So you’ve sandwiched the bowl between extended bench dogs and you’re making the final paring cuts when an unfortunate series of events occurs, all within a split second. The end on which you are working goes down suddenly, the gouge makes a nasty divot, and the other end of the bowl shoots up at an arc into your face. Yeah, I hate it when that happens.
You need holdfasts. Not in the early stages, but rather near the end when doing any final gouge work. In the beginning, I don’t use any holding devices at all, other than the hand that is not holding the axe or adze. I usually use the bowl horse for refining the shape of the outside. But for final gouge work on the interior, under handles, and more, holdfasts live up to their name.
I’ve shown some typical arrangements in the photos below, but a little creativity can lead to many other solutions as well. The bowl in the photos is a relatively small one we’ve been using in the house, but the same principles will work with bowls of different sizes and shapes.
Here are the holdfasts I use. Others work well too. The inner ones are by Gramercy at Tools for Working Wood. The outer ones, I made using a campfire, a double-action hand pump as a bellows, and some 5/8″ steel bar. They look like crap, but they work well. The angle is about 85 degrees. The holes in my bench are 3/4″ diameter, and the bench top is three inches thick. They work well for me in benches of 2 and 4 inch thickness too, so use whatever slab of wood you’ve got and bore some holes in it.
The other key component is some material to add friction between the bench and bowl and the holdfasts and bowl. You could try leather, old rubber floor mats, inner tube, etc. I like this rubber belting material I found at Tractor Supply. It is sold in various lengths and widths, can be cut, is very tough, and has great grip. Great for lining vice jaws too, but it can sometimes leave some black smudges on lighter woods.
Old sailors referred to a well secured line as being “held fast”. So now you too have a reason to get “HOLD FAST” tattooed to your fingers, just like a sailor. You can show folks the bowl scar on your forehead as you tell them of your woodworking adventures.