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Studio Design

First off, go to the ganoksin site ( and locate
Charles Lewton Brain’s “Brain Press” link. I think you should
buy every book he’s written and read them. (shameless plug, but
it’s true, he covers everything!). God, I wish someone had
researched the shop I work in before they built it . . actually,
they just set up the store and gave the jeweler what was left.
Typical, really.

Good Luck
David L. Huffman

Hi All At one time or another we’ve all probably said to ourselves
"if I built my own studio I would …". This summer I’m going to
build a studio from the ground up. I would love some input from all
or any who have said to himself or herself "this is one thing I would
definitely have in

the studio of my dreams".
Kevin Kelly

I built my studio 50 percent larger than I anticipated I’d need. I’d
suggest 200 percent! :slight_smile:


Dave Sebaste

More room/space. I recently built the studio of my dreams :slight_smile: and
seven months later I could use more space - again. What’s that
proverb - something about filling up whatever is available :wink:

Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry


In my opinion, one of the first and probably the best pieces of
equipment you should install will be an extraction system. Do it
right now and you will have a longer safer working life. This is a
must have.

Alan Lewis

My advise on studio design: Consider alternatives!

I was lucky to be able to visit quite a number of studios and
workrooms prior to designing my own studio. That proved a great

It was here that I learned just how frugal and creativee jewelers
are in design and construction of benches and equipment! Amazing.

The jewelers I visited stressed the need to design and build a
studio based on what I would be making and the technology I chose to
make it. Most things can be done more than one way. Like a home,
furnish a studio or area according to its planned purpose.

I saw one studio in the back of a van, one in a small mobile home,
and one so small and efficient, it was transported in the trunk of a

My own priorities were safety and then, saving money and space,
Later I discovered the real meaning of simple and practical.

I researched safety needs for each technology I planned to use.
The major change I had to make was to separate etching area from

For me, it worked best to use separate benches for soldering, wax
work, and general metal work. I am considering yet another area for
stone setting, after having spent more than a little time on my hands
and knees with flashlight.

I built my benches from scratch or adapted from old furniture or
store counters/counter tops. Easy to find in an urban area! I built
up, stacking, I fought the urge to have big, bulky equipment that
would be seldom used. Local second hand stores are great sources of
fans, lights, storage units, and now and then, a motor or odd tool.
For me, the more light, the better, and safer.

In the is illegal to use propane from a large non-disposable
cylinder within building - unless the tank is outside of the
building, with gas piped in. In the event of a disaster with an
illegal inside tank, your homeowners’ insurance would be void. I
don’t want to even think about their use in an apartment!

You might want to research other local fire codes to learn which
materials are able to keep you safest - as in the new sheet concrete
material used in house siding as a backing or surround for a
soldering area, and insulating/bricks for soldering surfaces. Plan on
fire extinguishers, warning signs, and special placement and
storage of hazardous materials, such as, oxidizers, acids,
flammables, etc, (in their original containers that can fall and
break in an earthquake or other '‘event’) Locking cabinets, or metal
cabinets, plastic buckets in which to place glass bottles as an outer
protection are so wise!

Plan enough space to insure tanks the space they require for
chaining and turning cylinder valves comfortably, and protecting
the hoses from damage. Electrical systems need to be evaluated for
adequate cord sizes, heavy duty, multi-plug gizmos, and extension
cords – not the kind used for domestic appliances,

One of the most important things I did in my studio was to put in a
sink. I constantly need to wash my hands or a piece/

CLEAN AIR: A cabinet for buffing is a MUST. Even a cardboard box,
if necessary. I open windows and use fans to push and pull at
opposite ends of the studio. The kiln is vented to a window. I
placed things that presented the most danger from fumes closest to the
windows and fans.

My studio is off limits to kids and dogs, and most of my family so I
built barriers to keep them out.

LASTLY, COMFORT. A coffee warmer, or insulated pot, a cooler in
hot weather for drinks, and a tv/vcr and stereo with tape player
Telephone with speaker is handy!

