Speaking as a man with a self-diagnosed “workbench sickness,” you’d think I’d be goo-goo-eyed over new workbench accessories. But most of the time that’s not the case. I like to design workbenches that require the fewest number of gadgets to make them work.
I think a couple holdfasts and a simple vise (or two) can work wonders when installed correctly.
So when the new Veritas Surface Clamp showed up in the shop, I was a bit suspicious. It works a bit like a hold-down clamp and a bit like the Stanley 203 bench bracket, which has been venerated, hated but never imitated.
The Veritas Surface Clamp is an ingenious device. It allows you to put a holdfast-like clamp anywhere you can bore a 3/4″-diameter hole that is at least 5/8″ deep. That simple trick lets you apply vertical clamping power in places no holdfast, hold-down or F-style clamp could ever go.
For example, if you built a workbench with a complete set of cabinets below the benchtop, that usually prevents you from clamping things to the bench or from employing a holdfast. But the Veritas Surface Clamp works like a champ there.
The trickiness begins in the post that you insert into the hole. The Surface Clamp goes into the hole easily when loosened. Then you turn the brass clamp knob on the top and the two wedge-shaped pieces at the bottom of the post shift until the post is secure. The clamping action works remarkably fast and holds so well I couldn’t pull the device from its hole when it was secured.
Then you swing the arm into position and turn the brass clamp screw to tighten the pressure pad on your work. There is some more cleverness in the design here. The arm moves rapidly up and down the post until you start tightening the clamp screw , then the arm locks. This takes some getting used to , it’s sort of like a Bessey K-body clamp where you have to lift the clamp handle as you advance the clamp screw.
The Surface Clamp is , hands down , one of the coolest workbench accessories I’ve seen since I first used a traditional holdfast. It’s that good.
I do have one minor complaint and a caution. First, the caution: The clamp has a higher profile than the Veritas Hold-Down or a traditional holdfast. So when you have the device secured into the leg of your workbench, you are more likely to run into it. So watch yourself at first.
The complaint is the same one I have with the excellent Veritas Wonder Dog: I wish the thread on the clamping screw advanced faster. It’s a bit slow, I’m a bit impatient or both are true.
But overall, the Surface Clamp (a $59.50 bench accessory available only from Lee Valley Tools) is an extraordinary solution to many clamping problems at the bench and on workshop jigs.