Clamping workpieces, t track, bench dog or something else?

@niget2002 ‘s suggestion of brad nails has a related method: plastic brad nails. They hold effectively and when done can be snapped with lateral force. If the bit hits one it cuts through no problem.

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I normally use brad nails. Just have to be sure they are not in your cutting path.

If the material is soft enough, I use these composite brad nails. With these, you don’t have to worry about cutting into them. Supposedly these require a specialized (expensive) brad nailer, but I’ve had no trouble using my cheapo Harbor Freight gun.

EDIT: Had already posted this when I saw Doug had suggested the same thing.


Thanks for the advice, never knew plastic brad nails were a thing. Ill give them a try! Really appreciate the help thanks

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I remember the discussion about those brads. Couldn’t remember if anyone had luck using them in a normal nailer.

I’ll have to give them a shot.


No one has tried vacuum?

The only vacumn hold down table I remember seeing was made of foam and meant to hold down foam sheets for RC airplanes. It has been a while since I saw that though. I also may be forgetting an epic vac hold down table somewhere, sorry.

For small stuff, you can put blue painters tape on the workoiece and your spoil board, then hold the blue tape together with some CA glue. That will hood well and you can pry it off with a putty knife, then just remove the tape.

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I use small vacuum plates that I attach to my spoil board. Some refer to them as vacuum pucks. I make them out of pieces of oak flooring to whatever size I need. Very handy when working with thin metal or flexable material, such as fiber or rubber.


Do you have a reference for them plans or such? That sounds like something i need. Also what do you use for the the vacuum?

I’ve tried a variety of hold down clamps and techniques but I mostly settled on using the painters tape method. Screws through and into the spoil board work well if you can plan things out so as not to hit them and to hold all the pieces if you are going to cut through, but its very easy to hold multiple areas with tape.

I did make a vacuum plate out of 1" pink foam to hold dollar-store foam board down with a needle cutter head and that worked really well, but I wouldn’t trust it not to slip cutting wood.

I am definitely going to give the composite brads a try though - first time I’ve heard of them too.

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They won’t drive through hardboard, but I’ve used them in pine up to 3/4" with success.

IIRC, the concern was that they would jam up a gun that wasn’t built for them, but I’ve never had a jam in my cheap nailer. They do shatter spectacularly when you try to drive them through something too hard, so, as always, wear your safety glasses.

They’re a little pricey compared to regular brad nails, but it’s worth it to me to not have to worry about ruining a bit or leaving remnants of a metal brad in the spoil board.

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I use a combination of whatever it takes to get it done good and fast. I have t track I typically use for everything, but I get away with that since my primo has a 6” vertical workspace (I think primos may also have more glantry height to clear clamps etc). This allows me to use the track to hold a vice, or spoilboard material. It is especially nice for making pcb’s, as I can hold the pcb to a small pc of mdf with tapered screws, and flip/realign backside cuts easily. It also makes it very easy if I have to screw stock from underneath. Another benefit is I never have to replace the mdf between the tracks, and spoilboards can be rough cut from whatever scrap I have on hand.

All said and done though, I would not build for a taller z unless you really need it. Not just for clearing clamps, but for cutting the full volume if needed. The above are just side benefits to having a larger z, but larger z also means more flex.

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I sometimes use estlcam to mark holes for the hold down screw holes. I put down a sheet and then run the first job that just touches the bit to a depth of 2mm to mark the spots where it is safe to out a screw. I use a stick to hold the sheet down if I worry at all about it moving. Then I come back with a drill and screws. I don’t power off the machine and then I run my job.

I have also cut right through a screw. The bit may have gotten duller, and I may have been going quite slow if I had enough overhead to drive through a screw. But it didn’t explode or start a fire. So I don’t stress too much about it. A steel brad nail probably wouldn’t break anything either.


We did have a small vacuum table discussion in this thread:

Complete with a small adapter for an air compressor to pull a vacuum (that I still have on my amazon wishlist)

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Brass hardware for hold-down is an option that shouldn’t damage steel or carbide bits.

I use my pin nailer all the time if i know i making aggressive cuts. I’ve cut through more than a couple. The metal is pretty danged soft and didn’t damage the tools in any way i could tell. That’s carbide and HSS, i don’t even sweat it anymore.

Mostly i hold things with a diy ttrack. Strips of wood spaced apart, wider on top of and centered on the lower strips to make the tees, and 3d printed blocks to turn 1/4" bolts into tnuts that fit into the groove.

Works great, except where i got sloppy on my spacing.


I’m going to try this. I have a couple projects that are 1/4 ply and have cut outs i would like to avoid holding tabs on this one so the brads sound like a good idea.
I use blue tape on the spoilboard and on the edge of the piece then hot glue and then set zero. It works very well on projects that are not cut out.


I will try and post pics in a day or so. tied up on a project right now. Will try and post my FreeCad files I use.

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I’m on the screw train. On large pieces I put one screw in the corner then I run the first part of my code which drills little holes where my layout is. I do this with a bit called (screw layout) in estlcam. In reality I just use a 1/8 bit but in estl I have the diameter set to the screw head diameter so I can check clearances. When posting the gcode I simply remove the tool change code after the holes are drilled and leave a pause to give me time to put screws inplace before running the rest.

I tried Brad nails but had issues with them breaking when I tried to remove them leaving little stubs in my spoil board.


I got a square aluminum tube and milled out a slot to turn it into a T-slot, and I 3D printed some T-slot nut holders:

Costed me 8 euro and some time.