Customised jeweller's bench for tiny space

Hi all. I’m about to build a customised jeweller’s bench for my tiny
appartment. I wondered if you can give any tips/pointers and
suggestions as things to avoid and also things to be sure to do. I am
also having to find a solution to the problem that this bench may
have to sit in front of the only heater in the room and so I am
considering building a grill into the far end of the bench. Any other
ideas/thoughts on this? Any advice of your experience would be
greatly appreciated! Thanks!


I made my first small bench based on a picture from a borrowed Rio
Grande Catalog. It measures 18 inches deep and 27.5 inches wide. I
was lucky that abuilding at the UW Madison was remodeling so I was
able to pick up a counter top from a lab with a fire resistant table
top. I made it out of an old scrap plywood sheet because it was free
for the taking. took a Saturday afternoon and a six pack to build in
the garage. I had to re-glue the joints and add some wood screws in
late 1992 after a tornado dumped most of my neighbors house on top
of mine, but other then that it has held up well over 20years. I
still use it as my soldering bench now that I have a full room inmy
basement for a shop.

What would I have done differently? Should have spent $20 bucks on a
new sheet of wood and sanded it down and sealed itwith several coats
of varnish! it is a bit warped now causing a slight wobble and the
drawer sticks. also splinters!

You can see it on the bench exchange from several years ago before I
moved into my house and upgraded to several benches.

Making this was what made me feel less like a amateur and more like
I should maybe pursue the trade as a career. I could so do with a
better bench for soldering but I am a sentimental sot and just can’t
get rid of it.

Gerald Livings

Ilana- Congratulations on undertaking this project.

Benches are a very personal thing. Everyone has their own bench

Just make what best suits your needs.

Just make sure your bench is tall enough so that your bench pin is
just below your chin so that you don’t get a dowager’s hump. It’s
easier to control your upper body strength in that position as well.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry

Jo Haemer

Get a good chair first, one that adjusts to your body. Then, once
you’ve got it adjusted, build the bench to fit the chair. Usually
it’s done the other way round and compromises may have to be made in
the seating. But you can get your seated posture right and then build
a bench to match that.

Worthwhile to do a little reading on human factors, aka ergonomics.

Elliot Nesterman

Gee just off the top placing a bench in front of the sole heat
source in any room sounds like a poor location- block the heat? build
a grate behind it and then force air to blow it. up? heat rises for
one thing so consider that- and consider a small leak in a tank of
fuel gas- or O2 and a malfunction of the heater- sounds like a
disaster waiting to happen to me. Isn’t there any way you can orient
things differently? Use a corner? Use a different wall- or move
something around- for one thing you need ventilation unless you are
beading or only making cold connections. I see this as a problematic
situation- and wouldn’t choose this area unless you are in Florida or
another warm place where you use heat 1 or 2 weeks a year. anywhere
else particularly Northern- bad idea…

Another thing is you probably want to avoid putting a bench in your
bedroom- I didn’t sleep at all the first year I began making
jewelery because ther bench called- until I couldn’t keep my eyes
open- bad situation. then a friend who at that time had been making
jewellery at least 50 years asked if I had the bench in my room.-
problem solved. It does hold true for most people with a standard or
even particularly large bedroom- if a bench is there you’ll loose
some sleep. second ventilation if you solder, third insurance
concerns regarding compressed gasses indoors. ther is quite a long
list of don’t from electrical terminals needing to be checked for
sure connections to fume redirection and dust collection issues. so
that’s the short, ‘short list’.

if you have to move something better to have the bench nearer a
window than a heat source. If you own the house and can modify a
closet by removing a door and widening a non-weight bearing wall-
that may be safer and something to at least consider. outdoors, even
a covered porch isn’t good for security as well as humidity attacking
your tools (and it will)…even if you were to lock your bench and
have the tools in a rolling tabouret, what a hassle. particularly if
you work a lot or plan to…

