Bench pin position in cut-out bench

Greetings everyone,

I’m finally building my own jeweler’s bench and have been checking
the archives and looking at the bench exchange photos. Gosh, there’s
plenty about benches.

Since I’ve never used one of the European style benches with the
cut-out area on the top, I’m wondering if the cut-out puts the bench
pin rather far away or do you scoot up into the cut-out area to work.


Hi Marc:

You scoot up into the cut out area. The idea being that way you can
brace your shoulders and arms on the tabletop if you need to.



The pin isn’t all that far away as you are right and you move up
into the cut-out area. I have at various times used a skin in the
cutout, a solid shelf or a draw. At the moment I’m using a shelf as
it gives support for the engraver’s block but a skin makes it easy to
collect the lemel - I just have a bad habit of also leaving the tools
in the skin as well. One trick which is used by watchmakers is
suspending an apron under the cut-out and also around your neck when
working - just remember to hang up the neck strap before you get up
from the bench!


You scoot up into the cut out area. The idea being that way you
can brace your shoulders and arms on the tabletop if you need to. 

I’d love to hear opinions from those of you who have used both of
these style benches —cut-out (European?) and American style—and
compare the advantages and disadvantages of these two different
style benches. Also, is the cut-out style always used with a skin,
or sometimes with a drawer? Advantages? Thanks,


Hi Marc,

Since I've never used one of the European style benches with the
cut-out area on the top, I'm wondering if the cut-out puts the
bench pin rather far away or do you scoot up into the cut-out area
to work. 

The idea of the cut out is to help keep your work over your pan so
you can collect all of your filings and dropped this-and-that more
easily. You don’t really scoot into the cut-out. Personally I think
you will be happier with a cut-out style than one with a straight
front, not only do you catch your droppings but you are better able
to surround yourself with your best friends (your tools). I have
built a number of benches over the years and my material cost was
usually around $60 for a 48"x24" top (with a cut out) an interior
shelf and a pull out pan drawer. Typically they are about 39-40
inches tall, from the floor to the top of the bench surface. I would
usually put an under cabinet light in the interior to light up the
tools. It’s very satisfying to build your own bench, you can really
personalize it. I recently sold several of my old ones and felt real
pangs of separation when they left. As reached middle age I rewarded
myself with beautiful maple benches from Otto Frei.

Your question reminded me of a time when my Mom visited my shop. She
pointed at my bench pin and said, “Don’t those things hurt?” I asked
her what she meant and she said, “Don’t you rest your heads on that
when you work?” We all cracked up. It’s funny how people see things
so differently.


One thing I like the cut out for is, if you have a heavy hardwood top
you can drill a hole in to the side of the cut so that your ring
mandrel etc. can slip into the hole and be almost perpendicular to
your line of sight. I have found this suits some tasks quite well.



If you have a look for an earlir post I’ve made to this thread your
questions may be answered.


I’ve worked on both styles of bench and overall prefer the European
style with the cut out.

At college, we had both. The American style had a metal tray
underneath, at one corner there was a little mesh square with a small
tray underneath. The idea was that at the end of each class, all
lemel was swept into the small tray for eventual recycling whilst
bigger bits of metal and other bits of rubbish didn’t go through the
mesh and were disposed of otherwise. The European ones had a skin -
and by the end of a class, were full of tools as well as lemel.

My bench has a pull out metal tray running right across. I usually
have another tray (often just a sheet of A3 paper with the ends bent
up) directly under the bench peg to catch filings. Lots of my best
friends (tools) end up strewn from one end of the tray (and the
bench) whilst I’m in the groove - I can’t seem to teach myself to put
them back in their proper spot whilst focused on my piece.

There are also two shallow shelves between the main bench top and
the metal tray.

The bench top has a 6 inch surround on three sides which stops most
odd bits flying off onto the floor.

About 6 inches above the back surround is a metal bar which I’ve
covered with non-slip material, and that is home to my pliers.

The one fault is that my fat thighs don’t quite fit under the metal
tray; perhaps a skin would have been a better choice.

