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Jewelers Vise

Now that I am moving heavy bezels on cuff bracelets with a hammer and metal setting tool, I need to figure out a way to securely hold the bracelet so that I can use both hands on the tools. I have been securing the bracelets in thermal set plastic on top of the end of a small piece of 2X4. This actually works fairly well until you have to remove the plastic from the end of the 2X4. I may try squeezing the excess plastic in my small bench vise. In the end, I need a better solution, especially if I am going to begin to do some graver work. Does anyone have a suggestion for an inexpensive vise that I might buy that will serve these needs. As always, thanks…Rob


 To hold  a bracelet firmly I use a bracelet mandrel clamped to the bench. I first wrap small sheet of buckskin  leather around the mandrel and slide the bracelet on  over it. That way the leather absorbs the shock of hammering and keeps the piece from slipping on the mandrel. 

Jerry in Kodiak

We have several bracelet mandrels with different profiles. We also live
just down the block from The Rebuilding Center, a non profit clearing house
for used building materials. So if I have an unusual shaped piece to work
on I just go find a chunk of stair railing or any piece of decorative wood
that fit my needs. We can find useful items in both hard woods and pines.
We’ve used everything from oddly shaped door knobs to finials to railings
and cover them with setters shellac. I’ve even purchased, for pennies on
the dollar, wide decorative mouldings to use as a bead stringing board.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

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I placed my latest heavy wall bezel bracelet into the surface of a golf ball sized piece of soft thermal set plastic and then squeezed the excess into the jaws of a partially open bench vise. While still soft, I moved the plastic and bracelet around to make sure that it securely held the bracelet, but also won’t interfere with my ability to use my setting tools around the bezel. I let the plastic harden, tightened the jaws a bit and then went to work setting the cab. The vise is attached to a small stand that will allow me to move it and he bracelet around. Once done, I put the bracelet and plastic into hot water until the plastic became soft enough to remove the bracelet and do any clean up needed. All in all, this worked well, but am still looking for an inexpensive vise. I did try all of this on my bracelet mandrel first, but it was too smooth to keep the hardened plastic from sliding off the mandrel. Thanks…Rob

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Maybe something like a stitching pony would work. Think of 3’ tall ring clamp that rests on the floor and you brace with your knees.
Here’s a very good video.


Graver work narrows your vise requirements because you will need to turn the work rather than push the graver. But maybe you don’t want to be hammering on something in an engraver’s block or ball.

Perhaps an inexpensive solution would be to mount the thermal set plastic in an adjustable vise such as this one

For the graver work, I remember a lot of discussion around here about this tool
which could be mounted in a vise.

Here’s a discussion where the purpose of the ball vise when using gravers is mentioned:

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Sorry to be so geeked about this. I was not familiar with the product referred to by @rmeixner so went looking and am confused by the terminology. Thermoset does not seem to be reshaped once set. Perhaps a product name might help me to understand. Here are the links to the information I am basing my assumption on:

Sounds more like thermoplastic being used. The reason I’m interested in the product name is I have a related application that the ability to hold a part then heat to take it off then reuse on a different shape would be very useful. Currently I use a play dough like material and when done destroy the clamping material to release the odd shaped object.


Here is one example:

Here is another example:

Sorry about the confusion. It is thermal plastic, meaning it softens when heated and hardens at room temperature. It can be reused. I looked through my order history and can’t find a specific item or name reference, but it likely came from Rio, Otto Frei, or possibly Amazon. I also use it to make models to cast with Delft clay…Rob

@rmeixner forgive me if I’m naive, but why can’t you use the plastic to hold the object in place on a bracelet mandrill. That way you have the ridged control and the mov ability for graver work. Then it can be easily heated to remove.
Regards RLW

I use a thermoplastic product all the time to hold odd shaped objects like earrings, bracelets and pendants.
I believe that the product was called JetSet, but I will have to check on Monday. I am pretty sure that I originally purchased it as a kit from Stuller, that came with several pounds of plastic pellets, a hotpot to heat water in, and a small screened basket to heat the plastic pellets in…

I have several holders, from an aluminum GRS T bracket, to aluminum cups with a flange on the bottom, (also from GRS I think), plus a couple wooden holders that I created for an unusual application.

I can then clamp the holders into my GRS MiniBall, a larger Engraver’s ballvise, or even a ring clamp in the GRS BenchMate, freeing up both hands to work with.

I drop the holder into hot water for a couple of minutes, set the object I need to hold into the softened plastic, and then set it aside to let it cool and harden.
When I am done, I turn the hotpot full of water back on, and drop the holder into it until the plastic is softened enough again to remove the item. I have reused, reshaped the plastic, and made adjustments several hundred times with each clamp by now, and have never had to replace the thermoplastic because it has failed or deteriorated with repeated use.

I use this technique for all sorts of situations where it is not possible to hold an item otherwise. I set stones in earrings and pendants, etc., and do minor engraving on small items this way.

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Thanks @Betty2

I was on the road during much of this discussion and unable to look at the packaging for my thermoplastic rods. I am now home and have looked. I purchased them in July of 2014 from Otto Frei. The item number appears to be 103.664. It still shows up in their current online catalog. They work well for me. Regarding the question about using a bracelet mandrel, I thought that I had replied to it. I have tried using the mandrel several times, but the thermoplastic doesn’t stick to the mandrel and the it just slips off. My mandrel is tapered. I also do most of my work while the bracelet is just slightly bent and the last thing that I do is bend it to shape, so it would not work well on the mandrel. I really liked the wooden vise in the video link that Elliot posted. Thanks to all…Rob

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Sorry! wrong number. It should be 103.666 See:

Thank you, Betty.

Thermoplastic and and engravers block and you can hold anything and support it well. I do all my work there so I can have two hands free. And yes you absolutely CAN hammer on things in an engraving block. I have been doing it for 40 years.


I bought an inexpensive drill press vise to secure my bracelets while mounted in thermal plastic. My goal was to see if more mass pushing back at my heavy bezel wall pushers helped. It does! Now I need a little help with what the pushers should look like. I bought some 3/16 brass rod and forged the ends out a bit. One is fairly flat and maybe 2X2.5 mm and polished. The other is a little bigger with a groove cut into the middle to help it stay positioned on the bezel edge. It is also polished. They both move the the bezel wall, but leave a bit of damage to be cleaned up. I would appreciate some suggestions about the shape of the pushers to avoid damage to the bezel and stone. Finally, I need to clean up the edge of the moved bezel next to the stone. Many of my stones are a bit soft. Several of you have suggested a half round onglette graver. I would appreciate some suggestions about the size and if this is a correct application for this graver. As always, thanks in advance for any help…Rob

A rubber pumice wheel on your flex shaft is nice for smoothing out metal close to a stone. It will sand metal away with out scratching all but the very softest stones. A pumice wheel will damage pearl and it might take the shine off of coral, lapis or turquoise. You can test it on the back of a stone to be sure. Much care must be taken with a graver used next to any stone but diamond. one side is set up to cut and polish the edge of the bezel. The other side is set up to ride against the stone and hopefully not scratch it.

I use only # 180 grit on Flat or even Tapered Pumice wheels THEN #1,000 grit (Pink) for very close cleaning. This is only when aggressive polishing is to be totally avoided!!

Gerry! from my mobile-phone!

I ordered some thermo-plastic last week. I wanted to share a photo of the warning text on the back of the container:

“JETT Ballistic contains Kevlar, but is not bullet proof.
Don’t become a poster child for natural selection.”

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