3 Easy Work Holding Methods

Professional woodworkers consider the workbench to be their most important tool for holding work and ensuring that there is a completely flat reference surface to work on. While there is no doubt that the workbench is a wonderful convenience, for most Indian DIY or hobbyist woodworkers it is an impossible luxury. Most of us work in cramped apartments where space is always a premium and accommodating a large workbench in the home is simply not feasible. For many years I lived in an apartment building and the thought of not having an extra room for woodworking deterred me from the hobby. Looking back, I realise I was a fool. A dedicated workshop or a great workbench is not absolutely essential for pursuing woodworking as a hobby. There are various methods available to get around the lack of a workbench as I have found out.

A straight piece of wood normally has six sides.

A straight piece of wood normally has six sides: two faces, two ends and two edges. On occasion, each needs to be worked on. The problem is how to hold the piece so that each side could be safely, securely and comfortably worked upon. Here are three easy solutions I came up with.


Most often we need to work on the face of a piece of wood, to flatten it, sand it, polish it and so on. Fortunately this is easily achieved as can be seen from the diagram below:

Board with stops to hold work piece flat

This is extremely easy to make: get any old board, ply or MDF long enough for your general needs (I feel 3 feet long is good enough), attach a cleat at the bottom with nails or screws and a thin strip of wood about ¼ inch thick to one end. Another similar stop could optionally be screwed on depending on the size of the work piece; this piece could be adjusted by fixing it as desired on the board. That’s it! 

Face holder in action

Most times it would not be necessary to add the wedges (maroon coloured) to secure the piece as the action of the hand plane would be against the stop at the end but you could always use them to tightly secure the work piece, especially if the face is to be routed. 


Edge work requires the piece of wood to be held at a right angle and for this too there is an easy solution. All you need to do is to make two work holders, each being a piece of wood screwed at a right angle to another scrap of wood to form an inverted T as in the photograph below:

Work holders clamped on table

I used two pieces of MDF painted white for the vertical pieces and screwed each with pocket hole screws onto a flat piece of scrap board. Each of them forms an inverted T. The vertical pieces are attached at a right angle to their bases. In the photograph above, I have clamped each piece to the table.

Work piece clamped to vertical holds.

The work piece should be clamped onto the vertical sides, preferably with a strip of scrap to prevent the clamps marking the work piece.

Planing the edge

With the work piece held securely by this method, it can be easily and comfortably planed, routed, cut or sanded.


The ends of a piece of wood often have to be worked upon to make a joint of some sort or to plane it flat. Whatever be the need, this can easily be achieved by screwing together strips of scrap ply or board, the total width of which should match or exceed the overhand of your table top, be it a dining table or computer table or whatever. Now this piece can be clamped with the work piece held vertically against the side of one leg of the table. In this manner, the end of the piece would be easy and safe to work on.

A solution for working on the end of a work piece

There are other more or less involved methods for achieving the same but I find these are easy to go with. These can be put together in no time with scrap wood and screws, taken apart and re-assembled whenever required. 

Indranil Banerjie
3 April 2013