Sweeps catch

just bought an old watchmakers bench that is set up for a leather
sweeps catch.

does anyone use canvas? how much slack is advised? any info on this
topic greatly appreciated.

Happy Solstice!
joanne davis-woods

Hi Joanne,

Yeah, a lot of them used heavy canvas. I just finished rebuilding
one of mine, from 1910. Was originally white canvas. I’ve also seen
them green. Mine was tacked to the frame pretty tightly. Not drumhead
tight, but not far from it either. Maybe set it up so you’ve got
about 1/2" of droop in the middle of the tray? It’ll keep things
from bouncing out. For watchmakers, it’s more about catching small
runaway parts than saving gold/silver filings, so the weave of the
canvas wasn’t an issue. If you’re planning on doing jewelry work
with it, I’d stay with a leather skin instead of switching to


I use a watchmakers bench for working on waxes. I replaced canvas
with a thin sheet of MDF as I was having mildew issues. It is easier
to clean as well.

Gerald A. Livings
Livingston Jewelers

Is the leather unusable? The less texture the better! Sharp pieces
and tiny filings can be caught in the weave of canvas or even work
through it.

just bought an old watchmakers bench that is set up for a leather
sweeps catch. does anyone use canvas? how much slack is advised?
any info on this topic greatly appreciated. 

Don’t use canvas or anything that can burn so easily. Leather not
only catches sweeps, but hot bits of metal won’t burn a hole through
it or make it burst into flame.

Also, any sort of woven material will hold the finer sweeps in the
grain of the fabric. You’ll find it getting clogged with sweeps that
the brush won’t move into the pan. You’ll need to send it to the
refiner and make a new one every year or so.

Elliot Nesterman

Hi Joanne Davis-Woods & all!

I’ve seen many ‘catch-materials’, in my many travels to stores. From
my observation is that the ‘material’ should at least ‘rest on top of
your legs’ while sitting down. I’ve actually seen in one shop where
the material came closer to your abdomen while on a slider under each
side of the desk.

It was almost like a drawer-mechanism. darn good idea! Hope this
works for you! And a Happy Winter Solstice to you!..:>)


well, I love using a very soft leather (glove leather) i picked up
for almost nothing at Tandy leather company probably 10 years ago now
(replacing a long used much heavier tanned full grain piece that bit
the dust post hurricane Katrina- never had I seen so much
"penicillin’ concentrated on one surface at one time in my
life-(probably would have cured the diseases of a small continent if
processed!)- I use the white leather because its easiest to see any
far flung dust and it remains supple and handy and doesn’t really
hold the heat of other styles of prepared leathers. Canvas has too
much texture which encourages its gripping the dust and small bits,
the only caveat is waxed linen : of all textile possibilities it is
the single most appropriate fabric one may choose (if you can’t find
a nice soft piece of glove leather large enough to attach to the
bench and your waist when seated comfortably at your bench!) it is
not sticky whatsoever and even a little heat from a piece of metal
that may “jump” unexpectedly during soldering or annealing or any
heat involved operation doesn’t affect the micro-crystalline wax used
to manufacture the stuff. it is however hotter since it 'breathes’
less. the leather is a beautiful choice and the softer and lighter in
colour the better. I prefer the skirt/apron approach to a sweeps tray
any day- its just that inevitable occasion when you forget you are
connected and go to stand up and the thin leather tears away from the
attachment to the bench that is quite a pisser- and your best efforts
at containment of that pesky dust, thwarted!- that’s when i
appreciate the giant masking tape like mat near the door the best - i
know i’m not walking the larger percentage of particulate matter out
of the studio!..in my opinion. rer