What’s the problem?

Holding small components, such as a tiny door catch, can be awkward and as a consequence, they become quite difficult to work on. Most of the time, holding larger work securely isn’t a problem; the bench vice, holdfast, dogs and a big range of clamps do a pretty good job.

Door Catch

Some solutions:

A Metalwork vice

Holding small components in a metalwork vice is possible as this gives greater all round access. However, this vice is strictly reserved for metal bashing as it’s in the 'dirty corner' of the workshop.

Holding components in a metalwork vice

The Toolmaker’s Clamp

For many years, I’ve improvised with a toolmaker's clamp which worked quite well but didn’t offer enough grip. It held the job higher than the bench, but could only be gripped one way in the woodworking vice.

This particular one was made as an apprentice piece in 1967 and remember cutting the M6 threads on a Colchester lathe.

The Universal Workholder & Hand Vice

This is more flexible and is capable of holding small components above the bench. It’s an engraver’s or jeweller’s tool as the pins can be placed in a combination of holes to grip small, weirdly shaped components. Pins are easily lost if dropped onto the floor, but several spares are included in a plastic bag. The round handle also means that it’s difficult to grip in a woodwork vice; easily rectified using the disc sander.

The steel pins give a vice like grip but unfortunately make tiny dents in even the hardest timber. My solution is to cover each pin with plastic tubing salvaged from an old pump action soap bottle.

There are several different options that are suitable for gripping or holding small components, but for my purposes, the universal work holder is the best of the bunch. Whereas I once had a tricky little holding problem, this device provides a very neat solution and comes highly recommended.