Wise Buys: Hold-ins/Hold-downs
Apparently, someone was listening when a woodworker said, "I wish I had an extra set of hands." Those helping hands come from stock hold-ins and hold-downs, which secure workpieces on tablesaws, router tables, and other machines. We tested several and found that nearly all worked well at holding stock for accurate, consistent positioning—and preventing kickback—while cutters slice away. You can make your own hardwood featherboards, but they could break easier than the rigid plastic kind. Some of the higher-priced models apply side pressure and downforce simultaneously.
Bench Dog Feather-Loc
The simplicity of these featherboards shown above, doesn't diminish their versatility and value. The first finger on the infeed side, 1⁄8 " shorter than the rest, helps you set the correct pressure by simply resting that finger on your workpiece. Tighten the knobs (you have to hold the Feather-Loc parallel or the back end can move), and the other feathers automatically hold with the ideal pressure. I found this very helpful rather than guessing at it. The Feather-Locs also work great inverted as stops on the router table fence for stopped dadoes or grooves.
You need to mount a sub-fence with T-track onto your tablesaw rip fence or router table fence if yours doesn't have T-track built in. To test the Feather-Locs, I ripped hickory and hard maple and intentionally paused in midcut. There were no burn marks or kickback because the boards were pinned tightly against the fence. On the router table, I used a tall profile bit to make crown molding in white oak, and they held the 31⁄2 "-wide stock tightly to the fence, even at the top.
—Tested by Bob Hunter, Tool and Techniques Editor
To learn more:
Woodhaven Model 240K
This pair features high-density plastic "fingers"—guaranteed not to break—that are molded at a 4° angle away from the plate. The fingers then compress as you feed stock between them and a table or fence, creating just the right amount of holding pressure. Setting that tension is simple: Press the tool's fingers against your workpiece with pressure until they are touching parallel to the board edge, then tighten the knobs. The pair are interchangeable between the mounting attachments to accommodate different-size stock. Mount them to the fence-face T-slots or on top with the included bracket. You also can remove the bolts and simply clamp them to your table or fence.
I ripped hard maple on the tablesaw, and the pair held the workpieces safely against the fence and table and away from the back side of the spinning blade. On the router table, I machined 3⁄8 " round-overs and coves in pine and hard maple, and again the stock did not waver from its fixed path.
—Tested by Dave Campbell, Deputy Editor
To learn more:
I couldn't believe the holding power of the magnetic Grip-Tites. Not just for pinning workpieces against the fence and tabletop with canted abrasive wheels and super-tough plastic fins, but also the powerful grip of the magnets themselves. Nevertheless, they're quick to pick up and move by flipping a cam lever that pries the unit away from the metal surface. No matter the amount of red oak, cherry, or pine I pushed through my tablesaw, the Grip-Tites didn't shift. And there were no burn marks when I deliberately slowed the feed rate because they prevented the workpieces from creeping toward the blade.
To use one as a hold-down, I flush-mounted Grip-Tite's optional steel fenceplate on MDF and attached it to my rip fence. On my steel-top router table, the Grip-Tites could be placed anywhere because they don't need a miter slot. This kit includes two hold-downs and a 42"-long steel fenceplate; a similar step-up kit features stronger magnets and choice of fence lengths and sells for $160.
—Tested by Bob Wilson, Techniques Editor
To learn more:
Although it will not work on a tablesaw, this proved to be a very nice unit and worth the price tag for its advantages on a router table. The spring-loaded rollers have a 5° cant to pull workpieces toward the fence while also holding them flat to the table. This was especially beneficial when I used a large panel-raising bit on white oak door panels. Little or no hand pressure was needed to hold the workpiece against the cutter, making for incredibly smooth profiles.
I machined 3⁄4 "-wide poplar to form base shoe for my house trim. The curved UHMW hold-down and bit-guard fixture proved adequate for this, so you really don't need the rollers until you are using larger workpieces and larger bits. Loosen a setscrew, and they slide off the attachment rod.
I mounted the fence to my table with the easy-to-follow directions (you have to bore two 3" holes for this), but I did make one change: Instead of just tightening the carriage bolts so their heads seated into the substrate, I used threaded inserts to attach the bolts from underneath. Without them, the bolts could slip from their seated position when loosening the fence, allowing them to spin.
This fence offers other great extras besides the holding attachments: a molded port for a vacuum hose, a protective bit cover, and fence panels with side-to-side adjustments.
-- Tested by Kevin Boyle, Senior Design Editor
To learn more: