When I was designing (i.e. ripping off the plans from a deceased German tool merchant) my Holtzapffel Workbench, my intention was to have the screws of the face vise in perfect alignment with the holdfast hole in the bench’s right leg.
My plan was thus: I could put a huge George Nakashima-style plank in the twin-screw vise and it would come to rest on the shaft of a holdfast stuck in the right leg.
I bet Charles Holtzapffel wished he’d thought of that, I muttered as I drafted this up.
Months passed; I built the bench. And I really mucked that detail up. As built, the holdfast hole in the right leg isn’t lined up with the top edge of the vise screws. Far from it. That hole is about 2” from being in the same plane.
When I first realized the error, I beat myself up pretty badly (no bag of oranges was harmed during the self-flagellation). But before I started going all “prairie dog” on the bench and drilling holes everywhere, I decided to take my own bitter advice: Try it before you burn it.
Here is the huge surprise about twin-screw vises (you ready?). They are monsters, with almost unlimited clamping power. Several months ago, as we were preparing to film a short video about the bench, I bragged that I could clamp an 8’-long board on edge in the twin-screw vise and plane its edge and it would be rock solid.
Eyebrows were raised. Uncomfortable coughs were emitted. Senior Editor Bob Lang, I think, pantomimed that I had been drinking alcohol.
So I went to the wood rack to get me a 1 x 12 x 8’ hunk of something. We didn’t have any 8-footers. The only 1 x 12 stock we had was 10’ long. Yikes. Suddenly I wished I’d had been drinking in order to increase my courage/foolhardiness. A 10’-long board is 4’ longer than the bench itself.
But you know what? The twin-screw vise held it without complaint. So the support in the right leg isn’t really needed. But if you do want to modify your plans to match my original plans, shift all the dog holes in the right leg up 2”. That will do the trick.
Photo credit: Katy, my 6-year-old daughter, took these photos today while I was working on a cursed Chinese plywood bookcase. As you can clearly see from this photo, I still don’t have a butt.
— Christopher Schwarz
10 thoughts on “An Unnecessary Upgrade to the Holtzapffel”
So here’s the big question then…
Somewhere in the book, you state plainly that if you lost everything else you owned, you would keep the Roubo bench.
After a few months, how does the Holtzappfel compare?
I’ve been using the Holtzapffel at home since March 2007. The Roubo stays at work. I like the lines and the size of the Roubo better. I like the twin-screw and quick-release end vise on the Holtzapffel.
It’s a bit of a wash, really. And I’m glad I don’t have to choose.
So maybe I should make a Roubo-style bench with a big twin-screw (like the Dominy bench).
Good information on the Holtzapffel bench. I may start on my bench this next weekend. I’m glad I settled on the large twin-screw vice, very impressive.
Your writeup also made me laugh. There aren’t too many woodworkers/guys that will comment on their butts.
Oops, and my humor is unintentional. I meant vise :).
Have you used the sliding deadman at all? I know you’ve made provisions for it…
Nope. There’s no need for it. The twin-screw and holdfast holes are all I need.
Interesting, so that supposed that the holding power of the twin screws, negate the use of extra support (deadman) for shorther boards and those long enough can benefit from the holdfast in the leg. Cool, that simplify bench construction even more 🙂
Ever since I read your book cover to cover (twice) I cannot look at a workbench plans, in magazines, books and on line, without finding faults to it. Top too thin, too wide, whimpy undercariage, vise face not flush, top not flush with undercarriage etc…
Am I ever glad I read this book! Now my only decision is Roubo or Holtzapffel, decision decisions…
Really, the hold-down shown in the photos is not needed. I put it there just to show clearly the 2" gap. The twin screw has all the holding power you need.
The hold-down does do one thing: It allows me to write off the its cost at tax time (just kidding). Actually, it keeps the awful and bowed Chinese plywood from flopping around as I plane the edging. So the hold-down isn’t critical, but it does help.
The fact that your 6-year old took the photo explains the headless, butt-level angle of the camera. I’d have been a little worried if you’d said one of your coworkers took the picture. ;o)
Knowing what wood your benchtop is made of, I’d have to say the picture shows a nice piece of ash.
Comments are closed.