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Otto Frei's Jeweler Workbench

I am looking at purchasing my 1st workbench. Here is a link to the 1
I am considering at Otto Frei: Product 312. Does anyone have this? If so is
it worth the $795 + shipping? Any other recommendations? Has anyone
had one custom built by a carpenter? If so how did it turn out and
in general was it more expensive?

Thank You. Christine

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a workbench for your jewelry projects? We recommend:


I bought the standard Jewelers work bench two years ago and I it is
a great piece of equipment. I live in the Los Angeles area and I was
able to buy the bench as a Drop shipment which saved me about $100.00
as I picked it up at the factory. You have to put it together but
that part was simple. The bench was hardwood and went together great.

Billy S. Bates

In general it would probably be more expensive to have a carpenter
make a single bench to a specific design than buying a similar bench
from Otto Frei. I have 2 benches that my father made for me as well
as several commercial benches. The two my father made are similar to
Otto Frei’s top quality benches, I have 2 single benches and one
double bench with steel legs, all have thick maple tops. The last
bench is similar to 113-016, the top is not solid wood.

The reason a carpenter made bench would be more expensive would be
in the time it takes to make the drawer boxes and fronts, although
those are available pre-made in a wide range of sizes and materials.
A kitchen cabinet maker would be a good choice to make a bench. A
typical carpenter might not have the specialized joinery tools that a
cabinet maker might use. CNC routers are frequently used to cut the
panels. You would save money having several benches made rather than
one because of the design and layout time. With the general slowdown
of the housing market, it might be a good time to investigate having
one made, but the commercial benches generally are good for decades
of service. On that time frame, even Otto Frei’s top benches are a
bargain. 50 or 100 years from now, someone could still be using them
as jewelers benches on a regular basis.

Rick Hamilton

i bought the last one i hope to buy from from www.progresstool in
L.A. CA. its really nice and has a stainless steel top and never
shakes or moves even when i lean into it (and i consider myself to
fairly strong as i am able to upright any of my antique motrcycles
that wiegh close to 500lbs when i drop them ) i think it was called
the terminator and it was about $650 - $700 check it out before you
spend the cash-goo

Check out one of the recent issues of Art Jewelry Magazine. They
have an article on “Guide to buying a workbench”. Another issue has
a guide to buying a torch.

As a beginner trying all types of new techniques, I love this



I had a bench custom built by a carpenter and was very pleased with
the results. It provides the opportunity to define the features and
sizes to your personal specs. Draws cause prices to go up in a
hurry, since they are so labor intensive. In general, a custom bench
is much more expensive than one manufactured ready to buy. About the
same differential as a standard stock jewelry item and one custom
made. But like a peice of custom made jewelry, I feel like it is a
bit of art that I work on. Only down side is the slight embarrasment
of knowing the quality of my bench and tools exceeds the quality of
what I make with them.

Ben Steiger

Years ago I purchased one of their larger benches - drawers on both
sides in solid maple. I truely adore it. It was worth every penny.
The quality is top notch. Having the 2 level pull out shelf and tray
for your engraving block, with shelf space for gravers and catching
filings and scraps is a must in my book.

Good luck on your decision. Standard disclaimer, just a very
satified customer.

Ellen Starr

I tried to look at the Frei version but I’m home on dialup/primitive
and explorer didn’t like the site (crash). But I think I saw the
bench you mention, but price, anyway. I have the top of the line
bench from them, which appears to be the same bench you mention but
it has two banks of drawers, plus mine is oak. It look the same,
though, as far as maker, etc. Aside from a few things I wouldn’t have
done if I’d made it myself - cute little bur holder things on the
insides of the top drawer cover that I have never put a bur into
(they hold about 20 burs and I have about 250) - stuff like that,
it’s a very fine bench, and I’d heartily recommend it. Any bench
takes getting used ;to as far as posture and layout, but it’s solidly
built, I think a lot of bench for the price, and it’s going to be
hard to beat for the money. I love mine and I don’t baby it. Your
question of custome made/price and all that has no answer. What
bench? Who’s making it? What are they making it from? Are they any
good at it? The bench I replaced with the Frei bench I built myself -
It lasted about 15 years and worked just fine. Cost me around $150 at
the time, as I remember. But it was carpentry, not cabinetry. The
Frei benches are nice, though. They have an office in our building,
so there’s lots of them around. Good benches…

If you are going to spend that much money, spend a little more and
get the John Frei Custom bench. It is the best bench out there and
nothing else is even close. I have had mine for 15 years and it will
easily last several lifetimes.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts



are sets of plans you might have built. The one I use is even
different than Tim’s. Yes it was less expensive than that shown in
the catalog, but I did not use the same materials or dimensions shown
in the catalog it is larger both in width and length. The surface of
one section is fire proof.


