Making a Custom Bench Pin - what's the best wood to use?

As an advancing (newer) silversmith, I’m quickly finding I don’t like the standard bench pins on the market and have already gone through a handful of them. I’ve decided its time to just make my own and do have the tools to do so.

Does it matter what type of wood we use? I’d love to make a beautiful Cedar one, but I’m not sure if cedar would be too soft. I even thought of using Olive wood to make it exceptionally beautiful.

What would be best wood to use?

It will likely just get scarred up as you file, drill and cut against it. That being said, starting with a nice piece of harder wood would make sense. I too have gone through many, from an old piece of pine to, purchased plain wood, aluminum, Jane Redman’s combination that will also tilt just to cut pancake dies and a cut out piece of what appears to be plastic cutting board material. I am still looking for the perfect pin. Good luck…Rob


Use anything you’re not afraid to let get scarred, sawn, drilled into, or burnt. As Rob said, a hardwood will hold up longer than a softwood, but don’t bother with anything expensive. A close grained, diffuse-porous wood will be best, IMHO.
If you’re in the US Maple is a good choice. If you’re in the UK or EU (still feels odd to have to name them separately) European Beech would be good. Neither of these are rare so won’t cost much for a small piece, nor are so attractive that sawing into or burning spots on them would be upsetting. These species will take a bit more time to modify than softer woods, so that’s your trade-off.

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Greetings Lily,

I have always viewed bench pins as a disposable item. I have made a few out of maple and birch. And they look terrible but last well, or until they are unusable and I make, more likely buy, more. I have found that too soft a material or hard wood that is cross grained with cause you saw blades to bind up if you get into the wood too much. When they bind they tend to break. Residual pitch in too resinous a wood will bind and dull your blades.

Very dry maple is probably your best friend when it comes to bench pins.

Good luck.

Don Meixner


Maple is precisely what I went for. I purchased a good board of it on ETSY. Thanks so much Don and Elliot! :slight_smile:

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Hi Lily,

Instead of a V notch in the middle, try putting thin slits (for piercing/sawing…more stability when sawing small items)


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That’s a great idea! The wood hasn’t arrived yet, but I look forward to customizing it out. Thanks again! :hugs: :hugs:

you don’t need a whole lot of wood for a bench pin… I’ve used everything from plywood to hardwood.
if you buy a hardwood board at the local hardware store, it might seem expensive but you will have a lot more to use later as the bench pins get beat up and thrown away…the thin slit idea is a great idea, thanks wizidrd1…I never thought of that…could cut both on a bench pin…or have two separate ones for different purposes…

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I actually have a few bench pins, that I switch off on.

one with primarily slits
one with a single finger-like protrusion
one with a stepped front edge and slit
one with various notches and grooves

i just got the GRS metal piercing bench pin and really like it…I often brace my blade on the slit (and or my finger nail) and the internal sides of the slit get chewed up…i do that when I start the cut and run the blade up to notch the metal…or when I am using my saw as a file and want some “resistance”…




The more we communicate (here and on other threads I’ve started where you’ve offered your advice), the more I wish I could be your apprentice! I wish I could learn underneath you as a student…!

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Hi Lily,

Haha! we wouldnt both fit in my studio!

you remind me of myself…especially when I was first learning…or after, because I am always learning about new techniques…i too learn fast…(sometimes “too fast” and miss nuances in the written word)…and am curious about many techniques…i usually design (and I use that word verrry loosely) projects to include techniques that i want to learn…and then fall down the rabbit hole of looking for tools that i “need”…!

have you yet read the below book?

it is over 800 pages of intense minutiae…the “first” time you read it, cover to cover, you will catch a small percentage of knowledge….as you work on jewelry and re-read sections as reference, you will probably pick up more knowledge…stuff that did not stand out earlier become “ah ha” moments and solutions or explanations to issues…simple things…that are more relevant now…that make sense now…a few sentences…that will change your life!!


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I do own the book below! I bought it a few months ago. I wasn’t quite ready for it. As you know, its quite the beast of a book. Probably the most comprehensive book available on techniques in metalsmithing. Now that I’m actually doing well I think reading through various techniques will make more sense. I’m glad you brought it up as I’ll probably revisit thumbing through it this week. As you said, the more you learn/do, the more the descriptions of various functions make sense. I truly wasn’t ready for any of it initially. Its not something a beginner can just jump into. But I’d at least put myself at “intermediate” now.

