Make a Tabletop Jeweler’s Bench Part 2: Everything You Need to Know

This post is a continuation of last week’s post on how to make a table top jewelry bench.  Here’s how you do it!19 benchMaterials

1. For the bench top, I used a folding wood snack table that my neighbors left when they moved.  You can buy a set of four here.  You can make your bench and have three  snack tables left over.  The top is a thick, sturdy piece of wood you can bang on when you make your jewelry.  The legs of the folding tray, also made of the same sturdy wood, can be sawed up to make the other components of the bench.

2. For the sides of the bench, I used a discarded Ekby Hemnes bookshelf from  Ikea. Click here for dimensions.  Any board with similar dimensions will work.

3. You will need a board for the pull out shelf, I used an mdf board from another discarded piece of Ikea furniture.  My board was about 24” wide and I cut it to 20” to fit inside the bench.

4. A wood slat 2” X 21” and ¼” thick for pliers rack. (I used a wood paint stirrer I already had.  You can buy them here.

5. Wood screws in various sizes.  I used 2 ½” and 1 ½”

6. Feet to  raise the bench if desired.  I was going to fashion something out of screw-in cabinet knobs before I discovered that I had a set of screw-in furniture levelers I saved  from an old metal shelf.   They are less expensive than buying legs or knobs. You can get a set similar to what I used, here.

Tools

1. A portable electric jig saw like this one is handy for cutting out the top.  You can get by without one since there are only straight cuts, but it is easier with the power tool.  You can also use it for all your cutting.  I used hand saws the rest of the bench because I felt I had more control over them.

2. C Clamps to hold the wood as you saw.

3. Straight saw or hack saw

4. Drill and various sized drill bits to assemble the bench and attach the feet

5. Cordless screwdriver

6. Ruler, retractable tape measure, pencil and permanent marker to measure and mark.  I am horrible at measuring.  Take your time with this.  As a matter of fact, take your time with all of it.

7. Mallet and nail pry bar (to help disassemble the wooden tray)

8. Beeswax or soap to lubricate your saws and drill bits. You will not  believe how much easier this will make the job

9. Safety glasses and dust mask.  (Unless you like breathing in sawdust and getting it in your eyes.)

Some preliminaries about this project.  I am not a wood worker.  I do not have access to a wood shop.  I do not know anyone with a wood shop who I would ask to make a bench for me.

I  learned most of my skills (and that’s being charitable) on YouTube University.  What few tools I do  possess, I either inherited (like a couple of great saws that belonged to my Father-in-Law, which sat in my basement for 25 years before I realized I should use them),  bought at house sales (an ancient portable jig saw) or scored at discount stores (like my drill that is not even cordless and which I have been threatening to replace for some time now).  My modern tool is the cordless screwdriver which no home should be without.

3Snack Table top marked opening
Snack ray top disassembled and marked for cutting.  I opted not to go for a round cut out on the bench top because I don’t have the skill to cut one.
4 jigsaw cut
Cutting out the bench top.

I sawed my bookshelf board in half,  and attached it to the bench top with screws.  I positioned them so there would be a lip to keep things from falling off the top of the bench.  Then I sawed two lengths of wood from the snack tray table legs and screwed them to the back of the bench to form the pliers rack.

I cut two more lengths from the table legs and screwed them to the inside of the bench to accommodate the shelf.  I cut the shelf to fit and added a lip at the back to prevent things from falling out.  The pliers rack on the rear of the bench keeps the shelf from falling out the back.

I added a strip of wood from the snack tray leg to the back of the bench top to make a lip to keep things from falling off the back of the bench.  Then I cut the paint stirrer and screwed it to the back for the pliers rack.

Last, I drilled pilot holes into the side boards and screwed in some adjustable feet which let me level the bench and adjust the height.

Here’s a side view of the bench that shows where I screwed the sides.

