For jewelers, having a dedicated workspace for their craft is of utmost importance. However, it's becoming increasingly common to see jewelers make a particular mistake: hastily buying discounted workbenches, only to discover they either damage them or quickly run out of space for their work and tools. Before making an online purchase of a workbench, we recommend referring to our comprehensive multi-part series, which explores the various features that jewelry makers seek in a bench. This way, you can make an informed decision that suits your needs both now and in the future as you continue to create jewelry.
Components of a Jeweler's Workbench
1. Construction of a Jewelry Workbench
Premium jeweler's workbenches are typically crafted from solid hardwood, or they consist predominantly of this sturdy material. These benches offer exceptional durability, and effective sound dampening, and can withstand various forms of wear and tear, including exposure to high heat or liquids. (In contrast, workbenches constructed with particleboard may disintegrate when exposed to excessive moisture.) The method used to assemble the bench is also crucial. The most reliable workbenches utilize wood screws instead of staples for joints, reducing both vibrations and noise. A well-constructed bench remains stable during tasks like sawing or filing, preventing any loosening of the joints.
2. Side Storage Solutions
For jewelry makers, the accumulation of tools is inevitable. However, being passionate about tools doesn't mean your workbench should resemble a cluttered kitchen junk drawer. The time spent searching for items can significantly hinder your workflow. Therefore, it's essential to ensure that your workbench has an ample number of drawers that can accommodate your growing tool collection while maintaining easy access. Seek workbenches with drawers of varying heights to accommodate different types of tools and supplies. Some jeweler's workbenches are equipped with drawers that feature rollers and built-in stops, ensuring smooth and reliable opening and closing without the risk of jamming over time. If you're sharing your workspace, it's advisable to have at least one locking drawer on your bench to securely store valuable metals and gemstones.
3. Workbench Handles
Much like other aspects of a jeweler's bench, the choice of handles often boils down to personal preference. Some jewelry workbench drawers may not come with handles at all, necessitating the addition of your own. Bar or knob handles provide a secure grip, although they can be somewhat obstructive during work. Consequently, you might find workbenches with recessed cut-out handles more appealing for a seamless working experience.
4. Debris Collection Drawer
The debris collection drawer is a spacious central compartment designed to gather metal shavings and leftover scraps as you work. It also serves as a convenient storage space for frequently used tools. Typically, the debris collection drawer is lined with aluminum to prevent tiny filings from becoming lodged in the wood grain. An alternative to this is what's commonly known as a sling, bib, or apron. This is essentially a piece of leather that offers the same benefits in terms of collecting metal debris but has the added advantage of preventing gemstones and other small objects from bouncing out. This system requires a bench with a much deeper cut-out and is more prevalent in Europe, though less common in the United States.
5. Pull-Out Work Surface
Positioned just above the debris collection drawer is a central shelf that smoothly extends outward. This sliding shelf provides rapid access to your most frequently utilized jewelry bench tools and materials. Additionally, it can serve as a staging area for your jewelry components and other essential crafting parts. Visualize this upper tray as a supplementary work surface, offering extra workspace and storage conveniently located at a more ergonomic height. Be sure to seek a robust lip along the front edge to ensure the items stored within remain secure.
6.Jeweler's Bench Peg
The primary workspace for various bench tasks, such as sawing, drilling, and filing, is the jeweler's bench peg, rather than the bench's top surface itself. Bench pegs often have reversible work surfaces, featuring both a slanted side and a flat side. While some benches may include a bench peg, you'll typically need to customize it to suit your needs. This customization can include adding classic center V-notches or wire notches to the peg. Additionally, adjustments may be required for the part of the peg that fits into your bench, known as the "tang," to ensure a snug fit into the bench peg slot. Just like the bench, the bench peg is designed to be tailored to the individual jeweler's preferences. You can use a large skip-tooth blade to create your unique workspace on this blank canvas.
Retractable armrests are designed to slide out from beneath the bench top, providing additional support during long work sessions or when extra strength and leverage are required. Some jewelers opt not to use armrests. For those who prefer not to use them, armrests can be utilized as practical surfaces for attaching ring sizing guides or rulers. When you've completed your measurements, simply slide them back under the bench for convenience.
8.Tool Holder Openings
These openings serve as ideal spaces for securing your ring mandrel while performing shaping tasks. If the holes in your bench are a bit too tight for your mandrel, you can easily widen them using a flex shaft equipped with a sanding drum. In case your bench didn't come with mandrel holes, you can add them effortlessly using a spade bit or Forstner bit.
Guard rails, which are positioned along the back and sides of the bench top, are a standard feature on purpose-built jeweler's benches. Without these guard rails, your wires, components, and tools might easily roll off the bench.
10.Seating Options for Jewelry Making
Many jewelers customize their benches to suit their body ergonomics by using adjustable stools or office chairs. This is an item you can test out to ensure it aligns with your preferences before purchasing. Similar to John's approach, you can visit a local office supply store and try out various chairs until you find one that offers adequate support and comfort. Pay attention to the length of the bottom cushion; if it's too long, it may start to cause discomfort at the back of your knees. For individuals with wider hips, ensure that the seating doesn't constrict your movements in any way.
The manner in which you incorporate your bench into your studio can enhance not only your work but also your physical comfort. Numerous jewelers purposely establish a distinct soldering or buffing station separate from their primary bench. This arrangement ensures that benchwork isn't cramped by additional equipment, and it offers the jeweler the added advantage of taking breaks from the bench to move around.