A Clean Bench and a Brass Flex-shaft Handpiece Cradle

A clean bench

I needed to clean my bench, so I got busy and don’t think it’s been this clean and organized since Kathy and I built it three years ago! I really needed to organize my catch tray, as little pieces and strips of sand paper, unfinished projects, scraps and small tools mingled together don’t help when you’re trying to look for something.

Kathy made me five heavy-duty boxes out of some chipboard material that she uses in her album-making craft. They work perfectly to segregate tools, tweezers, sandpaper and other items, which will actually help me a LOT when it comes to finding something I need in a hurry, which usually happens when the torch is lit!

Bench tray, right side

A couple of the smaller chipboard boxes Kathy made for my bench drawer…

Bench tray, left side

To celebrate the bench “makeover”, one of the things I did was to make a cradle for my flex shaft handpiece. I use a split mandrel on the flex shaft for sanding rings and jewelry all the time, changing out various grits of sandpaper strips on the mandrel as needed.

But, if you let the handpiece drop (it hangs vertically from its motor), the rolled strip falls off the mandrel easily and before you can use it again you have to pick it up off the floor, blow off the dirt and wrangle it back into the mandrel slot (a pain).

I used to open a drawer to set the handpiece on when I needed both hands for something, then later re-purposed a hook I had made from coat hanger wire for a portable torch set-up I have, but with just a hook it was always a balancing act (though better than having to open a drawer).

Brash flex-shaft handpiece cradle

I only had 14 ga. brass wire on hand, so that’s what I used for the clip, soldering on a cradle cut from 24 ga. brass sheet and formed over the handle of a dapping die. After cleaning it up, I tumbled it for a couple hours in steel shot to harden the wire and give the clip the spring needed for proper tension, and it works great!

I now have a cradle for the handpiece so when I need to set it down for second, it’s right there close by, and holds it easily. No more having to pick up sandpaper rolls off the floor that fell out of the mandrel!

Brass flex-shaft handpiece cradle in use

My Workshop

After almost a year after I started back with the hobby, the “I just need a little space” in Kathy’s craft room wound up being most of the room. And, with everything accumulating a super-fine layer of red polishing rouge, we decided I needed to move the operation out to a storage shed.

Below is what Kathy’s craft room became to look like before that move was made…

Kathy’s craft room turned into my silversmithing work area.

But, the storage shed didn’t even have a workbench yet, so we got busy that winter…

Jeweler’s bench hand built from scratch in garage

When my brother and I did our silversmithing back in the 70’s, we never had a fancy jeweler’s bench to work on, just an available work-desk in the stable’s office that we mounted the bench pin and polishing lathe onto when we were working there. By the way, that lathe, close to being worn out but still spinning, is hiding behind the rust-colored towel sitting on containers of tools and supplies in the first picture (Kathy’s craft room). The towel was used to at least alleviate *some* of the mess from polishing.

Since Kathy and I had done previous wood-working projects (wall-to-wall book shelves, and a king-size bed frame with head/foot-boards to name a couple), we figured that a workbench was in store. What started out to be a very simple jewelry workbench actually wound up morphing into a true jeweler’s bench. We picked up the lumber and parts as the build progressed, but don’t have more than perhaps $135 into it at this point (the most expensive parts were the drawer slides).

The basic plans actually came out of an old metalsmith book by Tim McCrieght, and it wasn’t until *after* the pieces for the drawer unit were cut that I realized the measurements in the plans for the drawers just would not equate to what was pictured in the book, but a little jury-rigging fixed that.

We also added things that were not part of the original plans in the book (a sliding catch-tray drawer, a sliding tool shelf right above that, and edging to the sides of the top surface to keep things from rolling off the bench onto the floor). In the end I think that the bench we built from scratch rivals some of the commercial benches I’ve seen out there costing several hundreds of dollars more. Having this bench to work on makes fabricating and repairing jewelry soooo much easier, and little customizations to it are still ongoing. 😀

We also built just a regular workbench for the shed as well. Built with one 4×8 sheet of 3/4″ plywood cut in half length-wise, a couple 4×4’s and six 2×4’s all held together with screws and Simpson Strong-Ties, it’s super strong, and doesn’t budge an inch.

Workshop workbench

Here’s a shot of the jeweler’s bench set up in the shed. After the bench was first built, I’ve since added a wood strip on the top to rack my pliers on, and as a small rack that I built for my hammers long before the bench was even thought of happens to fit perfectly underneath the drawers, I plan to eventually rig drawer rails to it somehow, too, so that it will slide out. Right now the hammer rack just sits on the floor and I pull it out when I need to get to a particular hammer or mallet, and push it back under to keep it out of the way when I’m done.

Hand made jeweler’s bench set up in workshop

With all my junk moved out of Kathy’s craft room, and everything including the walls cleaned of the fine layer of polishing rouge, she was finally able to get back to working on HER crafts for a change. 😉