20 -16 inches deep, 24 inches wide and 9 inches high

I attached the bench pin with clamps.  I also made a nifty little forming tool with a piece of wood and some metal furniture knobs.  Clamp it in a vise and shape yourself some metal.  It’s also handy for riveting.

If you are interested in trying to make one of these yourself,  I have drawn up some rudimentary plans for you to download.   Feel free to share the plans but remember where you got them.

Make Yourself a Tabletop Jeweler’s Bench

A few weeks ago, I decided to make myself a tabletop jeweler’s bench similar to this one. I don’t have a proper jewelry bench and needed one that fit into a crowded work space.  I had a few more requirements:  I wanted to set up the bench directly across from my soldering station. I wanted the bench to hold my bench pin at the right height for comfortable sawing. I also wanted to have a bit of storage underneath the bench. Most importantly, I needed a portable bench so  I could move it out of the way if I needed to use the work station for something else.

My last requirement was that I wanted to make the bench using  tools and materials I already had on hand.  I possessed  an old hand-held power jigsaw, a couple of  miter box saws, (inherited from my father-in-law), a drill, and a cordless screwdriver.   My materials consisted of a wood snack tray (which seemed to be the perfect size for the top of the bench,)  some boards and wood scraps picked up from dumpster diving, and an assortment of screws collected over the years.   I didn’t want to buy anything else if I could help it.  And every time I was ready to break down and buy something, I discovered that I already owned something that would do the trick. I didn’t have to buy a thing!

19 finished bench

This is my finished bench and I think it looks pretty good considering that I didn’t know what I was doing.  I’m not skilled enough to make  drawers but I did make a pull-out shelf and added a rack on the back for pliers.

19 Back of bench

The portable bench measures 24” wide, 16” deep and about 9” high with the screw-on feet and 8” without. It is put together entirely with screws. This means it can be disassembled and stored easily. Or you can just slide the shelf out and stow it a corner.

I have no carpentry skills.  I have never made anything out of wood unless you count the Popsicle stick trivet I made for my mother in Kindergarten.  So I watched a lot of YouTube videos on carpentry and using tools.  I wish I could tell you that there’s a great video on how to make this portable bench, but there’s not.

My raw materials:

 

I will post plans on how to make the bench, and step-out photos next week.  Stay tuned.

Oval Jump Ring Ovation!

I like to use oval jump rings in my jewelry because they are strong and attractive.  But it can be difficult to make them.  I tried the oval winder you see below.  Unless your wire is very stiff, it twists when you take it off the mandrel  making it hard to cut jump rings with consistently-positioned seams, and even harder to saw them in a jump ring jig.

After some experimenting,  I found the best solution for me is to make my own mandrels that I modify slightly so I can saw even, consistent jump rings.

Tape two round mandrels together, wind the wire evenly around them and saw, positioning your saw at an angle as you would for round jump rings.   The notch or space between the mandrels allows you to angle your saw and cut a perfect jump ring.  Here are some pictures of the process of sawing oval jump rings using two 10 mm mandrels. Be sure to securely clamp  your mandrel to something to hold it steady while you saw.  And don’t forget to lubricate your saw blade.

The size and shape of your jump  rings are limited only by the size and shape of your mandrels.  I wanted some smaller jump rings and used drill bits I taped together at the drilling ends so I could use the smooth parts as mandrels. Again, the space between the two drill bits allows you to saw your jump rings at an angle, one jump ring at a time.

I used 1/4″ drill bits here.  You could go smaller if you needed smaller jump rings.  You could use nails with the heads sawed off, or any kind of smooth mandrels taped together.

Some more mandrels to try:  Paint stirrers and Popsicle sticks make great oval-shaped jump rings.  Just clamp them to a steady surface, wind the wire, and saw.

I All sizes

Here’s a sampling of different oval jump rings you can make with the mandrels I’ve described.  The ends are nice and flush for soldering  or you can close them with pliers and leave them unsoldered.  Give it a try!

