Making Holdfasts

Over a number of years I have refined my process for making woodworking holdfasts.  A very similar process is used to make smaller diameter holdfasts for use with anvil pritchel holes.  

 Part 1, Holdfast Foot

I start with a 19.5 inch long, 3/4 inch diameter, A36 mild steel bar.  I smooth the ends and round the edges using a stationary belt sander.

The end of the bar goes into the coke in the coal forge.  I can form the the holdfast foot in my gas forge but I prefer to use the coal forge when working with thick materials such as this since it heats faster.

Another view of the end of the bar heating in the forge.

First I form a step in the end of the bar over a relatively sharp edge of the anvil.

Here are side and bottom views of the initial step in the bar.

Next with the bar turned over I begin to draw out the step with the goal of moving material outward, to the left and to the right from the end of the bar using the hammer's cross-peen.  I then use the flat end of the hammer to further thin and smooth out the step.

Here are two more views of the foot as it begins to take shape.

Next I flatten the corner of the step that formed over the anvil's edge.

Here is a side view showing the shape of the foot that I shoot for.

Now flipping the bar over I am ready to begin bending the foot downwards.  This is the surface that will do the clamping when the holdfast is completed.

The foot beginning to bend downwards.

This is a side view of the foot after being bent.

Another view of the nearly completed holdfast foot.

I generally make a number of holdfasts at a time and aim for shape consistency.

Part 2, Arm Bend and Completion

I prefer to heat the bar for the arm bend in my gas forge which allows me to better control the location and length of the heated zone.  I generally try to minimize the heated zone in order to obtain a relatively sharp bend radius.

I bend the holdfast arm with the foot end clamped in my leg vise.  Care must be taken to ensure that the bend is properly aligned with the foot.  A completed holdfast is held in a smaller vise as a bend reference.

I generally bend a number of holdfasts and strive for consistency.  Controlling the length and location of the heated zone is key.

A foot alignment check is made with the holdfast inserted into a 3/4 inch hole in a thick swage block.  You can see some gaping on the right between the foot and the block's top surface.

Here the foot is being heated so that its alignment can be readjusted.

Final foot adjustments are made while the holdfast is inserted in the swage block.

Good contact is now made between the holdfast's foot and the swage block.

Next, but not shown, final shaping of the edges of the foot and smoothing of the bottom of the foot is performed with the stationary belt sander.  Then the holdfast receives final surface cleanup and is tested in 3/4" holes in two workbenches.

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