Holdfasts Hold – Thanks to Iron & Grime

Posted on 20 September 2016


I’ve often wondered why electric miter saws have tables and fences that are a slick as owl s&*t. I’ve asked the saws’ manufacturers this question many times. Here’s their answer: “Everyone else has shiny and slick tables. So do we.”

So whenever I tune up a miter saw, my first tweak is to apply adhesive-back sandpaper to the tables and fences. That fixes about 99 percent of the mitering errors encountered when using the saw.

When we started designing the Crucible Iron Holdfast, the foundry asked us what sort of surface finish we wanted. For me, the answer was easy: As rough as a cob.

They asked: “What about small casting voids?” Answer: Leave them.

“How about minor casting flaws and flash at the parting line?” Answer: As long as they don’t make the shaft too thick, leave them.

“Should we treat the holdfast with a rust-inhibitor?” Answer: Absolutely not.

I know that chances are you are reading this on a mobile device that is as slick as fox s&%t. It’s smooth like a worry stone, and you fondle it unconsciously. Holdfasts shouldn’t be like that. To do their job, holdfasts should be as barbed as a cat’s pe…. OK, I’m sure you are getting tired of the animal euphemisms. The tool’s shaft should be rough. It should be allowed to get rougher as it oxidizes and pits. Don’t oil it.

When I give this speech to fellow woodworkers, they say something like: But won’t rust on the pad transfer to my work?

To which I say: You should always place a piece of scrap between your holdfast and your workpiece. So it’s not an issue.

A rough shaft is your friend. Don’t smooth things out.

— Christopher Schwarz

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