Holdfast works well after tuning Gramercy Holdfast works well after tuning Click the pictures to enlarge them

I recently completed my Roubo bench and a set of holdfasts were the last item. Between the hand forged really nice and expensive ones and the cast iron made in china break on the first use cheap ones, there were these. They are not cast, so they have flexibility to not break under normal use. The cheap ones at woodcraft and rocker are cast, and they will break because they are cast.

Nor are they hand wrought by a blacksmith. These are the best ones because they have the texture on the shank to hold among the best and they have the flexibility to not break. And they are a beauty to behold.

Then there are the ones from Veritas that have a barbed shank. These hold the best from what I’ve read, maybe too well. The barbs, I’m told, will tear up the dog hole eventually. Can anyone confirm this?

These are a great compromise. They are made from round steel stock, heated and bent to shape. As cold rolled steel, the flexibility is inherent and there is no way these will break. And at $35 plus $11 shipping for two holdfasts, I don’t think they can be beat for value. They’re not the best thing to look at, but I can live with that if they work well. It’s a tool after all.

The one area that they are lacking in is texture. On the shank it is smooth and that’s fine in thinner wood where it can still grip well. But on my 3 3/4” thick bench top, they can’t get the angle they need to wedge tightly, so even with beating on them hard they won’t hold. I back drilled the bottom of the first hole almost a half inch, put a bevel on the top of the hole and it still wouldn’t hold. It just wouldn’t grab. I had read on the website they say to scuff up the shank with rough sandpaper. I used some 100 grit paper going around the shank, not up and down. I took the first one and gave it a good smack with my lightweight mallet and it stuck right in and held. That’s all it took, so I drilled the rest of my dog holes and didn’t back drill any of them and they all held perfectly.

Made in USA is a big selling point with me, these come from Brooklyn, NY.

Scuff marks around the shank.

Holdfasts in their homes.

So that’s the trick to get these to work on a thick top. Put a 100 grit patch on the shank and spin it around in it to scuff it up a bit, do not go lengthwise, it will just slip out. So this is really my only gripe, it would be nice if they were textured already. I was also thinking about putting a finish on them, maybe blueing or parkerizing them to keep the rust off. My shop is the garage after all.

Not much more to say, they hold really well once tuned up, I put them on a piece of walnut and was trying to lift the holdfasts up, and if I was strong enough to lift my bench, it would have come off the floor. But it weighs over 300lbs and I don’t need a back injury, but they held well. I also wasn’t able to move the board at all, it was stuck down. So for a simple tool that does a simple job they work very well, 4 stars.

If you’re looking for holdfasts, I recommend these. Have a great day and thanks for reading.


-- "I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins."

View ic3ss's profile


389 posts in 2707 days

13 comments so far

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1106 days

#1 posted 04-26-2015 11:46 PM

Thanks for the review. A pair of these are on my list.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Andre's profile


1723 posts in 1736 days

#2 posted 04-27-2015 02:31 AM

Bought a set of these last year but really didn’t get to test them out much yet, old bench very flimsy small beech thing that will be replaced in the very near future, anyways when I did put them on the bench they seemed to hold just fine.
Thanks for the tip, know what to watch for if they start to slip.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View lumberjoe's profile


2894 posts in 2178 days

#3 posted 04-27-2015 02:57 AM

I used 80 grit on mine, but went really light. They hold a little too good now


View BigMig's profile


423 posts in 2543 days

#4 posted 04-27-2015 12:38 PM

I guess ny top is thin enough that tehy didn’t need roughing up – I think it’s 2.25” thick. I love these holdfasts

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1610 days

#5 posted 04-27-2015 02:11 PM

I have a 3 1/2” top and they hold well but I think the size of the hole and the material of the bench makes a difference here to. One other thing you can do if you can’t get them to grip well is use a larger size bit to drill the dog hole a little larger on the bottom of the bench a 1/2” to 1” deep.

I have used the hand forged ones before side by side with the Gramercy ones. The hand forged ones have a character to them that is hard to beat and your supporting local artisans but practically I couldn’t see a difference between how the two operate.

View Dedvw's profile


174 posts in 2811 days

#6 posted 04-27-2015 11:37 PM

2.25” thick might be the sweet spot for these holdfasts. They have awesome gripping power on my bench (2.25”) after scuffing them with 80 grit. Not only are these things indestructible, they are also rust resistant. I had them in my wet shop for two years before they started to show signs of surface rust.

Highly recommended and I’d give them 5 stars if I were to give them a review on here.

View CharlesA's profile


3309 posts in 1728 days

#7 posted 04-28-2015 12:59 AM

I replace my cast ones with these a few weeks ago. I use then in a 3-3 1/2” benchtop, and they have worked just fine for me without any tuning. I have been using a 2” block between the stock and the holdfast (b/c it was handy) and it still holds with no problem at all.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Arcola60's profile


94 posts in 2314 days

#8 posted 04-28-2015 03:31 AM

Thanks for the review. Those are the ones that I decided to get. I have not purchased them yet, but that just sealed the deal for me.

Ellery Becnel

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2883 days

#9 posted 04-28-2015 04:13 PM

I have these holdfasts. While there are certainly more exotic and antique items available, I would rate these as a “best buy” item. They do what holdfasts are supposed to do – at a very reasonable price.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Douglas's profile


424 posts in 2490 days

#10 posted 05-04-2015 11:12 PM

I added dimples to mine with a punch. That made they grip better than anything. I got they idea from this post/video… ... by Richard at the English Woodworker/

-- Douglas in Chicago -

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2513 days

#11 posted 05-07-2015 06:01 PM

Just bought them for my bench which has a 5 1/4” white oak top. They work without a hitch.

View Ocelot's profile


1899 posts in 2568 days

#12 posted 05-07-2015 07:05 PM

I bought two pair of these but haven’t had a chance yet to use them yet. Comes out to $24 each with shipping, but I figure they should last 1000 years, so cost per year is very low! :-)


View hhhopks's profile


650 posts in 2307 days

#13 posted 05-13-2015 12:52 AM

Has anyone actually put a finish on the holdfast? My concern is that it may reduce the holding power.
You may end up have to rough it up again.

I know it is true on the bench side. I accidentally got finish into some of the holes when applying a finish to my workbench. I had to sand/rough up the holes to get the holdfasts to work right.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

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