How to Make a Holdfast

Making a viable holdfast could not be any easier. This started out as a simple experiment, mainly because I know that holdfasts are traditionally made from wrought iron. I’m not sure other materials will work well. In keeping with a personal tradition that I’ve started I’m wanting to keep my tools very utilitarian. They are going to be used/beat on, dropped, and whatever other type of abuses most tools see that get used on a regular basis.

The first step was to figure out what material to make them out of. The way a hold fast works is, you set your work under the business end, and put the shaft through a dog hole in your bench. Then you simply hit the top of it with a hammer down toward your bench. This action causes the holdfast to flex, and wedge itself into the dog hole. The material will need to be somewhat flexible. I also know that several of the cheap cast versions have a tendency to break over time. That isn’t really surprising considering cast isn’t very flexible. I’ve turned to mild steel round bar stock, I think it will be flexible with out being brittle. My dog holes are 3/4″, so I purchased my bar stock 3/4″. photo-feb-04-8-00-19-am

The tool requirements for this build are not likely going to be in your average home wood shop. I happen to have access to an acetylene torch, and that is what I’ll be using to make my bends.   I locked my bar stock in a vice side by side and started heating.

The bending tool is also a specialty. You can’t just go out and buy quality like that.

Here is where I kind of screwed up. Holdfast historically have a long sweeping bend (at least the ones in most of the books that I have had). I decided to make two bends, the first would be 90 deg, and the second would finish off the bend at slightly below a right angle. I should have made the first bend around 45deg, then finished at slightly below a right angle. I think the action of the tool would be better if I had done that.


At this point I’ve finished my bends, I gently locked the head of the torch in the vice. I heated the end of the tool, that would eventually contact the work, and hammered it flat. I didn’t spent much time on the fit and finish. I did do some grinding mainly to make sure that there weren’t and edges that would penetrate into the work.

There they are. They turned our way better than expected. I’m pretty sure I would pull my bench off the wall before I would get the work out from under them. I need to do a bit more grinding/clean up, however this is the basic finished product.

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2 comments on “How to Make a Holdfast
  1. Last year we forged some holdfasts. Very satisfying. I do not know how much storage you have, but a old wheel forge or the like can be a very great deal of fun.

    • Brian says:

      I am fighting the urge to start blacksmithing. I’ve been quietly gathering tools though. It’s only a matter of time before I end up with a forge.

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