Hi Friends, Another tangent from the bench dialogue that might be
interesting to exploRe: I noticed several people recently have
mentioned, almost as an aside, that they keep a separate soldering
station rather than soldering at their primary bench. Someone (sorry,
I forget who) mentioned she did it because she’s a neat-nik for
soldering, and the bench tends to stay messy.
I keep a separate soldering station, but for the opposite reason! My
soldering area tends to be messy, and I want to keep that mess
separate from the “cleaner” mess on my bench. I get flux, boric acid
droplets, solder snippets, splashes of pickle and all kinds of
general grime and crusty stuff in my soldering area, and I don’t want
to add that to the chaos already on my bench. I honestly don’t know
where I would put everything if I were to try and solder at my
Is it that in a commercial setting you have to keep all of your
“stuff” in a confined area (your bench), and in a private studio we
have the luxury of spreading out? For those who solder at the bench,
is it because you’d lose efficiency having to move to a different
station to solder? How do you manage all of your soldering bricks,
jigs, tweezers, chemicals and such, along with your bench tools?
I will add that I used to lose a lot of efficiency going from the
bench to the soldering station until I started thinking about
ergonomics. I did some minimal rearranging and finally bought myself
a chair that swivels and has casters… now I just push off and turn,
and I’m right there!
I was actually wondering the same thing. My studio at home and when
I teach I always keep the soldering area separate from the main work
at the bench. Though I do keep both relatively clean as compared to
many of our Orchidian brothers/sisters. Like you I can keep flux,
pickle, etc. from getting all over my good tools and it cuts down on
the tools rusting when they are away from the pickle.
When teaching I find that if you don’t keep them apart someone doing
work jiggles the soldering bench at the most inopportune times. Also
it gives me a better view to watch what is going on at the soldering
station even when helping someone across the room.
At home the pickle pot is near the sink and the venting is in the
table top between the soldering area and the pickle. The polishing
machine is close but separate too. Everything fits into the area of
our basement where there used to be a bar. Dan just cut down the bar
itself for the soldering area and we covered it with some arborite so
that I can periodically wipe it down with a damp rag.
I worked for awhile for a jewellery store where I actually did some
repair work (at least what I could figure out on my own and mostly
silver) the hard stuff and retipping of course went to a repair
jeweller. My boss was going to send me to apprentice to him so we
could do everything in store but she fell behind in her payments to
my paycheck and I did not stay long enough to go. I did not like
everything on one bench as it was very hard to keep neat enough to
find my tools without a long search. I also found that everything
mixed caused a lot of smells that triggered migraines as well as the
poor lighting. Many employers don’t like to spend much on the
jewelers health and comfort.
My bench itself has a small square cutout though I for years used a
straight one. I prefer a small cutout. Of bigger concern is whether
or not it is the right working height for the individual using it.
Also don’t be cheap on a good chair.
Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady)
May your gems always sparkle.
I used to have a swivel chair in which I rocketed back and forth
’tween my soldering bench and my work bench. (At that time, the
chair’s wheels ran smoothly on a 3/4 inch plywood floor. One day as
I pushed off towards the soldering bench, one of the casters hit a
chuck hole that had opened up in the ply. After months of rolling
back and forth, the weighted roller action of the chair’s casters had
delaminated the ply and splintered several layers. The kinetic
energy of my occupied chair immediately transferred into an abrupt
shift in center of gravity: I flipped over w/ my legs thrashing at
the air ala Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Since then studio floors are 3/4
inch ply or OSB covered w/ 1/8inch masonite. Paint the masonite a
nutural color to make dirt fade away and dropped stones etc. pop-
also it seals the masonite against liquid spills. 11 years on the
same floor and no problems.)
Since I built my current studio 11 tears ago, I switch chairs as I
move from station to station: wax, solder, fabricate, raise, etc. I
find this to be truly ergonomic in that it is, in the end, kindest to
my body without interfering much with the work flow. Repositioning
my body relative to different chairs helps keep me more limber.
Save for the years when I worked in trade shops or jewelry stores,
in my own studio I have always had separate stations for soldering,
big annealing and ingot pours, wax work, fabrication, etc. It helps
to order my thoughts…
I’m off to Hawaii on Sunday to teach and do some basking-- poor me!