I actually posted one of my first pieces into the gallery and kind of regret it. A lot of criticism for my choice of design that I simply don’t agree with. I guess maybe I don’t have any business saying I don’t agree with people who know more than me, but I truly don’t.

I’m the type of person who is just going to forge their own path no matter what the politically correct answer is. I believe in learning the foundations properly and always looking for the best way to do things - but after that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder truly. If I do get a business going, it will be very unique/different, and I believe there will be a market for that.

I’m so glad to correspond with you and get to know you, if even “virtually”! :slight_smile:

Hi Lily,

I had a chance to see your gallery post of your first piece! Congratulations on completing it, and hitting all your design goals for it! And! for being brave and posting it for all the world to see!

I also had a chance to read all of the comments, and one thing I would say is that there while there are many lurkers on the forum, there are also a few brave, generous, knowledgeable people who offer their comments…and free of charge!:smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

my takeaway was that they were offering comments as to construction and wearability, based on their years of experience as jewelers…as for design aesthetic, as you said, that truly is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

you are good at sketching your ideas out! perhaos add a side view and front view sketch to further challenge your design ideas…and hash stuff out…oh my…that is a whole nother segue!

and! so! let me throw my 2cents into the pot​:rofl::joy:
as you more forward, consider designing/ adding underbezel/ gallery structures to your base plates…it will add “volume” without adding metal weight and $$$…it will promote more adventurous soldering challenges!…it will add additional “make” to the piece…especially if you are currently partial to “tall” settings, it might add some “weight” to the bottom?…if you desire more…so! in addition to the “top view” sketching, consider adding a side view and front view…

I make and wear alot of my “first pieces” in a particular technique…to “test drive” them…

when i was doing engraved charms, I wore a triple set, on the standard chain offered, for one year! never took it off…wanted to see how the finish held up, if the chain was durable, if the engraving “caught” on fabric, etc… I even sent a package across the country and back, via USPS, to see how the shiny mirror finish held up in transit, in my packaging…!

my latest projects were huge fabricated rings…goal- to test purchase cabachon stones on instagram, and to fabricate rings with settings with ALOT of solder joins (for some would say, inappropriately huge cabochons!) …and french set halos, and different underbezel/ under gallery strategies…and lastly working on different shaping of prong tips and getting them pushed down tight on the stones…and making brass tools for that, of course!

(which segued into shopping for brass round rods, which segued into buying brass bar rods for paperclip chain link mandrels, which segued into buying fabric and sewing roll cases for said brass items​:rofl::joy:)

then, i have been wearing them to test them out…one ring, i had to pull the stone out, and fabricate an underbezel structure because it kept riding up over my knuckke and would go flying off across the room!:rofl::joy:…and another one, that has sharp claw prongs keeps snagging my clothes…

and…I always start my practice pieces using “not the best stone in the bunch”, because it is “just practice” after all…but the pieces usually come out good, and then i wish i used a “better” stone…also. i usually can point out things that i wish i did differently…which always leads to…the next piece!

my personal opinion is to keep your fabulous first piece!
wear it alot!

perfect strangers as well as friends will say “wow! I love your ring”…and you will glowingly reply…”thanks so much! I made it myself!” …and they will say “wow! you make jewelry?”…and then you show them your Etsy shop!:rofl:


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FWIW, Untracht’s earlier book, Metal Techniques for Craftsmen has more information on metal techniques outside of jewelry making. Both are worth having in your library.

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Hi Lily,

I have been running a bench for thirty years, brother Rob for many fifty. I think Rob was setting cabs shortly after starting. I started within the last year. Every time you step out of your comfort zone you are a beginner. Keep on with your experimenting in style.

As far as bench pins go. My Dad came to the Boatyard I worked at 40 years ago and raided the scrap pile for wood to make a pin. I have it somewhere. The end result was a piece of slat from an old pallet. Maple. Then he bought a bunch of stuff from a jewelry shop that was going out of business and got three or four more and never used the one e made at the Boatyard. And I am likely to use the ones he bought.

Find something you like that works for you. That will help you to define your style.

My .02.

Don Meixner

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Thanks Don! Excellent. I have chosen to go with maple and am waiting for the slab of it to arrive today. All the pre-made bench pins seem to be far too small. I’d really like something larger and more substantial.

I appreciate the advice.

My bench pin is as much an extra place to put stuff when I am soldering as it is a place to work on stuff, so I like a bigger one too…Rob

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Rob, just saw your website per your profile. Beautiful work! I enjoyed looking at your gallery. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: