Our most popular Facebook discussion to date was on setting up a new jeweler’s bench. Here we will discuss some tips for building a simple workbench, organizing jewelry tools and maintaining an adequate workspace.
Buying a Jeweler’s Bench
If you buy a traditional jeweler’s bench you should be prepared to pay between $300 – $800 dollars. These benches are usually equipped with storage drawers and slots along with a sweepings tray and a small work surface.Many jewelers prefer to make their own workbenches because a traditional jeweler’s bench is pretty small at about 3 feet wide.
Buying a Workbench
If you search for other tables or workbenches you can get a larger workspace at a lower price. A sturdy workbench with a good chair is all you really need to start out. Then you can buy tabletop organizers and attachments to customize your workspace. Remember that for some metalwork you ideally want a bench that is a bit higher, near chest level. So if you plan to alternate between metalwork and other tasks you may want two separate work areas, or a chair that is adjustable for different heights.
Building a Bench
The bench shown above was built using a large laminated tabletop and workbench legs. The biggest challenge when building your own bench is finding a suitable piece of wood for the tabletop. You will want a one inch thick flat slab of solid wood that can handle hammer blows, vises on the edge and the occasional torch scorch. Avoid decorative edges that will interfere with vises and anything with a wobble. Try searching for lumber, counter tops, butcher block or laminated particle board. Old, solid wood doors are often perfect if you can find them. Just be careful not to buy “solid core” doors since they are often filled with foam and are not the same as “solid wood.”
Lumber yards will be the most expensive option, but if you opt for slightly damaged pieces of wood it can bring the price down. Ikea, Craigslist and yard sales are also good places to look. Nicks and scratches are no problem but any kind of warping will give your table an unacceptable wobble. It is not necessary to have a varnished surface, raw wood is just fine.
Next, you will need to attach file cabinets or heavy-duty legs. Grainger.com is the best resource for workbench legs like those shown above. You can buy a set for about $60 plus shipping. To attach legs to your tabletop you will just need suitable screws and a power drill plus some muscle for maneuvering. If you are using butcher block be sure to place your screws so they will not split the wood strips apart over time. Make sure your surface is level and you are ready to begin!
Nowadays it is relatively easy to find a wide variety of tool organizers and storage options for your bench. Here are some of our favorite tips and products for getting started. For me, drawers just accumulate things that I have to dig through. Instead, I prefer to keep tools mounted and organized around the bench so I can easily find what I’m looking for.
Pegboard and pegs from any hardware store are ideal for storing hammers, saws and other large tools within grasp.
- Magnetic Stripping
Use magnets to keep many small lightweight metal tools such as files, tweezers and saw blades handy and out of drawers. You can buy inexpensive stripping at the craft or hardware store and stick it directly to your bench. If you mount stripping on the wall be sure to put it on a piece of wood first so you can get your fingers behind tools to grab them. I found the adhesive stripping was insufficient and used super glue for mounting instead. Test a few hammer blows on your bench to see if any tools get knocked loose.
- Plier Racks
A drawer full of tangled jewelry pliers can be a hassle. Keep them up and visible on a rack like the one above. You can buy a plier rack or use an old letter sorter for this function. For a more extensive plier collection you can mount a dowel rod or metal strip about one inch out from a wall to provide a longer rack. Don’t place it too far from the wall or pliers will just twist off and fall.
- Flex Shaft Mounting
A flex shaft or rotary Dremel tool will expedite many functions such as drilling, sanding and polishing in your studio. The possibilities are remarkable with this motorized unit. You can purchase a jeweler’s Flex Shaft set for under $100 at Halstead Bead and then outfit it with mandrels, bits, burs and heads for your specific techniques. Avoid using a vice-mount on your bench by using a plant hanger wall arm to hang your flex shaft. Keep mandrels, bits and burs handy with a wood block organizer or magnet strip near the flex shaft station. Be sure to keep a block of scrap wood handy for a drilling and polishing work surface. Flex shaft heads will damage your bench blocks or anvils.
Now stock your bench with metal and findings from Halstead Bead Inc and you are ready to create stunning jewelry! Do you have any other bench organizing tips to share? Post here, we’d love to hear them!