Why go beyond the vise? While most workbenches include a vise, it’s not always effective for all hand tool work. Things get even more difficult if you don’t have a good vise, or are working away from your regular workbench.
A variety of work holding methods have evolved over the centuries to help out. Most are very simple yet make the work far more efficient. One of my favorites is shown above, the holdfast. Whether blacksmith-made or using modern materials, it’s extremely simple, but it just works.
It’s tempting to think you have to lock your work down solid to the bench, but that’s often not necessary. You only need to restrain it against the forces applied by a given tool. That allows you to quickly reorient and swap pieces. That’s where you gain efficiency.
In addition to holdfasts and other items fitted to dog holes, there are various styles of stops and bench hooks that take this minimalist approach. And when you need a good vise, you can use a shop-built Moxon portable vise. Here’s a little secret: you can make the Moxon as big or as little as you want. Make two!
If you’d like a concise summary of these methods, including a portable space-age adaptation that turns any flat surface into an improvised workbench, register for my live webinar, “Beyond The Vise: Workholding For Hand Tools” from Popular Woodworking University, November 5 at 8:30pm EST. If you’re unable to be online at that time, you can get a recorded version. You’ll also have email access afterward if you have further questions.
You can also see them in use in various posts on my blog, www.CloseGrain.com. I use them with several different workbenches and improvised workspaces.