I enjoyed the process of designing and building, The evolution of it
has been a great satisfaction. Sometimes it is as much fun as making



My next studio will have as many of the following features as my
clients will pay for:

large bank of northern exposure windows or skylights as optimum
source of ambient light; large, multi-station bench centrally
located near above mentioned light source with ventilation at every
station needed; skirts around everything that touches the floor for
ease of sweeping/cleaning and unobstructed eyelevel view of the
studio to facilitate communication and to avoid visual distraction
(no hanging shoplights, no ventilation pipes [ventilation ducts
would be built to go behind the bench and under the floor], nothing
to hinder light from spreading throughout the studio); lots of eye
level cabinets and/or shelves; radiant heat from floor or walls and
the quietest source of cooling device possible; separate room for
messier work such as polishing and grinding, a sound dampening
device/closet for the ultrasonic (when it has to be on for ages at a
time) and a fume hood for plating, chemical use and niello work; and
finally lots of space so I can arrange my equipment together so as
to make my work flow most efficient instead of stuck here and there
because that is the only place that it will fit; a real restroom
with hot and cold running water as well as a work sink in the studio
proper; a separate office area for my paperwork, computer and my
traveling display booth so my wife and I can reclaim our dining room
for entertaining.

Other aesthetic options that, unlike those features above which have
practical value, function to provide me with a pleasing environment

a ceiling high enough to give the studio an open feeling (this is in
reaction to all the years I have worked in stores and shops that
were in the back of the premises and had more in common with
dungeons than workspaces); a killer, remote controlled audio system
with surround speakers and a sofa for the occasions when I pull an

Is this too much to ask?

See my present studio at:

Hi! Dave,

How are you? I would like to someday soon to build a studio. I
would like to have a place where I can go and at times have
workshops. What was your reason for doing a studio from the ground up

  • instead of purchasing property already built wouldn’t that have
    been cheaper?

Nancy G.

Hi Kevin, Two years ago I moved my studio out of my laundry room and
into an old building in a quiet historic district. My space is 1200
square feet and only two miles from my house. I have a front shop
for clean work with three benches A great sound system and diffused
northern light. A back shop for polishing, cleaning, casting and
other dirty or noisy jobs. There is a separate safe room break room
and storage room. A spacious office for book work or meeting with
preferred clients a small show room and large windows between most
of these areas. There are so many little details put into this shop
or planned for this shop that I can’t list them all. The best choice
I made was putting down a black tile floor. It makes any dropped
items jump out and it works with my color scheme as well.

The most counterproductive detail is the show room. Having an open
store has allowed all sorts of distractions and the maintenance and
daily chores eat up more time than I ever imagined. Sure I have met
many wonderful and interesting people and I have begun to have a lot
of luck selling diamonds and colored stones along with selling
finished manufactured items out of the show cases but there is a big
down side. I cannot ever count on having uninterrupted bench time
between the hours of 9:30 and 5:30. I am not complaining. I have
been able to drop my wholesale accounts and the store is supporting
me. But, I must say that if you are setting up a shop for the sake
of being creative and prolific a showroom is something you may want
to skip. For now I play store manager during the day and sit down
and get busy in the evening when I can a turn up the music even if I
can’t take advantage of the northern exposure.

John Sholl
J.F.Sholl Fine Jewelry
Littleton, Co

 What was your reason for doing a studio from the ground up -
instead of purchasing property already built wouldn't that have
been cheaper? 

Hi Nancy, I was evolving from the state of working in makeshift areas
to having my dream of a dedicated studio space. I didn’t want to have
it in the house, due to the potential dangers. At the time, I
wanted it on the property so I could access quickly and easily at any
time. At that time I was kind of semi-pro, with a full time job. My
perspective has changed somewhat since leaving gainful employment to
purse this as a career.

I didn’t pour a foundation, and all that. I had a fellow come on
site and build it (12’x16’) in a day, for about $2000. I had him
upgrade a few features, and I bought five storm windows to have him
install. I then had all the utilities run, including natural gas and

One thing I wish I had done most is insulation. Most of the time its
not a problem in this climate, but the extremes are unpleasant. I can
still insulate the roof, which would probably benefit me greatly, but
the walls have benches semi-permanently mounted to them, and it would
be a major disruption to try to insulate them.

My perspective today is that its a little uncomfortable for everyone
involved (including my wife) to meet clients at the house. A public
studio would be much more… ummm… normal? Also, as a dialogue with
Karen Christians pointed out, there would be a clear delineation
between when I’m working and when I’m not. A studio away from home
would minimize the number of times that I get caught up in domestic
chores during my work day. Oh, the dishes need to be done, I should
do a load of laundry, etc.

I am looking at a small off-retail space that might be coming
available soon. Its about a mile from here, and the price is right.
Could be then next step in my studio evolution. Then I get to think
about these things all over again!

