Well, not outstanding, but very functional for the price. I do
exactly what your apprentice is looking to do, and I use the portable
jeweler's workbench in the Rio catalog. I also use the folding stand
that comes with it, which is too short but works well when I place
4x4s under it. This is not the sturdiest bench in the world, but that
is the tradeoff for size and weight. I made some modifications to it
which work well. the first is attaching a GRS mounting plate for my
Benchmate. This works well for the ring holder and bench pin, but I
would guess that the weight of an engraving ball might encourage the
entire bench to tip toward you if using the folding stand. The three
drawers on the right-hand side do not extend all the way back to the
back of the bench. This allowed me to make a cutout in the benchtop
into which my 1-lb propane and oxy bottles just fit (this took some
filing of the inside support as well). It is nice to have the torch
bottles at benchtop level and held securely.
Just throw away the little pullout tray. The space between your
bench pin and the tray is not tall enough to do any sawing. I store
stuff in that gap during transport. The drawer beneath the tray is
somewhat useful for catching filings, but it is still very shallow -
again this is part of the tradeoff for size.
For mandrels, the little drilled hole in the bench support is
decorative only. I brace ring mandrels into the little curve of the
benchtop and that works well, though the laminated benchtop surface
is taking a beating and showing it. Also, when the catalog says
"Sturdy, hardwood construction" they are talking about the main
supporting pieces of the bench. The drawers are pressboard. They have
been holding up well enough for me, though.
Rereading this it sounds rather negative, but I do like my portable
workbench for its virtues of light weight, size that I can easily
get into my tiny car trunk, and $60 price.
Hope this helps,