Jane Walker

I have used many benches. Kitchen tables with no cut-out, commercial
ones with a very shallow cut-out, but in my last year at school I
had a straight sided thick maple topped table :frowning: It didn’t take
long, a dark and stormy night and I made some radical modifications
with a sabre saw and had a deep cut-out. (I didn’t even get a
reprimand for multilating school property with out permission) I
fitted a skin because I couldn’t be bothered making a drawer, besides
I was on the wood shops short list for ‘borrowing’ the saw. But all
benches since then have deep cut outs and a drawer, adding a skin
over a drawer is much easier than vice versa… An adjustable arm rest
(or two) is also a very good idea.


Hi Jamie.

Over the years I’ve worked at the kitchen table (“poetry in motion”
as the work in progress had to be re-located for any meal), at the
breakfast counter which was high enough for my C-clamped benchpin,
and, after our daughter moved out, in a (finally) dedicated space
with a table on blocks for a bench.

This last set-up included a “skin” of sorts: I used a large
apron-sized section of vinyl upholstery fabric which was flexible. I
attached one edge to velcro strips placed on the under-surface of the
table and the opposite loose edge was folded over and sewn to form a
casing for a “belt” which fastened around my waist with velcro.

Before treating myself to a “real” jewelers bench, I purchased and
read (twice) Charles Lewton-Brain’s book on the subject, “The
Jeweler’s Bench Book” which I would highly recommend. He has
thoroughly covered these questions with copious illustrations,
including comments from many jewelers. Additionally the book treats
many aspects of the workspace and customizing it to suit your style
and your body (ergonomics) along with solutions to common problem
areas. In all, a great read and valuable resource!

Whichever choice you make will only be the beginning of ongoing
adaptations; a bench configuration is never really static.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy at full price (worth every
penny) and derive no benefit from my endorsement save the
satisfaction that others may also find it helpful. :slight_smile:

I wish you luck with your quest and great pleasure in your choice.

Pam Chott

Hi Jamie:

I’m a yank who trained in England, so I’ve used both extensively.

Hands down, I prefer the european style cutout benches. The biggest
advantage is that you can brace your left shoulder on the side of
the cutout for engraving, and you can also get your other arm up on
the other side to support it for delicate work.

As far as skins/trays, I always use a skin, but I’m 6’1" or 6’2",
so my reasoning is simply that I prefer not to crack my knees on the
tray every time I get up.

I’ve seen some English benches that have a half-depth tray higher up
in the bench for engraving balls/tools, or a second lemel catcher.
Those are OK, in that the tray’s higher, so it’s not such a threat to


Hi Gang,

Another good addition to you bench, no matter if you use a cut out
or a straight front is a movable arm rest.

Sep Tools ( in Chicago sells an arm rest that clamps to
the workbench & swivels around to follow your arm movements. The
height is also ajustable.The arm rest can be used either by right or
left handed folks.

I’ve been using one for about 5 years & it makes a lot of tasks that
used to be tedious almost enjoyable.

The arm rest is made by Ikohe. In the Sep Tools catalog it’s item

Usual disclaimers, just a satisfied customer.


Having used a number of benches & pin setups, when I made my latest
bench (with a 44" x 68" top that I can work at from both sides). I
took the GRS adjustable height plate & mounted it directly into the

Then mounted a second mounting plate on it.

Yes, you can use either one, which gives instant height adjustment
for the pin, all the other GRS stuff & all the other tools that now
come to fit the GRS! It is a very ridged setup.

As always, no connection to GRS & only a few changes I would like
them to make to their products.

Mark Chapman


As far as skins/trays, I *always* use a skin, but I'm 6'1" or
6'2", so my reasoning is simply that I prefer not to crack my knees
on the tray every time I get up. 

Thanks so much for this consideration. At 5’ 11" with a 34" inseam,
this is important for me too. I love it when Orchid contributors add
details like this that really help in decisions, and keep us from
making expensive mistakes.


This was Marc Zyla’s original thread and he asks about bench cut out
in European benches. Well Marc I have been using this type of bench
for the past 48 years now and I love them, my current bench was
homemade by myself some 28 years ago. I used a jigsaw to cut out the
half round recess, then chiselled an area in the centre of the
cut-out for the bench pin, over this bench pin cut out I made a
slight recess and screwed a flat 8 inch by 3 inch plate of 3mm thick
brass, which is flat with the 2 inch thick bench top. Along side the
bench pin is a half inch drill hole about half inch deep. This is to
support the end of a ring mandrel and also a place to fit the end of
a piercing saw frame when loading a blade. I notice on a lot of saw
piercing instruction the person demonstrating uses the bench pin to
hold the saw frame while loading blades, well I was taught that this
method loosens the firm fit of the bench pin and that a firm bench
pin is a must for quality saw piercing… I have always used a skin
rather than a tray, and throughout my career within this trade have
made a habit of clearing the skin at the end of each day’s work, a
task that only takes a few minutes but makes the next day’s start at
the bench a pleasant one.