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

A couple more thoughts in addition to the concept of more space
always being necessary-

While not really a jewelry item, one of the best things I did for
myself recently was get a decent chair. I had been working for years
in an old brass plated tubular steel dinette chair… if you know the
kind I mean. Dirt cheap… I think an old roommate left it behind.
When doing a reorganization of the studio last year, I finally got a
great chair. I spent $150 at Costco (warehouse store) and got an
excellent, ergonomic chair with arms and casters. To this day, I’m
still asking myself why the heck I didn’t do that a lot sooner! Makes
a world of difference. Looking at the BenchExchange page, I had a
chair like Dan Statman’s (sorry, Dan) and got one more like Joel
Schwalb has. Just being able to zip from station to station on
casters, and swivel without having to get up was worth the

On the studio reorg… my original layout had worked fine for about
five years, then I started to notice inefficiencies in my work flow.
I’m one of those folks who doesn’t solder at his primary bench. I’m
too messy, and my bench is usually too cluttered with other tools,
works in progress, etc. I think its interesting to see who solders at
their main bench and who doesn’t. My secondary bench was raised and
centered on the adjoining wall… and I soldered while sitting on a
stool. By lowering the bench and sliding it to be adjoining the main
bench, I can just swivel to solder. Much more efficient! It also
provides immediate access to a broader selection of tools and
supplies since that bench is now on my immediate right. This is a
plain, unfinished pine workbench I built from a kit (about $50?) from
the home improvement store.

I feel that not soldering at my jeweler’s bench keeps it clean
enough for all stone setting. In fact, I don’t use any chemicals at
that bench at all. I bought a couple extra bench pins for my GRS
Benchmate (love it!), and covered one with leather for some stone
setting tasks, like bezel setting for pendants. I cut a little
rectangle out of the leather to make a receptacle to hold smaller
stones. I also drilled a hole for an earring post to slip into so I
can set them more securely and safely.

Moving the soldering station to the secondary bench also provides me
plenty of fireproof elbow room. And room for all my soldering stuff.
The pickle pot is about as far away from my steel tools as it can
get. I have a bricks manufactured, for some reason, with two rows of
holes in them, and I stand my tweezers, forceps, brushes, etc. in
these holes. These bricks surround my 12x12 soldering pad, on which
various fire bricks, charcoal blocks, third hands, annealing pans,
and such are used. I have a four drawer plastic chest below that end
of the bench where I store my extra bricks, pads, and soldering aids
when not in use.

And a sink! I agree with others on this! I have water coming to my
studio, but no sink! I have to decide what to take out to put a sink
in! I could remove my library, drafting table, years of jewelry
magazines, filing cabinet, etc., but where would I put them???

Okay, time for me to go put all this wonderful stuff into use. I
wasn’t going to write in again on this, but the more I thought about
it, I realized I had more to say. Surprising, huh?!?

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hello Kevin, I have moved several times over the last 3 decades and
tried to keep my jewelry set up “modular”. When my tools and
paraphernalia came out of storage it was relatively easy to put
everything in its logical place. Sort of like doing art shows. Once
again I am setting up a both a workshop and a gallery here in Bisbee.
This time the two are in separate locations. Which means, I have
separate spaces devoted ONLY to those respective activities. In the
gallery, I get ideas and inspiration from the works and people and
materials that surround me. I’ll make a sketch or two in my sketch
pad (which I carry with me everywhere). Now, when I step into my
workshop, I have only one purpose in mind, to make the piece with a
minimum of effort and time. Since the piece (art?) is one of a kind,
well, maybe two of a kind if it sells, the modular set up changes to
meet the demands of the design and materials. This is called BATCH
PROCESSING. Your tools and jigs are broken down after use and stored.
Out of the way. I also make components for bread and butter jewelry.
The set up for this process is always kept intact and is patterned
after ASSEMBLY LINE PROCESSING. If I was to spend all of my time in
the workshop, and money was not the major concern, I can see
acquiring one more commodity, a part time gopher (gofer this and
gofer that).

Although we can quote the opening line to Star Trek, “Space, the
final frontier.”, perhaps the most difficult state to achieve is
moving beyond the tools, techniques, and workspace, and just be in
the creative mode. I am putting in some acoustical tile near the
anvil, this is for when I get the urge to forge something at 2 AM, I
won’t wake the neighbors, again:} All the best in your new space,

Will Estavillo

Hi Nancy G. I think you meant Kevin. I haven’t noticed anyone else
mentioning building a studio from the ground up. Why ? If you had the
opportunity wouldn’t you? Also,we own property 15 miles north of
Santa Fe with a house and separate studio. We are converting my
studio into quarters for my mother-in-law ( who is getting up in
years), and who my wife and I are going to care for. Now that I’ve
explained how about a studio tip? Kevin Kelly