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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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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