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Re: Are Holdfasts period? (i.e. pre-17th century?)

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  • barondevin@comcast.net
    ... The practice that I m aware of that supposedly dates back to Roman times is to place the piece between two pegs or bench dogs and then drive a wedge
    Message 1 of 16 , Jun 6, 2009
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      >Yes, I can work without too much in the way of work holding, but as all
      >the mortising in planemaking is at angles, that doesn't work as well as
      >the work piece continually slides along the bench.


      The practice that I'm aware of that supposedly dates back to Roman times is to place the piece between two pegs or bench dogs and then drive a wedge between one of the pegs and the piece.

      This page http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/ has several engravings from 1600 or before near the bottom of the page that would seem to suggest suggest that they were not period.

      Devin

      Did you know that in 1970, the Procrastinators' Club of America demanded a refund for the Liberty Bell from England's White Chapel Foundry because it had cracked in 1835?
      White Chapel responded with an offer of a full refund - provided that the item could be returned in its original packaging.
    • conradh@efn.org
      ... True enough. Of course, if you want to do a priori arguments like this one, you could point out that a family business mindset (the way most craftsmen
      Message 2 of 16 , Jun 6, 2009
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        On Sat, June 6, 2009 10:12 am, avery1415@... wrote:
        >

        > Given the number of things you must use iron or steel for and the amount
        > of iron they could make at a throw, I'm guessing iron holdfasts would
        > have been pretty pricey.

        True enough. Of course, if you want to do a priori arguments like this
        one, you could point out that a family business mindset (the way most
        craftsmen then were brought up) could expect to amortize the investment
        over several hundred years! There's not much to wear out on a holdfast,
        especially if the shank is heavy. :-)
        >
        > Particularly since, if you have a sturdy bench with two holes in it and a
        > stout piece of rope, you can: Thread the rope through the two holes.
        > Tie a the ends of the rope together.
        > Put your work on the bench, under the bit of exposed rope.
        > Stick your foot in the loop and push down with your foot.

        Sure. We have evidence of this method used too--it was traditional in
        both Japan and Europe, and probably elsewhere. However, to use it you're
        going to have to be able to get your foot or a treadle under the benchtop,
        and there'll be pairs of holes that probably wouldn't show up for other
        purposes. The use of it will be distinctive looking too--it should be
        obvious in any picture of a craftsman working if it shows either the
        workpiece or the worker's whole body.

        This trick is actually more useful on horses that workbenches--it goes
        very well with a straddled stance. European file cutters used to use a
        lead-block anvil on a horse, and do your holding trick with a looped
        leather strap. The biggest inconvenience to rope loops is that you end up
        with a different leg position for every size of workpiece, or you have to
        stop and retie the loop each time. Also, if you've ever used one, you run
        into the issue of how far apart to make the holes. Unless they are very
        close to the edges of the workpiece, you lose leverage very quickly, and
        of course if the workpiece is wider than the holes it's hard to use this
        method at all. Unless the sizing is near perfect, it doesn't hold nearly
        as well as an iron holdfast. I strongly suspect that this method, in
        period, was used mostly by workers who worked all day on workpieces that
        were close to the same size--file makers, for instance.

        If we're going to talk cheap and simple, it's hard to beat a goberge
        (which got Anglicized as go-bar). Wedging a slightly springy stick
        between the ceiling and your workpiece could have been used in the
        Paleolithic, if you were careful about dislodging stalactites. Again,
        it's sensitive to the size of workpiece (with thickness being the issue
        this time) but spacer blocks can be used. Difficult under a thatch
        roof--the inside timbers are often left round, and the stuff in between
        won't hold at all. But it does hold the work without blocking access to
        any of the edges, and like the shaving horse and the holdfast it's
        actually quicker to shift than a modern vise.

        "Possibles" aren't proof. They're a good first step sometimes, because
        they can suggest what clues to look for. If you don't have proof
        available, "possible with what they had" is usually how we fill gaps in
        our knowledge during reconstructions or demos. It works most plausibly
        when the record shows great variation in period ways of doing things, like
        operating handles for bellows, or the shapes of hammer heads.

        The issue that concerns Alex, though, is documentation. He wants evidence
        from surviving artifacts, period text or period artwork, not just
        possibilities. The history of technology is full of things that would
        have been perfectly possible, without "tools to make the tools" problem in
        a period, that nonetheless were not thought of or simply not done.
        Traditional craftsmen are often just that, traditional--and in a great
        many cultures "good enough for great-grandpa" is an argument that settles
        everything. Historically, modern American attitudes toward innovation are
        startlingly rare, and change came very slowly even in relatively
        innovative places like Western Europe. Look at bench vises--which took
        hundreds of years to move three hundred miles from German woodworkers to
        French ones, even with German immigrants using them in Paris, according to
        Roubo. For that matter, screw-vises seem to have taken more than a
        century to spread from metalworkers to woodworkers, _within the one city
        of Nuremberg_.

        > I'm not saying I can absolutely document this, or that I can prove that
        > iron holdfasts never existed. But it's a lot cheaper solution to the
        > problem.
        >
        Just as well, because we seem to be finding proof they _did_. At least
        toward the end. The game continues!

        Ulfhedinn
      • AlbionWood
        ... Yes, apparently. For carving, I hold the work with bench dogs and wedges. This is fast, easy, and works very well if the angle of the wedges is just
        Message 3 of 16 , Jun 6, 2009
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          >
          > is there a
          > period method of securing work to a bench to completely immobilize it
          > for working from the top side while mortising, etc, that I'm missing?
          >

          Yes, apparently. For carving, I hold the work with bench dogs and
          wedges. This is fast, easy, and works very well if the angle of the
          wedges is just right. My bench has round holes, and I use dogs with
          square heads, so they rotate to match the angle of the wedges. Spacer
          strips accommodate different widths of material. Nothing projecting
          above the surface of the work to get in the way, either. Try it, you'll
          like it!

          As for holdfasts - I'll look through some photos and see if there's any
          indication of them before the end of the 16th c. There are some good
          archaeological finds of woodworking tools; if holdfasts were in common
          use, they should appear in those collections.

          Gary Halstead should be consulted - he's done a great deal of research
          on medieval/renaissance woodworking tools, and wrote the CA pamphlet on
          the subject (which see.)

          Cheers,
          Tim



          Alex Haugland wrote:
          > So, I've been attempting to research and document tools and practices of
          > medieval and renaissance woodworking and I've run into a little bit of a
          > question... Does anyone know definitively if holdfasts (i.e. the metal
          > upside-down J-shaped things used with a mallet and holes in the
          > workbench to secure work) were a known technology before the 17th
          > century? Ideally, for this project, I want some solid written or visual
          > evidence, if anyone has seen any. I do have documentation to 1678, from
          > Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (The Art of Joinery) but I've yet to
          > solidly find anything before that point... Failing that, is there a
          > period method of securing work to a bench to completely immobilize it
          > for working from the top side while mortising, etc, that I'm missing?
          >
          > --Alysaundre Weldon d'Ath
          > Barony of Adiantum, An Tir
          >
          >
          >
          >
        • paul
          I just posted a picture to the file section taken from the book Hommes et Metires dans L art: Du XII au XVII siecle en Europe centrale by Vaclav Husa published
          Message 4 of 16 , Jun 7, 2009
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            I just posted a picture to the file section taken from the book Hommes
            et Metires dans L'art: Du XII au XVII siecle en Europe centrale by
            Vaclav Husa published in 1967 by GRUND. showing two carpenters working
            on a board being led with holdfasts. The book identifies the image as
            "Charpentiers sur un chantier. Biblia Wenceslai Regis. 1389-1400.
            Bibliotheque national, Vienne (350x236mm). Bibl. 1, No 83; 21; 58, pp
            78-80; 109; 124; 137. Photo M. Veverka."

            I found the book a couple of years ago in Montreal, it is in French and
            I don't speak or read French but I had to get the book as it is all
            about images of working people in all kinds of tasks. with large
            sections devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry, weaving, metal
            work, woodworking , the building trades, book production, mining and
            coin making.


            Iain Qwhewyl
            Castlemere, Trimaris
          • Alex Haugland
            That is an interesting image and thank you very much for sharing it! I d agree that there is some ambiguity in the image and Conal does bring up a good
            Message 5 of 16 , Jun 7, 2009
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              That is an interesting image and thank you very much for sharing it!
              I'd agree that there is some ambiguity in the image and Conal does bring
              up a good alternative interpretation. I suspect also that he may be
              right as there is no clear extension of the holdfast below the surface
              of the sawhorse. It does add another tool to my list of medieval tools
              however, so I still thank you for that!

              --Alex

              paul wrote:
              >
              >
              > I just posted a picture to the file section taken from the book Hommes
              > et Metires dans L'art: Du XII au XVII siecle en Europe centrale by
              > Vaclav Husa published in 1967 by GRUND. showing two carpenters working
              > on a board being led with holdfasts. The book identifies the image as
              > "Charpentiers sur un chantier. Biblia Wenceslai Regis. 1389-1400.
              > Bibliotheque national, Vienne (350x236mm). Bibl. 1, No 83; 21; 58, pp
              > 78-80; 109; 124; 137. Photo M. Veverka."
              >
              > I found the book a couple of years ago in Montreal, it is in French and
              > I don't speak or read French but I had to get the book as it is all
              > about images of working people in all kinds of tasks. with large
              > sections devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry, weaving, metal
              > work, woodworking , the building trades, book production, mining and
              > coin making.
              >
              > Iain Qwhewyl
              > Castlemere, Trimaris
              >
              >
            • Brian Wagner
              Great discussion! I don t have the book at hand right now, as I am at work, but Ulrich s 2007 book Roman Woodworking cites a holdfast from Chichester
              Message 6 of 16 , Jun 8, 2009
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                Great discussion!  

                I don't have the book at hand right now, as I am at work, but Ulrich's 2007 book "Roman Woodworking" cites a holdfast from Chichester reported in Cunliffe and Rudkin 1996 "Chichester Excavations IX: Excavations at Fishbourne 1969 - 88."  I'll have to look back at Ulrich tonight - I don't have a copy of Cunliffe and Rudkin.

                Hrothgar
                Barony of Small Gray Bear, Gleann Abhann


              • Brian Wagner
                I followed up on this, and found I remembered incorrectly. What was found was a staple-shaped iron dog, not a holdfast. Sorry about the mistake. Hrothgar
                Message 7 of 16 , Jun 8, 2009
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                  I followed up on this, and found I remembered incorrectly.  What was found was a staple-shaped iron dog, not a holdfast.  Sorry about the mistake.

                  Hrothgar

                  On Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 12:14 PM, Brian Wagner <hrothgar950@...> wrote:
                  Great discussion!  

                  I don't have the book at hand right now, as I am at work, but Ulrich's 2007 book "Roman Woodworking" cites a holdfast from Chichester reported in Cunliffe and Rudkin 1996 "Chichester Excavations IX: Excavations at Fishbourne 1969 - 88."  I'll have to look back at Ulrich tonight - I don't have a copy of Cunliffe and Rudkin.

                  Hrothgar
                  Barony of Small Gray Bear, Gleann Abhann



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