Tree Branch Holdfasts

IMG_2707As I’ve mentioned  before, I use holdfasts a lot.  A few weeks ago, I started wondering about the possibility of wooden holdfasts, and I think I will experiment more with making some from two pieces of wood joined with a round mortise and tenon, as in chairs.  Hickory or ash should work very well.  Much lighter weight than steel, and maybe less holding power.  But maybe plenty strong enough.

I started with a quick experiment using branch junctions, utilizing their natural strength and flexibility.  As can be seen in the photo, very little work was done on them — just a bit of rough shaving to bring the shank down to something a bit under 3/4″.

They’ve dried for a couple weeks, and they work!  I’d like to make some more, a bit more carefully and with more consideration for the branch angles and so on.  It’s a fun and useful green woodworking project.  They’d also be ideal for some carved decoration; I can’t help picturing a bird with a long beak, like a heron.

I shot a quick bit of video showing them in action:

As I was patting myself on the back for my inventiveness, I thought I’d do a net search to see if I could find any references to wooden holdfasts.  Sure enough, somebody wrote about the idea in Popular Mechanics Magazine back in 1930.  Check it out here.  Note that S.E. MacNair suggests using a much larger diameter branch and hole (1 1/2″).  They work in the 3/4″ holes of my bench as well.

This entry was posted in green woodworking, holding, tools, Uncategorized, video and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Tree Branch Holdfasts

  1. Emil Dahl says:

    Thanks for the video and the “re-discovery” of a neat idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve says:

    Very clever. Repurposing nature always wins in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew Sargeant says:

    This is a work of genius! 😎


  4. momist says:

    What is the round padding you are using with these? Are they beer mats?!


  5. David says:


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Scott Kinsey says:

    Dave, your reply to momist brings to mind John Hartford’s wonderful song, “Can’t Stand To Throw Anything Away”. It is from his 1994 recording, “The Walls We bounce Off Of”. Like banjos, everyone should have a copy.


  7. treenworks says:

    Cool use of what often gets burnt. I’ll add this to my ever growing list of your good ideas I’m trying to find the time to build.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tom Stedner says:


    I’m primarily a decoy carver and have just started doing some small bowels and spoons. Your comment “They’d also be ideal for some carved decoration; I can’t help picturing a bird with a long beak, like a heron.” caught my attention. An old method the early shorebird decoy carvers used was to use the crooks of branches for necks and heads. If you do a search on root head decoys you’ll see some examples.


  9. Chris van Aar says:

    At an excavation near Must Farm they found items like this.


  10. Peter Lambert says:
    Dave, great idea as steel items are hard to find.
    Alternatively to clamp a half log to make a bowl, I recently used a1″ ratchet strap at each end of my Workmate and it never moved during adze work.

    Liked by 1 person

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