I am not a commercial jeweler, just a hobbyist. But in my workshop I
have a separate soldering “station” – a wheeled cart (actually made
for a special welder). It has a top (shelf) large enough to do any
soldering on; and a shelf beneath for all the soldering stuff I am
not using at the time. And even a place at one end (with holding
straps) for my acetylene bottle. It is narrow enough to fit in the
aisles between the benches, and can be wheeled around to wherever I
want to use it – Including right beside me, so all I have to do is
swivel my chair and I’m there – or down by the caster when I want to
melt some metal.
I do my soldering outside on my patio. I am too messy of a solderer
to do the work inside plus I live in a town home with no room for
solder work inside. I have a unique problem that I am sure most
people do not have when they solder. This time of year my solder
pads get covered with pollen from the pine trees we have around the
property. That stuff really smells bad when I solder. Some times
it is so bad I have to wear my mask. I have tried covering the pads
when not in use but the pollen still finds a way to the pads. To
prevent burning of my solder table top I lay a 12" x 12" solderite
pad on the surface of the table. I place solder blocks on the top
of the pad. The pad extends a couple of inches off the front of the
table top. Lee
When my husband kicked me out of our basement studio, I got his side
of the garage… I laid out my bench and soldering station at 90
degrees to each other. All I do know is turn to my left and I have a
messy soldering station! I know that I could never solder, file,
sand, set stones etc all one location. As it is now, I have to clean
my main bench just to set stones. I usually, wait until I have a
number of pieces to do and just do it. That gets the sweeps draw
cleaned out and everything put back in its place. I now even have
set up a second bench just for wax carving! Guess having the space
to spread out is a luxury or necessity?
Dave, I’m the self-confessed messy bench/obsessively clean soldering
When I first learned silversmithing, I was sharing a soldering area
with about 20 other people over the course of any given week, and
not one of them cleaned up after themselves. Consequently, solder
pads were filthy and usually hid tiny (or not so tiny) globs of
solder, silver, and who knows what that would end up on the back of
any piece heated on the board. Clean that ^%$% off the back of
your carefully made jewelry a few times, and you learn to find a
clean place to solder. Additionally, solder picks were always nasty,
and you never knew what was lurking in the pickle pot.
I now work with only .999 platinum and 24kt gold, so any
contamination is a disaster. Woe unto anyone who messes with my
ceramic solder pad or beloved ceramic tweezers. The good news is I’m
also now flux and pickle-free. Yay!
After following the soldering station responses for a couple of
days, I am beginning to believe that bench jeweler’s achieve the
peak of their creativity in how they construct and arrange their
workplace. It certainly has imporantance to me all these years.
I have one bench for my dental lathe where I do polishing and some
types of drilling and grinding. However, due partly to lack of
space, I do the majority of my fabrication at my soldering bench
where my Bench Mate system is located. I also keep my micromotor
and flex shaft at the solder bench. The range hood exhaust with a
high volume fan over the bench was giving me a problem drawing dust
across my soldering area. (I described glass covers in a different
response to help solve the problem) While glass covers can help
with the worst of the mess, it is still not a good idea to have dust
all around. Worse yet any oil in the drilling and grinding mess can
end up floating on top of your pickle making it even more difficult
to get a good solder joint after the picke process.
I solved my problem by using epoxy (the kind in the hardware store
that has a display showing a golf ball and several other objects
adhered to a pop bottle. I think it is called PC-7). I epoxied a
vacuum cleaner crevice tool, flat side on top and long side across,
to the back of a Bench Mate bench pin. I plugged the end of the
crevice tool with epoxy and drilled a the side facing the front of
the pin full of holes so that it looked like a sieve. It is
important to get enough holes so the vacuum can get enough air to
keep the motor cool. I used a 2.5 MM round burr and drilled the
holes as close as possible without running into each other. I also
use a Miele variable speed vacuum cleaner with a true HEPA filter.
With the variable speed, I can be sure not to over tax the motor
through lack of air to cool it. This setup solves most of the dust
problem. Daily cleaning is still necessary.
Howard Woods @FrodoGem In the beautiful foothills near Eagle
Now when I have some dusty work to do at my soldering station, I
grab my special bench pin, slide it on the the mounting plate, plug
in the vac hose turn on the vac and grind away.