One final piece of history is when I started my apprenticeship back
in 1961, I sat at a cut out bench, as shown in the photo of me on
the bench gallery, and the wooden stool that I sat on had three legs
and the seat was half round, made from the bench cut outs. I still
have this stool stored in my garage because I now sit on a swivel
office chair when at my bench.

The attachment shows my current workbench:

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG.

Well Marc I have been using this type of bench for the past 48
years now and I love them, 

Like many here, I’ve worked at a great many different benches, desks
and tables. Several where you walked in and the boss said, “There’s
your bench…” Everybody has a good, a better and a best, but
I’ll tell you you get used to anything after a while. As long as
it’s a “true” jeweler’s bench, some of the details just don’t matter
that much. Tray vs. skin, cutout vs not cutout - they all have their
pluses and minuses, and they all work just fine. Now trying to work
at a kitchen table is a whole different matter, but some people just
have to…

Since I've never used one of the European style benches with the
cut-out area on the top, I'm wondering if the cut-out puts the
bench pin rather far away or do you scoot up into the cut-out area
to work. 

I’ve only ever worked at a cut-out bench and can’t imagine any
other. As for the position of the bench pin… I use two. A fixed
one which can be taken out and turned around to have an angled
surface on top or a straight one which is straight in front of me.
Then I have at 45 degrees to the left another pin with a v-shaped cut
out for sawing. This is attached to the bench top with a wing nut
under the bench so I can loosen it if I’m doing sawing with lots of
turns. I believe I may be breaking the rules here but I can move
quickly and easily moving both saw and the piece I’m working on and
the angle of the benchpin at the same time. Having it at the 45
degree position makes it easier to see where I’m sawing and brings it
closer to my shortsighted eyes.

Hope that all makes sense.
Cheers, Renate

Thanks to all who replied to my question concerning bench design.

These ideas combined with the other info in the archives should give
me plenty to work with.

I’ll probably buy Charles’ book also.


I’m only average in height and don’t have knee-bumping problems, but
my teacher was tall and had to accommodate. His answer was sections
of 2x4 under each leg. This also raised the top enough he didn’t
have to bend forward and kept his soldering and other work in front
of his nose instead of under his face. Bent necks and backs hurt at
the end of the day, and your face over soldering instead of looking
forward at it is good for a snoot full of unhealthy fumes.

Drawbacks are that if you just use 2x4 section, the bench may 'scoot’
offit over time. Both benches at work he used sections same vertical
profile as legs. One had a couple of metal straps on each leg running
from leg down side of wood block, the other had 3 long screws running
up from bottom of wood block through leg a couple of inches,
screwtops countersunk so wouldn’t scratch floor. He talked of gluing
a square of felt under each leg to make moving them on linoleum
easier, but he never got around to it.



I have had problems bumping knees on several tables due to my power
wheelchair being high. To solve this problem I came up with a couple
of ideas that work very well.For the dinning room table I found felt
disc at the local Wal-Mart. These disc are 2" in diameter and about
3/4" thick with adhesive on one side. You just peel the plastic off
and slide them under the legs and they stay in place without sliding
out when moving the table (we have hardwood floors. Being made of
felt they do compress over time. When they do I just side another one
under the old ones. I am up to five under each leg now and have never
had any slip out, tilt or move in any way.

For my desk turned work bench I found bed risers at Bed, Bath and
beyond. They come in wood or plastic. I like the wood. These are 4"
squire and have cutouts in the top for the legs to sit in. You just
raise the bench up and slide them under. No hardware. screws, nails
or any thing needed and no worry about slipping out. I was able to
do this without help, even from the wheel chair. The top is also cut
to where you can stack them for greater height as needed and stay
very secure. I hope this might help,

Rick McCann