This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
These necessary adjuncts to the bench consist of an arrangement capable of projecting above the surface of the bench to hold pieces of wood against during the operation of planing. One of the simplest contrivances is to have 2 or more stout screws standing up in the table of the bench itself, and easily raised or lowered to suit the thickness of the wood being operated upon; but this of course tends to spoil the surface of the bench. A better plan is shown in Fig. 433; it is easily manipulated, being adjusted from the top of the bench, and a very slight tap loosens or tightens it at any height desired. All blows are struck on the top, and no damage results to the bench from its use. It consists simply of 2 wedges a b tightening against each other in a mortice cut for their reception in the bench-top c, while d is the piece of wood to be planed. An improvement designed to prevent the wedges falling out when loosened is shown in Fig. 434. It consists of a slip of wood b let into one wedge and a slot a cut in the other, both slot and slip running the whole width of the stop. Fig. 435 is an improved iron stop, which is let into the top of the bench so as to lie flush; the stop proper a can be raised or lowered to the work by turning the screw b.
Holdfasts. - These are intended for holding wood down firmly on the top of the bench. For securing wood edgewise on the table an excellent contrivance is shown in Fig. 43G. The strips a b are of any hard wood, 1 1/2-2 in. thick, 6-9 in. long, and chamfered underneath. These are screwed firmly to the plank c by 3 ordinary wood screws, with their ends converging somewhat; 2 hard wood wedges d, chamfered, slide in the groove formed by the 2 fixed pieces. Their sides opposite the chamfered part are planed up true and square to the flat sides; between these the strip to be planed is placed on edge, and the wedges are tapped until they grip the work between them. The pressure of the plane at each stroke has the effect of still further tightening the grip of the wedges. The work is held at any part of its length, so that the plane can pass over its whole surface. By a slight pull in the contrary direction, the work is loosened, and can be shifted and refixed.
For holding work in a flat position, use is generally made of the implement illustrated in Fig. 437, and termed a " valet." It is formed of a bar of 1 in. diameter iron, drawn down square, and bent into form. The lower end a is inserted in a" circular hole through any convenient part of the bench b. When it is required to hold work down firmly with it, the work is placed under the end c. A sharp blow is then struck with a mallet at d, which causes a to jamb slightly crosswise in the hole, and so the work is held firmly until by a slight blow at the back of d the valet is loosened. Its help is invaluable, as it gives free use of both hands for mortising, carving, or the like; and it is equally an assistant in sawing. To prevent the end c leaving ugly marks or dents in soft wood, a small piece of softer wood is placed between it and the work. It is also well to thicken the top of the bench at this spot by screwing a piece of board on beneath But still it is apt to damage the bench, from the nature of the grip of the stem in the hole.
A better form is shown in Fig. 438, wherein the necessary pressure on the work under a is obtained by means of the screw b, which meets the elbow of the rod c and transfers the pressure to a through the medium of the pivot d.