I dissent- there are far more reasonably priced workbenches pre-made
(FDJ, Romanoff and harbor freight even). I live with a woodworker at
present and even with the cost of lumber and upgrades you’ll come
out cheaper having one made sans all the drawers, and opting for tray
type drawers lined with anti-corrosive material and perhaps one or
two lockable drawers. depth of the table top is critical as you may
want to use clamp on accessories and may want to mount cranes for
flexshaft motors towards the back and perhaps add a piece of steel as
a bench block and surface for a vacuuum type panavise to adhere to.
customizing and having it built will probably run you between
350-500 if you stay away from exotic woods and solid silver drawer
pulls…though brass inset pulls work and look great. my latest bench
even has a 1 1/2" labradorite rim around the back and part of the
length of the sides to keep things from rolling off, and inset
magnetic tool bars on the bench’s sides to hang files, and mandrels,
and a bunch of customizations right down to a sweeps skin of white
glove leather that ws bought as a remnant for 5 buks and is larger
than needs be, and has a sweeps tray that is raised slightly on one
end that has a wide adhesive magnetic strip to attract any iron or
ferrous bits like sawblade teeth or filings to the topmost part ,
with a grate of fine screening with a pull out strip that allows for
metals to be sorted in one step, and leveling turn screws on the legs
out of black walnut, maple and oak and cost 250 dollars to build in
spring of 2006 (post katrina, the bench prior to the hurricane cost
400. 00 to have made BUT I was in a nice house, had two well
equipped studios, was producing tons of work consulting, etc, and had
tons of material possessions and the top wss purple heart wood which
was the main expense with fully dovetailed drawers and trays (
because I had access to a dovetailing machine)…In both benches they
wer decidedly cheaper, no shipping was added on, You can get a basic
or upgraded basic bench plan from Tim McCreight’s complete
Metalsmith, and figure your wood needs from the dimensions he sites
and then go to building supply slvage and surplus yards and purchse
your own woods rather than leaving it to a hired carpenter or
woodworker and should take the person, given your adapted plans based
on what you need and want and using Tim’s bench as a reference for
under 500…If premade is your deire though ten check out romanoff,
and call themask for steve and tell him you’d like the best price on
their benches, then shop around. I think the romanoff bench surpasses
the frei and borel bench by a longshot… harbor freights bench (
malaysian mahogany 250 i think, maybe less in a given week) is solid
wood not laminates, or particle board, etc, and is designed for work,
not looks…

All said, I personally would build one or have it built. If you live
near a trade school or community college many have shops that do
commissioned work /jobs as teaching at a low, fixed price

i gotta say this as im getting a splinter over this HOMEMADE bench
thing. ive gotten my homemade bench tshirt and sent it to the thrift
store. when some one is starting out money is short and they think
oh! ill just build a bench well, maybe you should buy a great bench
and then make your pliers and your files !! my point is a bench is a
tool and to over look that reality is foolish ! a good strong bench
will empower one with a sense of stability and security and it will
reflect in what you build. -


Christine - it looks great - I have the maple double drawer one from
Frei. No problems and a joy to use.

Judy Hoch

I have a confession:

For the last few years I have had the Otto Frei Maple Double Bank
Workbench page saved in my web favorites list. I visit it like
someone who keeps going back to the centerfold to see their favorite
pin-up girl!

Needless to say, the price has not stayed the same. I use it for
inspiration, because someday, I’m gonna own that puppy:)


Some days the Jewelry Gods smile on you. I was walking through a
flea market about 10 years ago and, lo and behold, what should appear
but a Otto Frei single bank bench. Like Blair, I had been panting
over a Frei bench for years. It was in excellent shape so I plunked
down $200.00 and carted it to the shop. It is the best bench I have
ever used…

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a workbench for your jewelry projects? We recommend: