Making a bench skin


I’ve managed for years without a bench skin using the skirt of my
workshop apron spread out in front. Not ideal! Since starting to do
work in gold and valuable stones and having some near misses on
losing them, I thought its time to invest in a skin. Horrified at the
cost of a ready made real one I picked up an excellent hide for a
song on eBay but I can’t find any advice on how it should be cut and
hung. Can anyone direct me to a resource that will give me pattern,
dimensions and method of attachment please?

Collette (UK)


first it really doesn’t require a pattern and since everyone’s bench
is differentso are the dimensions. But there are a few tips worth

Tandy leather has some buttery kidskin, or glove leather very cheap.
It’s smooth close grain doesn’t trap particles like an untanned,
oiled or suedded hide. Some people cut it as wide as the opening of
their bench if it has a cutout- otherwise just as wide as covers
under your pin and/or filing blockand as deep as you like or the
leather allows for. Some people cut it with “tails” that tie onto
their waist, others might have canvas tapes with velcro on the ends
that also attaches round the waist- point is it makes a bowl like
area that catches all the matter that falls from the benchtop over a
wide area and is forced by gravity to the naturally deepest part of
the skin. Attaching it to the bench can be done with a section of
spline tacked tp the bench below any pin, clamped on vises, bickrams
etc. and then the thin leather is inserted with a spline tool. That
looks neat and leaves a very small footprint. Upholstery tacks are
easier and can be removed later should you wear the skin thin in
spots ( after years of use!), they are also faster than using spline.
There are many methods for attaching it- it depends on the permanence
you need as to whether you use velcro or a more permanent set up and
whether you want it attached solidly across the top or not.

Anything that is wide enough to trap ground particles or filings that
fly around, and doesn’t obstruct access to the bench pin with enough
clearance to get at the work piece, and if you have a grs benchmate
system, allowing for the lowest attachment in your arsenal, and that
clears any pull out tray you may have will work as long as its not
too taught, has some “belly” for collecting the material and holding
powdered metal or filings in case you accidentally stand up or move
abruptly while attached to the skin (if you fasten it to your waist)
that can be brushed easily will work. I have seen many methods of
attaching it- almost as many as skins designs aside from those ch
your stray metallbuilt into professional benches (more often replaced
with a metal lined catch tray these days). Whatever you come up with
should be comfortable and wide enough to cover your working area and
deep enough (add about 8-10 inches to the distance of the line from
the bench to where you sit comfortably to work, that will force a
depression into the skin at the lowest point, to catch your stray
metal. good luck… rer

Hi Collette,

I determined the dimensions and shape of mine by pinning lengths of
tape to the underside of the bench with drawing pins. I used two
pieces of tape; one left to right, and one back to front. I first
adjusted the left/right one to give the correct “sag” then pinned
the front/back one to the underside of the bench, adjusted the “sag”
and then pinned the front to the middle of the left/right tape. I
wanted the “middle” of the skin to be lower than the front.

I then assumed that the final shape of the skin would be basically
semi-circular, with a width equal to the length of the left/right
tape, and a radius equal the the front/back tape. I added a bit to
the dimensions to allow for the method of fastening.

The following photo shows the skin I made…

As you can see, it’s almost semi-circular with the sides cut off.

I screwed 9 cup hooks to the underside of the bench, which you can
see in this photo…

and put brass reinforcing rings into the skin, its then a simple
matter to hook the skin onto the cup-hooks.

Here is a picture of the skin in place.

I hope this makes sense.
Regards, Gary Wooding

1 Like

Hi Collette,

I did a ‘how to make yourself a jeweller’s bench’ page on my
website. I use a bench skin, and down at the very bottom of the page,
I talk about how I made the one I use. They’re really not that hard.
The link is heRe:

Feel free to email if that doesn’t answer your questions.


When I first took possession of my jewelry studio in 2005, it had
workbenches designed by a European jeweler, who had "bench skins"
made of black naugahyde installed under each bench. I tried to get
used to this unfamiliar design, but found that a hard, slide-out
tray was best for me. For one, emptying out the skin of metal dust
and scraps was tricky, and several times a hot piece of metal came
off the soldering board and actually burned through the skin and onto
the wood floor!

The answer I came up with was to take out the fake leather bench
skins from each workbench, and replace them with removable sliding
trays. I went to a local used restaurant supply company, and bought
18 in. x 26 in. heavy duty steel baking trays. These have a 1 in.
deep rim all around, and after I built a frame under each bench to
slide the tray beneath the work area, measuring to make sure the tray
cleared both knees and saw frames, I now have a wide, steady, easy to
remove and empty scrap tray. I prefer these removable trays, as they
won’t let hot metal get onto clothes or the floor, and are a great
place to place tools as you are working.

Jay Whaley

I agree trays are far more easy to use. I have a skin that stays
tied up…but i use an 18" copper for soldering with about a half inch
of crushed charcoal and silicon carbide (because it was granulated
and free) in it so nothing escapes the lip of the copper… even if it
rolls off the charcoal or siliquar block it lands in the tray. A
tripopd fits inside the tray as well when I need to get heat under
something or for slumping solder onto two surfaces to be joined. rer