When you do figure out a sane space to use that offers you space to
at least swivel a chair around a bit, electrical connections that are
grounded, safe and fused properly if “stacking” or using extension
cords/adapters to allow more connections on a single circuit or
adding a power strip and other cording i. e.- for a pickle pot on one
outlet, and a, power strip where you can contain the cords to other
electric devices you should be sure to haveall the cabling well
contained in either a slit foam wrap(like you would use to cover pipe
and then affixed to a static location so it can’t get loose or
tangled. the ventilation is easy enough if you install a range hood
or even a small bench top fan to redirect soldering fumes- it can be
unplugged and stored in its box when not in use- For hanging a flex
shaft a hinge as for gates works great to swing it out of the way of
the bench so you could set up a drill press or other equipment when
necessary-or otherwise just to swing against a wall or other surface
to give you room on the bench top without clamping something to the
bench- these hinged things are cheap and come in lengths up to about
18" on one side of the hinge- so it gives you about 32" altogether
overhead. a stack of magnets can be attached to the wall or flat
vertical surface to hold it in position out of the way as you’ll need
some clearance when it’s closed to allow for the depth of the pendant
motor- unless you have a dremel or other rotary tool used as a
flexshaft (which is perfectly fine) or don’t hang it at all- which is
not as good for the tool’s power cord) otherwise there are clamp and
bolt-on hangers for about 25 bucks the allow for at least one if not
2 tools to be used for daily metalsmithing operations…

then you need to look at what you consider essential equipment- this
depends on what you do. If beading and cold connections fit your
definition, none of the above matters much- something to ream beads,
as well as drilling, riveting and even grinding can be done by
hand;with non-electric tools some that clamp on to the bench top.
However, if you are planning for soldering the traditional way (but
later than a bellows and pipe because a blowpipe has its own
circumstances to consider) using gas and air or oxy/fuel set ups in
building your bench , using a stump or anvil of some size (above a
2.5 lb anvil for bench tops), hand tools, anealling pan and grain, a
wire wig, thumbling strips, wet and dry consumables (i. e.- fluxes,
acids, granular chemicals, beakers, a wax carver and lamp or bunsen
burner, stone setting tools, even an engraving ball and/or gravermax-
you’re going to need some shelving, and preferably a metal chemical
cabinet- some can be hung on the wall (with anchors if drywall/sheet
rock of an appropriate weight to allow for the cumulative weight of
full containers), And what about under the bench or table top ? There
are many ways to go but a hard surface is hard on your body, and a
foam panels-that-lock are not great if you plan on remelting scrap as
hot metal goes straight through to the substrate flooring. so
cushioning is good but safety is important too- so perhaps placing
interlocking panels (like the 6 in a pack from harbor freight tool
for 7-9 bucks) over glued in oversized tiles may be a good option if
you have wood floors, or worse, carpeted floors.! Then there is the
choic of torch, soldering area and it’s ventilation/redirection
system, tool storage - from a heavy coated length of aircraft cable
strung next to the bench for hanging pliers, etc. to your hammers
storage. I personally have at least 25 hammers I use in a week and
storage has always been a problem for them. I have tried a number of
systems and found a hinged board on the end of the bench that has a
2" header strip (x length of the side of the bench top) attached to
the bench’s top and bottom (for stability and weight bearing) and 2"
shorter than the height, with small wooden wheels dowelled into the
bottom of the board to assist in “glide” was the best set-up for
those i use almost daily- the rest have their own pegboard. On the
inside of what is a wing of the hammers storage addition i have
leather strips for each hammer that conform to each tool’s shape and
weight. It makes storage easier and access as easy as possible- not
to mention each is clearly for x hammer; something looks out-of-place
when slid into the wrong strip. I have a lot of tools already as i
have had to replace (and am still replacing- or trying to!!!) an
entire studio assembled over a 35+ year period, though some were/are
irreplaceable and others I can’t afford to replace, there is still a
large collection of cases, boxes, trays, etc. that all need a handy
place close by. Magnetic strips work great for tool storage An office
size metal cabinet like those used to house office supplies, etc. can
be found free or cheap on Craig’s list. Additional shelves are easy
to add and all stay as organised as possible in a small space if
that’s all you have. What about a grinding area and collecting the
polishings and sweeps?Will you have a separate polishing/grinding
motor? Do you have other tools or equipment you think are essential
to the studio’s running smoothly- or rather you being able to run it
smoothly, and safely.

