Because holdfasts are the primary workholding device on my French oak workbench, I am quick to investigate things when the holdfasts stop working well.
This week I noticed my holdfasts were getting stuck in their holes. They were difficult to get in and out. After a little investigating I found two things had gone wrong.
As the thick slab continued to dry, the holdfast holes had distorted enough to create an interference fit with the shaft of the holdfast. The distortion isn’t something you could see, but you could definitely feel it when you pushed the holdfast into its hole.
Second, the end of one of my holdfasts was a few thou too big for the holes. How did this happen? Easy. When the holdfast holes started to distort and the holdfast began to stick, the only way to release the holdfast was to strike it from below the benchtop with a metal hammer.
Surprisingly, this hammering upset the end of the holdfast and caused it to swell at the end of the shaft. And it was enough to make the holdfast even more difficult to insert and remove.
At this point in the blog entry I should insert a few proctology jokes. And something about a swollen shaft. But I’m feeling too classy this morning to go to that dark place.
To remedy my distorted holes and swollen shaft, I turned to two electric tools: A corded drill and a grinder. I put a 1”-diameter Wood Owl Nailchipper bit into the drill and reamed the holes. One of the holes – the most distorted one – gave up a spider web and two mummified houseflies.
Then I dressed the end of the holdfast on the grinder until everything worked well. The shaft dropped smoothly into every hole and the holdfast returned to its normal grabby self.
— Christopher Schwarz
Note: The shaft of my vintage holdfast was made so its shaft is the same diameter along its entire length. Not all vintage (or new) holdfasts are like this. Some taper along their shaft. This makes them immune to the above problems, but I don’t find they are as easy to set.