Monday, February 18, 2013

Seven Years in Debate

According to my memory, "not long ago" I invested in a Veritas Hold Down and, after a suitable interval for angsting over it, I bored one (one) hole in the bench to take it.

And it was good.

Heck, it still is good. The well-memoried will recall it earned particular admiration as my trusty assistant in the Emmert vice (or vise) fitting Saga. Of course, after that wholesale destruction, boring holes in the bench was, in comparison, such a non-event as to be barely worth a mention. But despite planning to do so, I failed to add any more holes.

Time passed, and on the UK Workshop forum a chap offered ye olde fashioned holdfasts for sale. Being easily swayed by the prevailing fashions, I bought a pair.

Honestly? They work an' all, but I'm not a big fan. The hitting, the rustiness ('cos you can't wax 'em, or they cease to grip) and so forth just don't appeal like the Veritas does. Forgive me; I'm clearly stuck in the 20thC.

Anyway, I still couldn't come to a decision on additional holes, even though I now actively needed them. I even asked you lot for your input on where to put them in the hopes of actually reaching a decision. No dice.

Well, finally, the iron entered into my soul and I bethought to myself "Buggerit" and I've bored two (count 'em - two) more holes. And with the wonders of the blog archive, I've ascertained it's only taken me a little over seven (SEVEN) years to do it.

What the...? How in hell did that happen?! Where did "not long ago" go?

At least having given myself time to think the job through, I was pretty clear on what I wanted to do. The mistake I made in boring the first hole was not lining it up with the adjacent dog hole - a useful feature in that you can stick another dog in the holdfast hole when planing wider stuff. By some quirk of the gods, that dog hole now no longer exists thanks to the Emmert anyway, but I knew I wanted to correct that oversight this time round.

So first I squared off from the existing dog to get the front edge of the hole.

Then gauged from the centre line of the original hold down hole and intersected with it. I know the Veritas will reach comfortably almost to the dog hole, but checked Richard The Blacksmith's, and found they were within about 1.5 in. Plenty of coverage there then.

Then came a moment to pause and wonder just how much offset I needed to allow finding the centre point for boring the hole. If you use a round dog with a flat cut into the 3/4 inch diameter then obviously it's going to be less than half that diameter. Well I have a couple of simple wooden dogs I made for the Benchtop Bench with a flat top that lines up with the 3/4 in shaft that I like, so I elected to split the hole diameter exactly in half to get my centre point to fit them.

 Like this.

Then to the bit selection. I elected to get out a BugBear Special for this job. A (long) while back I managed to shear off the lead screw of my, at the time, only actual 3/4in "3/4in" Jennings pattern auger bit. I was unhappy but resigned; rust sometimes does more than can just be fixed cosmetically. Anyway, BB very generously sent me a replacement for Christmas that year. Or rather an upgrade, for this was polished and sharpened to, I'd say, better than new. If BB ever wanted to get into a sideline selling refurbished auger bits for outrageous prices, I'd be first in line with the testimonial. It's a pleasure to use. Anyway, I thought I'd chuck in a close-up of it in case anyone found it helpful to see what an efficiently working auger bit should look like. Take particular note of the excellent state of the lead screw, auger bit neophytes.

Anyway, back to the hole. Last time I just used one square; set up behind the bit and in line with the hole, that pretty much covers 90° in both axis. However, I have two small squares, so what the heck. Let's live a little.

Now that's a sharp bit. It was doing all the work, and I was just the klutz turning the crank and trying not to get in the way, as it should be. Given that I now have extensive knowledge of just how hard this beech is, I have to say it's ridiculously effortless. Indeed it wasn't until the lead screw was through the other side and ceased pulling the bit that I realised I was almost done. Good practice tells you to finish the hole from the other side to avoid splintering out, but that was a little impractical in this case. As was clamping a backing piece. However, if you're careful not to apply too much pressure (just enough to cut, but not aggressively so) and your bit is good and sharp, you can sometimes get away with it if the gods care to smile upon you. Which, in this case, they did.

Had to be a first time, I s'pose.

A monstrous snail countersink, which gets used once in a blue moon, put a neat chamfer in the top edge to prevent the holdfast shanks ragging up the top.

Look, ma! It's a hole with a piece of metal in it. Exciting, innit?

Moment of truth as I drop the dog in and... huzzah, it lines up beautifully. Pause to preen - then bore another one.

Look, ma! It's two (two) holes with two (two) pieces of metal in them. My excitement knows no bounds. Bet yours doesn't either, eh, gentle reader?

Okay, so it's not exactly exciting in the great scheme of things. But it is the application of tools (eleven) to proper wood (not popsicle sticks) by me (Alf). To me at least, that is kinda exciting.


  1. Centuries of cobwebs fall away. A high-pitched "squeeee" breaks the silence as the formidable juggernaut slowly starts building momentum. Scurrying rats yank their corded tails out of the way as it rolls past them, leaving a path of power tool destruction in its wake.

    I guess that month of daily blogging worked, then?

    Welcome back, Alf. Top notch post this a.m.

  2. So does your bench top take on the appearance of swiss cheese? I think those were the words you used all those years ago


  3. One short tip. I don't like to hit my steel holdfasts with a wooden mallet. Too noisy. So I have a rubber one around for just that purpose.

  4. Andy, not too Swiss yet, but I have an ear open and at the first whisper of a yodel...

    Kees, yeah, I think the plastic dead blow mallet is going to have to come back to the bench. The wooden ones just aren't cutting it, and I don't much like hitting them with a hammer.

  5. I was at Pete Sefton's Bash last year and was nattering to Richard Maguire (he of juggernaut sized bench fame) and he was busy belting a coupla these things into holes in one of his benches...but he was using a brick lump hammer to do the belting. Put me right off...I'm going to stick to my traditional blue collar Marples.


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