One of the important parts of my book on Roman workbenches concerns holdfasts. Likely a Roman invention, the origin of the holdfast and its early form remains a bit of a mystery.
Modern sources, such as Roger Ulrich’s “Roman Woodworking,” don’t shed much light on the tool. Instead these sources focus on what the Romans built more than the tools and processes used.
So Suzanne Ellison and I have turned to looking at Roman gravestones and monuments – hundreds and hundreds of them – to find clues about the Roman workbench and its workholding equipment.
We’d both dug up some drawings from this source – which is about 1,700 pages all told. Including one that looked like a holdfast. Probably.
But you have to be a little skeptical when you are looking at an old drawing of an even older monument that had been decaying for 1,500 years.
Then Suzanne found it. A photo (above) of the monument that clearly shows the holdfast with a curled-under proboscis – Suzanne calls it “the curlyfast.” (Shown is An altar to Minerva in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, erected by a ‘College of Fabri’ and dated 31 BC.)
Would this device work on the bench? If I were on an Internet discussion forum, on pain pills and in a particularly crotchety mood, I’d say: No way. And I’d make up some claptrap about the spring action of the curled-under front would resist the tensioning forces exerted by the shaft vis-a-vis. The point is moot. Lorum ipsum dolor.
But the truth is we don’t know. No, Gary, not even you know.
So I sent an email to blacksmith Peter Ross today….
The following topics of discussion are generating a lot of discussion over at the Lost Art Press forum. Remember, if you have a question about our products, procedures in our books or anything related to Lost Art Press, the fastest way to get an answer is our forum. Check it out here.
Wooden Layout Square – Looking for Info Steve Swantee had a photo of a large square he was curious to identify. Turns out it is the large square from “Book of Plates.” Want to see what it looks like finished?
Waterstone Recommendation? Martin Jones is looking to switch from oil stones to water stones and asked for some feedback. He has had a lot of info thrown back his way regarding products and technique. If you want to add to the mix or just see what others are doing, here’s the thread.
Knockdown Nicholson Bench Ouida Vincent built this bench from Popular Woodworking Magazine in the fall and it turns out a few others did and still are. Questions are still being asked about the process. Thinking of building one?
Drawbored AND Wedged Brian Clites is asked about the advantages and disadvantages of drawboring and wedging a joint. Was it done historically? Readers dug up a trestle table where Christopher Schwarz did just that. (see above) Other participants are looking for specific instructions on how to wedge a joint. Got any suggestions?