A wanted a benchmate so bad when I started making jewelry, but I didn’t have enough money to buy one. I did have some scrap metal laying around and my fairly poor welding skills. It isn’t beautiful TIG welds, but it holds together just fine.
This is actually the second iteration. I made the first one and then realized I wanted to build one that was better at holding the piece stable under a microscope.
After going through building it, I have to say that the price they charge is massively worth it!
I have to say, very nicely done and creative too! I doubt that there are very many Jewellers out there that can say that they made their own Benchmate, very impressive! You are of course correct though, they are definitely worth the money they charge for them!
You have a bright future ahead of you in this often expensive world of Jewellery Work, if you are willing and capable of making some of your own tools, you will be unstopable! Thank you for sharing!
I wonder if you could find the plastic knob nuts…to make adjustments easier…or! weld socket T keys…!
does the ring clamp drop down into the unit? i dont see the bottom sticking out below…?
Your kind words are well received!! Thank you
Once I got the unit functional, I stopped development
I really would love to go back and make it pretty, add the knobs…
I especially love the cell phone holder to film what you’re working on! That’s super high tech!!
You should sell that idea to GRS! They need that attachment.
I think a better version would have a magnetic base that could be easily repositioned. Probably easy to do.
You seem to have the mindset of an inventor. I thought I’d throw this out there to mull over, because the next big improvement to jewelry tools hasn’t been invented yet.
Folks have been trying to improve the ring clamp for as long as I can remember. While the BenchMate system is much more than a ring clamp, (a solder system, graver’s ball holder, vise holder, v-block/bench pin holder, etc) the core of it and what most folks think of when they think of the BenchMate is the ring clamp component. GRS has done an excellent job with reinventing the ring clamp as complete system, here’s a few solutions that are less expensive.
One from Pepe:
Another is a variation to the old school ring clamp/bench pin combo.
One from Rio Grande:
Like I said, just something to mull over. I’ve got a feeling that you have more ideas in your head that are going to percolate to the surface over time.
Keep us posted!
I’m curious what is seen as needing improvement in these designs in your eyes? The way it grips the ring, the stability or hand feel?
I resalta love the way the Benchmate frees up both my hands.
Appreciate your insights so much!
I think the BenchMate is pretty much perfect. My main grip is that I wish it wasn’t so expensive and could be more accessible to more people.
I liked the simplicity of the first generation BenchMate, but I also like how the current generation improved the arm, especially the version that can stay centered with a microscope.
With the original BenchMate there were separate handles for the ring clamp and the inside ring holder. The current version has a system that has one handle with replaceable inner parts. That’s also a big improvement.
Yes, you’re right, having both hands free is part of what makes it great, but also for folks (like me) who are older or who don’t have as much hand strength, the BenchMate makes it so you don’t have to hold on so tightly.
But truthfully, I said what I said, not so much about improving the BenchMate, but that I think as time goes on that you’re going to come up with other ideas and I want to encourage you to keep going with that mindset. Many, if not most new, jewelry tools come from jewelry makers who think of gadgets that will make their lives easier. Bill Fretz and Kate Wolf are two examples.
I appreciate your kind observation and insights. I definitely love the internal and external process of developing items to improve efficiency.
I’ve also built a magnetic polisher for just the cost of the magnets from an old free treadmill and a salad spinner. That’s a really great project that is well worth the effort considering the cost of a comparable machine.
Pictures please, I have been planning on doing this for a long time. How well does it work? Thanks…Rob
God it’s SO rough. I just kept trying things until it worked and then left it alone. Life with a toddler means I don’t get many iterations after it reaches usable functionality.
At first I used a large yogurt container but it started to wear through. The salad spinner was perfect. The raised center portion helps keep things from building up in the middle.
I’ll start a separate thread so it’s cleaner.
I have those. The mohogany one drives me insane. It constantly falls from the bench block constantly. I wish i could buy the benchmate system so much
It does really suck that GRS equipment is so expensive! Like I’ve said before, everything is going to come to you over time.
I bought a GRS gravers ball long before I bought a bench mate. I can do pretty much everything with a gravers ball (and more) than I can with the bench mate. Don’t get me wrong I love my bench mate, but if I could only have one, I’d choose the gravers ball.
I travel to teach workshops a lot. I’ve tried flying with a gravers ball. It’s not a smart idea. The bench mate is much more portable. That’s the main reason I have it. If I didn’t travel to teach so much, I don’t know if I ever would have bought a bench mate?
You might have already done this, but at some point you should probably create a priority list of what equipment you need and how it’s going to improve your business. Then make a plan of how you’re going to acquire it based on where it fits on your priority list. There’s a lot of value with getting things over time as you prove to yourself that need them.
What do you think of the cheaper knock off engraving balls?
First, I should have checked prices before I wrote my last post! When I bought my GRS standard gravers ball, way back when, it was under $300. Now I see that same gravers ball is over $700. I had no idea that GRS balls are so expensive!! I thought they were less. That’s a crazy amount of money to spend! If I bought one today, I’d probably go with the GRS mini gravers ball. Some of my stonesetting friends love the GRS mini.
As far as buying a knock off GRS gravers ball? I’ve never used one, so I can’t say. I looked around online. For $100-$200 it’s worth looking at. Whenever buying tools online, you should always confirm what the return policy is.
Economy Engraving Block Ball Vise, 210-199, $199.00
I started with a 5" machinist vise. Now I have GRS Standard, but still use the machinists vise once in a while. Steve Lindsay makes some very nice vises. I bought the GRS only because his were back ordered. Regardless of what vise I use, for the work that I do, the key is using Thermoloc to hold it in the vise…Rob
When I built my diy BenchMate, I put bearings in it so I could use it like an engravers ball. I have an attachment that has thermolock on it for necklaces and things without a ring shank.
I find the bearings give me enough smoothness to do brightcutting of my bezels but. I haven’t tried actual engraving yet.
I don’t need an engravers ball… but I want one!
Oh for sure. I have everything i need, now im buying as needed as well as what i want as i save.