How to Set Up a Jeweler's Work Bench

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Think of a jeweller's workbench in the way you might think of a chef's arsenal of tools. Where a chef will have mixing bowls and knives for chopping, slicing and dicing, a jeweller will have a bench stocked with pliers, hammers and files. The chef's art is a feast for the stomach (and often, the eyes). The jeweller's art may be a functional piece, such as a pair of cufflinks, or a symbol of love and commitment, such as an engagement ring.

Choose a bench. You can purchase a ready-made jeweller's bench, which is essentially a compact desk with a sturdy surface and drawers for storing tools. These benches are also built with specific notches and recesses designed to hold your torch, bench pin and other tools. There is also a drawer that slides out to "catch" excess metal that you may have cut or filed away from a piece when working. An old wooden desk or any sturdy table can be converted into a bench. Before you set up your jeweller's bench, consider how you work, what tools you use most often, and in what order you use them.

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Secure lighting. Choose a desk lamp with an arm that pivots so that you can direct the light as needed. When annealing metal with a torch, it's helpful to be able to turn off or dim the light so you can see the metal change colour. This can be more difficult with a bright overhead light.

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Protect the top of the bench. Heat-proof asbestos-free pads can be purchased at jewellery supply stores, or you can find a piece of sheet metal at a metal supply yard.

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Position the bench pin. Most jewellers spend a lot of time working at the bench pin, whether cutting, filing or shaping metal. The bench pin should be positioned front and centre on the jeweller's bench. There should be adequate room on both sides so that you can file and saw comfortably.

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Store the hand tools. The jeweller's hand tools -- files, hammers, scribes and pliers -- are used frequently and should be kept within easy reach, perhaps in a top drawer or on hooks on the wall. Saw blades, scribers and digital calipers are commonly used during the initial stages of jewellery-making, so these should be kept within close reach too.

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Position the flex-shaft machine. The flex-shaft is a tool that's used for drilling, polishing and cutting metal. Flex-shaft machines can be hung up on a hook or on a special type of pole-like hammer than can be clamped right to the jeweller's bench. If you are right-handed, clamp the flex-shaft machine hanger to the right-hand side of the bench.

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Set up the solder station. Annealing metal -- heating it to a certain temperature with a torch to ensure that it's pliable enough to work with -- is a key step in jewellery-making. Set the torch up on your bench -- perhaps to the left or right of the bench pin -- but out of the immediate way. Ideally, you should be able to reach the torch, solder your piece on a heat-proof brick, quench the piece in a small dish of water, place it in a pickle solution to clean fire scale off of it and rinse it again before commencing work again. This operation may take up about a third of the space on the top of your bench.

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Fasten the vice. A vice for clamping mandrels used to shape rings or bezels is another key element of the bench. It needs to be secured to the bench so that you can hammer and shape metal with it. Position this on the opposite side of your solder station set-up.

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