Prepare and care for a steel bench block

Bruce, I’d definitely clean off all the oil your block came with
before using it. If you keep it dry and clean it shouldn’t really
need much else to protect it. I didn’t purchase my bench block but
I cut it from a larger block I had stashed in my ever-growing junk
pile. It’s about 2" wide, 4" long and 1" thick. Kinda small for
some projects but not too bad. I did take several hours to polish
the thing before use though. I don’t know about others but I hate
trying to eliminate a forged-in ding on a piece that came from a
pit or cut on my bench block. Polishing first will help eliminate
the problem. If yours is already polished, no problem. If you live
in a very humid area it probably wouldn’t hurt to take it out and
oil it a little, then clean it off again but, you might try storing
it submerged in water with a little soda dissolved in it. Several
folks do this with their steel shot in tumblers. I’ve never really
had any troubles keeping mine looking really nice by just keeping
it dry. Every now and then I polish up any rough spots (it’s mild
steel and does dent some) and it’s good as new.

On a side note, a friend gave me a piece of steel about 14" long,
12" wide and 3/4" thick that is just dandy for use under my
soldering blocks (charcoal or ceramic). I just stick an old stereo
speaker magnet ( a big one) on the bottom of my “extra hand” device
and put them both onto my steel plate. Works like a charm. Even
when the plate gets hot it just radiates the heat back out slowly
to keep my hands warm when it’s cold. Doesn’t make a bad bench
block all on it’s own either.


All this talk about bench blocks made me want to mention something I
“discovered” by accident a few years ago.

I was wandering around a huge flea market one day and came across a
woman with a whole table of antique irons – the type you had to put
in the fireplace and then lift out with a detachable handle when
ready for use. She was selling them cheaply ($2 - 5) as they had no
handles. But the bottoms are wonderfully smooth and polish up
nicely, which piqued my interest.

Without the handles, they are very steady on their tops, giving a
nice working surface. The curves and tapers on the side can be used
to work in a bench clamp, and the taper top-to-bottom lets you work
on pieces that need to “hang” off the side or even lap around the

One has been my “portable anvil” ever since and I love it.

But if you had a couple, you could also use them in your torch area
the way Michael describes, as well as to help form things while hot.
The holes in the top (where the handles would go) could be used as a
great jig surface for tweezers or whatever.

You can find them in a variety of sizes, too!

Hope this helps someone!

Karen Goeller
Hand-crafted artisan jewelry

Hello Orchidland,

Karen Goeller’s discussion about using an old iron sole plate is
right on target. I’ve been using one for many years. They are very
hard and if not already smooth, will require some elbow grease and
patience to restore the surface. BUT it’s worth it, as they give you
a very durable stable surface for hammer work. Come to think of it,
if you’ve got a contact in a machine shop, it would be child’s play
for them to resurface it.

I was given an old STEEL (not aluminum) electric iron and it
promises to be just as useful. Be aware that the interior of the old
electric irons contain asbestos. After removing the cover, I
drenched the asbestos sheet with water before touching it. If wet,
the fibers don’t go airborn. Were I to do it now, I’d just dunk the
whole thing in a bucket of water for a couple minutes, before
removing the cover.

Judy in Kansas, where it seems more like Hawaii than August in the
midwest… delightfully cool evenings and barely breaking 85 degrees
during the day!!