Then there’s metal collection. From a bin for wiping down the bench
at the end of your work day and saving the wet paper towels or wipes,
to what you like to use as a skin or a tray as those in traditional
benches. I find trays a bit impractical unless you are building a
traditional bench, and skins far more useful and versatile as long
as you remember to detach it from your body if you go to stand up
(the rest of you, stop laughing ! - you know you’ve done it at least
once in the beginning!).then there’s the sink or your hand washing
set-up- there are a lot of metal particles that are washed away and
are highly re-collectable with either a purchased trap or a home made
one fitted to the plumbed water drainage system. It can empty into a
bucket for that matter (if you are using gold I would definitely
recommend a recollection system as there is a lot of particulate
matter that adds up when you turn in your refining on whatever your
schedule is. once a year, twice a quarter, whatever. I use adhesive
mats too in and out of the studio- you’d be amazed at what walks out
the door- so I have to have a separate bin for the used flooring
tear-off sheets. All in all, different bins for different wastes is
another consideration. As is storing them. Some shops send in their
entire flooring annually- so it all depends on the scale of your
total area entrance to exits and what you do in that space and how it
is cleaned as to the storage just dedicated to cleaning, that you
need to consider when looking at the whole space. Does it have doors
or are screens appropriate as they can offer additional storage
possibilities and enclose a small area ? If it has a single heat or
AC source what about ventilation around the bench and then into the
rest of the room and how will that affect the whole space(house)? Do
you have a rolling mill or any other equipment that requires a
separate stand or being bolted down?- All these things need to be
assessed before planning the bench’s width - and if you are going to
clamp things on- consider the bench’s top- what material other than
wood would work best for you, or will setting a tile into the top off
center make the most sense space-wise for a soldering surface and do
you need rails around the top or leave it flat for adding clamp-on
equipment and a bench pin? Or do you have a GRS bench mate system you
need to install ? I found a desk behind the main bench gave me a
great surface for simply swivelling a chair and using the benchmate
on the back of a desk in my very first small set-up in a room. If you
walked in you would have seen what appeared to be a traditional bench
with a cut-out at eye height for the main work are and a chair
between it and a desk that was lined up behind it, so when I turned I
had then another work area with a skin under the bench-mate mounted
on the back panel of that desk and the entire front of that desk,
complete with its draws, etc. to use as a space for other work.,tools
and equipment. A single foot pedal controlled all the things on the
traditional bench and a separate one was the controller for the desk
and its mix of electric and mostly non-electrified equipment. I also
found a hospital IV hanging pole that was a boon to moving things
that hung in between the areas. It was compact but every inch was
utilised. So listing everything to start helps you figure what you
need as a result…

Then there’s safety equipment;essential, critical to know how to,
and when to and what to do it with: for instance I have 2 eyewash
stations with pumps that come in a Bausch & Lomb box kit thing-y. If
needed one simply removes the trigger sprayer head and points to the
eye and flushes, but even with it’s attachment to the wall built-in
to the unit, there is not an included well for collecting the flushed
liquid. so that’s a consideration: And in thinking about safety and
first-aid and assembling those supplies and equipment, posting some
contact’s phone number’s is also a good idea. as is posting a large
chalk-board.-.It is great for ,day-to-day deadlines, promise times on
repairs notes and the usual as well as working out figures, and
listing equations that you use daily, like how to measure strips for
bezel sizing and ring blanks to calculating how much x will be needed
to make a spout for a piece of hollowware at x height. How far from a
hand-washing sink is your set up? and what so you need to do to
modify it for emergencies? Neutralisers for acid spills and
towelling, and fire extinguishers, and knowing what to do for what
kind of emergency? And do you have a phone nearby? What is your plan
for a major fire or emergency- Do you have a schedule in place for
tank checks and equipment maintenance- because preventing a short in
an electrified tool is the way to go rather than burning out a motor-
and where will you keep that schedule? Will you have a PC in the area
for design or client records or hard copies- and what or where will
you store them? If so that too will need a cover when grinding metals
or minerals! Do you oil your tools regularly? If so, (and you should)
do you have a metal can for their storage as oily rags can
spontaneously combust. I have seen it happen, and they shouldn’t be
stored with the rags with which you wiped up a spilt flux mixture.

So there are many things to think about. and Orchid’s bench exchange
will surely give you some ideas and help idenify things that won’t
work for you given your height or other considerations like how many
electrical outlets you have to work with and, is it more practical
to hard-line in natural gas and buy that torch that uses natural gas
and room air than to try and store a couple of hazardous tanks in
front of a heater…

Anyway, I hope this gives you some things to think about that you
hadn’t before. and that it all works out as best it can given what
sounds like a limited space. Also don’t overlook the archives on the
topics relevant to your questions they are a wealth of information
that goes back years. rer