English Bench? Swiss? Cheesy? | Popular Woodworking Magazine
 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches

One hole should reinforce the planing stop, as shown. The stop is clamped into the face vise. The hold down supports the end of the stop when working wider panels.

It’s easy to overdo it and drill holdfast holes that you’ll never use in your workbench. Or (even worse) you’ll drill holes in the wrong place, but only by a bit. My recommendation: Start with four holes in your benchtop and ponder any additional holes in your bench like you would a new body piercing.

Here’s the philosophy on the four holes: The first hole is on the end of the bench where my two metal planing stops are (which I don’t cotton to) and is 6″ in from the back edge of the workbench. This hole does a lot of things, but its most important job is reinforcing a shop-made planing stop that clamps into your leg vise. To drill the hole, position your stop in your vise so it is clamped where you want it. Then drill a hole that is tangent to the stop and 6″ from the back edge of the bench. My Veritas Hold Downs use a Ã?¾”-diameter hole. Check your holdfasts before boring.

The remainder of the holes are based on the reach of the holdfast. You want your holdfasts to reach all along the back edge of your bench with no dead spots. This allows you to clamp battens down anywhere along the back edge of the bench, which will support your work from the side.

The Veritas Hold Down has a reach of about 9″, so I subtracted a bit from that reach and drilled my holes on 16″ centers. All of the holes are 6″ in from the back edge of the benchtop.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 7 comments
  • Art Root

    Your planning stop looks to be about 8" wide. Any particular reason for that width? A 4" stop would allow more room on my shorter style bench.

    p.s. It was a pleasure meeting you in December a the Lie-Nielson show. Great venue. Bought your Course, Medium and Fine DVD. It really has helped me. I’ve started the Shaker cabinet that accompanied the disc.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    The Veritas Hold-downs will definitely work. They work almost anywhere. Blacksmith-made ones are more idiosyncratic, so I couldn’t say. Also, a softwood top is more problematic for holdfasts than a maple top.

    Your safest bet is with the Veritas.

  • Will Highfield

    My benchtop is 1-1/2" thick cvg douglas fir. Do you think holdfasts will work in a top this thin?

  • Karl Rookey

    One strategy is to only drill holes when you need them. With the round dogs and holdfasts, there’s really not much reason to pre-place them. My current bench is a project table of two sheet 1/2" ply on a layer of 2 x 6. Whenever I need a hole, I just drill it in. So far, only 5 holes and they all work for either dog or holdfast.

  • Mike Wenzloff

    I agree [I think]. I only have two 3/4" dog holes in my current bench and rely more on planing stops than holdfasts [though they get use also.

    I do have 3 other holes [one 3/4" and two 3/8"] about mid-bench, a little towards the front edge I use to anchor a small Marples miter box.

    My previous bench suffered from too many unused dog holes. When I build my next narrower bench, it too will have few holes.

    Take care, Mike

  • Paul Von Gruenigen

    Really enjoy reading your blog and also getting the magazine. I’d like to see a drawing on the layout for this system of hole placement. My current benchtop is like cheese and I don’t want to make the same mistakes on the next!
    Paul Von Gruenigen

  • Eric Paisley

    …"ponder any additional holes in your bench like you would a new body piercing."

    Now, that makes total sense to me. I snagged one of those German Ulma benches from Garrett Wade back when they had bought out a few of the remaining stock. I planned out where my hold-fast holes would go for neigh on 6 months. I believe it actually kept me awake at least one (maybe two) nights.


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