All, Wow, Dave’s question has elicited some interesting feedback.
Some things have been out that I never even thought much about. At
the school, we have a separate bench long enough for four people to
solder at once. We have four acetylene tanks in locked cubbys under
the bench with cut-outs for the hoses. This gives the instructor
positive control over the tanks, adjustments etc. The top of the
bench is covered in stainless steel. Unfortuately there is a large
window directly in front of the bench covered with vertical blinds.
We have already melted several slats and are in the process of
acquiring a ‘header’ to fit across the lower half of the window (the
sun makes it too bright for good soldering anyway). The bench
becomes a mess during class but is very easy to clean up…simply put
everything away and wipe it down with a sponge.
My own bench is a “do it all” area. Karen is right about one thing
for certain…the flux and pickle does get on various tools and makes
it harder to keep things clean. On the other hand, my space is VERY
limited and guess I’ll just have to live with it. In some ways I
prefer it because I don’t have to move even a foot to change from
forming to soldering to sawing or filing. The only time I have to
move or get up at all is to roll or polish.
Still, kind of wish there was enough room for a seperate area!
Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where it seems
summer has arrived already and where simple elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1
This time of year my solder pads get covered with pollen from
the pine trees we have around the property. I have tried covering
the pads when not in use but the pollen still finds a way to the
Hi Lee. My soldering station is also outside. My suggestion from
(usually) dusty Arizona: try turning the pad or blocks you actually
solder on upside down when not in use. When you need to expose a new
surface, rubbing the bricks together should remove flux glass on the
active side and reduce the pollen on the unused surface if you switch
HTH. Pam Chott - in beautiful Arizona where we have been getting
some much-needed rain. Song of the Phoenix
We have four acetylene tanks in locked cubbys under the bench
with cut-outs for the hoses. This gives the instructor positive
control over the tanks, adjustments etc.
This post raised some red flags for me, and is something you might
want to think about a bit. If an accident occurs at the soldering
station and a dangerous situation develops (i.e., a burn-through on a
hose, flashback in a line, someone burns themselves and drops a
torch, etc.), do you REALLY want to have to 1. find the instructor,
2. have the instructor find their key, 3. have the instructor have to
unlock the cubbies and 4. have the instructor turn off the tanks?
You may seriously not have that much time to prevent a disaster.
In our school studio, we have a similar setup, with 5 soldering
stations sharing a table. The table is lined with moveable
firebricks, and underneath the table are the acetylene tanks, secured
in their own cutout supports to prevent tipping over. The first
safety instruction each student is given (and the one they are
frequently reminded of) is how to turn off the tanks. When the tanks
are turned on each morning, the tank key is left on the tank. If we
don’t have a tank key, we don’t turn on the tank. When we turn off
the tanks and lock up in the evening, the tank keys are removed and
I feel much safer knowing that even the most inexperienced students
can turn off a tank if I’m out of the room or on the other side of
the room and something happens. That is the area of greatest
"immediate" safety vulnerability in the room, particularly when all
the stations are full.
In my home studio, my acetylene tank is chained to a wall right next
to my soldering station. I keep the area around it clear and access
to the tank key VERY accessible, for the same reason. The key stays
on the tank all the time, and is chained to a tether so that it can’t
accidentally get knocked off and lost.
I always took it for granted that you stand when soldering…But I
see now from responses to the soldering station thread that some
people stand, some people sit…Or are you swiveling over in your
rocket chairs and then standing to solder?
My ‘bench’ is a table in the dining room, with a second table for
the pickle pot and magnetic finisher. The tiny galley kitchen houses
the ultrasonic and the bicarb pickle neutralizer. I only began
soldering last year, and have no place for a permanent, vented
soldering station, so I came up with the following workaround to
address my health and safety concerns…
I use the stove vent hood, which is NOT a recirculating vent and
have stainless covers for all the stove’s burners. I originally
balanced my large base soldering pad on the front two burner covers
but have since gotten a three wheeled rolling laptop table that is
adjustable in height and allows me to sit comfortably. When not in
use I clean up the debris, move everything to the middle of the table
surface, cover it and roll it into the pantry. Since I am working in
the kitchen I am absolutely obsessive about cleaning up before AND
after to revent cross-contamination and/or poisoning. I use a strong
(food grade) citric acid pickle for the same reasons - and it does a
fine job on the silver I currently work in. I queue up my soldering
jobs so that I get the most bang for my soldering time.
Steamer Stand-In For those who need an occasional blast of steam to
clean out pieces but just can’t justify the $$$ for a REAL steamer,
you might check to see if you have a ‘Tuesday Morning’ closeout
center in your area. They are currently running Eureka Handy Steamers
for $40 (original list is $79). It takes 3 - 5 minutes to warm up and
I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on for extended periods of time, but
the steam pressure it puts out with the small nozzle attachment is
impressive. I use a small velcro strap (designed to tame excess
length in various chords) to hold down the thumb button that releases
Personality Tests Along with Meyers-Briggs testing, I’d love to know
where everyone shakes out using the Enneagram, which I’ve found to be
most useful in allowing me to communicate with customers and/or
decipher what they are REALLY after vs. what they ASK for!
Thanks for the great threads we’ve been having lately!
Is it that in a commercial setting you have to keep all of your
"stuff" in a confined >area (your bench), and in a private studio
we have the luxury of spreading out?
I have a rather large shop in the store that I work in and I still
do all my soldering at the same bench I do everything else at. I have
a connecting room that contains my pickle
pot,Ultrasonic,steamer,buffing machine,vacuum caster,oven,etc. I have
another jewelers bench next to mine that I use for watch batterys.
For those who solder at the bench, is it because you'd lose
efficiency having to >move to a different station to solder?
In my case (as a full time repair and custom bench jeweler) it is
because soldering is probably 75% of my job. I learned to work that
way when there was 3 benches and 3 jewelers you did everything you
did at your bench.
How do you manage all of your soldering bricks, jigs, tweezers,
chemicals and >such, along with your bench tools?
2 charcoal blocks,1 crucible for water, tweezers for soldering heads
in straight and holding rings together, a third arm tweezer, a solder
pic, flux and brush and small rolex part tins to hold my different
solders take up a very small area on my bench.
Too much space too spread out you tools is almost as bad as too
little space. Michael R. Mathews Sr. Victoria,Texas USA JACMBJ
I usually sit when soldering. I like to have the pieces being
soldered at a height just below my sholders. I do not want to be
leaning over or bending over the soldering station. Also, being
seated gives you a much more stable base, important when soldering
small, detailed pieces. My chair has adjustable arm rests, up and
down and in and out, so I can support my arms easily.
Karen, Excellent points…and we have thought about them. I may have
given the wrong impression. The doors to the cubbys are left
unlocked during classes. Tank keys are left on the tanks and students
are shown how to turn them off. They are told, however, that they
should not access the tanks during class except for dire emergencies.
Even then, I do not leave the room while students are soldering.
Should there be a flash back, etc., I would prefer the students not
attempt a to turn them off. Rather I would assess the situation and
decide the proper action. Instructors lock the cubbys at the end of
their class after turning off the tanks, bleeding the hoses and
properly stowing them.
But thanks for bringing up those points…may help someone. Cheers
from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple elegance IS
fine jewelry! @coralnut1
Hello Karen Goeller and Orchidians, The descriptions of acetylene
tank set-ups in instruction areas made me recall the H.S. classroom
where I first learned soldering. There were 4 or 5 soldering
stations along a long counter (topped with asbestos, no doubt!).
Each station was equipped with natural gas (NG) valves and
connections to an air compressor. The torch handpieces were hung on
an elevated hook at the side of each station. I think the only
adjustment on the torch was the tip. During use, the torch flame
remained lit. When soldering temperatures were needed, the
handpiece was squeezed to release compressed air. The pressure tank
on the air compressor kept the pressure regulated. Please be aware
that this is a rudimentary description from a distant memory!
I wonder if set-ups like this are still used? It eliminated all
the concerns related to having tanks of compressed flammable gases
on site. Now I’ll have to go up to the H.S. and see how they do it
Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
Diana, The Aeron Chair, made by Herman Miller, has adjustable arms
and many other adjustable functions. It is also available in three
different sizes to accommodate small, medium and large bodies. I have
been using one for about four years and couldn’t live without it. Joel
Note From Ganoksin Staff:
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