Truth be told, I’m happy if you drill an array of 1” holdfast holes on 3/4” centers on your workbench, but I get asked a lot about where my holes are.
So here is my theoretical theory on this.
I bore eight holdfast holes that help me deal with common sawing, planing and mortising chores. Each hole has a particular job to do. Now, I’m no Joel Moskowitz, but I did my best to sketch out the holes in the drawing above (click on it and it will expand).
1. A Hole for a Bench Hook and Mortising
The first hole I bore is 7-1/2” from the front edge of the benchtop and a few inches forward of the face vise. This hole has two jobs. It allows me to hold my work down with a bench hook, which is of a fairly standard size. The key thing is that this hole should be behind the fence of your bench hook. Otherwise, it is fairly useless.
The hole is also handy for mortising. It is close to the front leg so I can mortise on top of the workbench’s leg and hold the work down with the holdfast.
2. A Hole for a Shooting Board
Likewise, I bore a hole that is 15” from the front edge of the benchtop and a few inches forward of hole No. 1. I use this hole to hold work down on my shooting board when I am trying to take that all-critical final pass (for most work on a shooting board I use my off-hand to hold the work).
I usually use the holdfast to hold the shooting board down to the bench when it’s not being used on the final pass.
3. The Hole for Planing Panels
Then I bore a series of holes along the back edge of the benchtop – 3-1/2” from the rear edge is good. Where to locate the first hole? It should be behind your planing stop so you can clamp down a batten to plane up panels. For me, that put the hole 3” from the end of the bench.
4. The Back Row of 5 Holes
From hole No. 3, I measure 15” and put a row of holes on 15” centers down the length of the benchtop. These holes are used with battens for traversing panels. I use them constantly.
With some benches, I add a few more holes in the top, but I usually wait until I absolutely need a particular hole in a particular place for a particular reason.
— Christopher Schwarz