 

A Cheap and Easy-to-Make Jump Ring Tool

I have been on a quest for an inexpensive and easy method for making jump rings. I like to make my own so I can choose whatever metal, gauge, and type of wire I need at any given time. Sometimes I cut jump rings with flush cutters, but I always find myself filing the ends. I like my unsoldered rings to look soldered to the untrained eye and for me, this means I have to saw them.

I made myself a jump ring cutting jig a few years  ago.  I like that it’s portable but I struggle to find a  comfortable way to hold the jump rings in place while I saw.  Sometimes my hand cramps and if I’m interrupted or my saw blade catches or breaks, it’s difficult to pick up sawing on the same line,  since this method has you sawing from the inside of the coil.  (If you have trouble using a jig like this, try turning it backwards so you can hold the coil snug with your thumb as you saw. See picture below. This worked well for me for awhile.)

Sawing with commercial jig

 

I needed a better solution. I watched a ton of videos on cutting jump rings: I watched videos where people held their coils in miter vises, like this one. I haven’t had much luck with vises. My coil slips around and I am afraid of crushing the coil if I tighten the jaws of the vise  too much.

I watched videos on using jump ring cutting pliers.  Not a good solution for me.  To cut jump rings with this method,  you have to hold the pliers at an angle with one hand, and support them on a little rod that protrudes from the bottom while you saw with the other hand. I would have a hard time sawing like this.

I saw some wonderful YouTube videos including this one on how to make a jump ring cutter. by Pocket 83.   I found it particularly inspiring because Mr. Pocket (or is it Mr, 83?) explains why he takes every step and does not assume knowledge. I was considering trying to make a variation of his cutter until I saw this video by Elizabeth Honeysett who demonstrates  cutting the jump rings off a wooden dowel.  That got my attention. I could do that! But not before I made some modifications.

First, I needed my cutting mechanism to remain stationary. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to use a wonky, wobbly tool. (sharing a bed with a fidgeter runs a close second.)

Elizabeth’s dowel-cutting method addressed my second requirement: I needed to be able to see what I was doing, which means cutting the rings from the outside.

Third, I needed an easy way to push the coils up to the saw in a manner  that did not cramp my hands, and allowed me to concentrate on the sawing.  I made a  few different tools based on the dowel cutting method.  I am sharing the best one with you.

The  tool is simply a dowel with a large washer that enables you to push the coil up to the saw as you cut the rings. The washer gives you something larger to grip and you can easily compress the coils so the individual rings stay in place as you saw until you move them up the dowel to meet the saw blade at diagonal cutting point.   The rings are easy to control and you can see what you are doing.

Experiment number 2-note dowel is in a vise

I secured my dowel in a vise when I first tried this method.  Don’t.  I found that the act of sawing made the dowel constantly change position. Aggravating!  A shorter dowel didn’t  help. I simply could not get the vise tight enough to keep the dowel in place  for the whole sawing operation.

Wood dowel in vise shiftingdowel

The solution was simple. I ditched the vise in favor of two household clamps that hold the dowel like a rock.  Find a clamp or two that works for you.

Success clamp not vise

The tool is a snap to make.  Grab a wood dowel in the diameter you need,  drill a hole one one end so you can secure the wire for winding, and cut a diagonal notch on the other end to guide your saw blade.

Wind your coil tightly around the dowel and trim off the end in the hole so you can move the coil on the dowel.

Position the washer behind the coils and begin to saw into the top of the coil on the diagonal using the notch as a guide.   Use the washer to gently push the coil and keep it snug  as each ring is cut through and falls off the dowel.  Lubricating your saw blade really helps.

Experiment number 2 sawing

The modified dowel works pretty well.  No more fighting to control my tools and materials.

SawingJR from Dowel 2
Sawed jump rings falling off the dowel
JumpRings3
The finished product

While there are faster and more efficient ways to make jump rings. (Jump ringer, jump ring making tool) the modified dowel method is  an easy, inexpensive option.  Dowels and washers come in so many sizes that you won’t be limited.  And now that you know an easy way to saw round jump rings, what about oval jump rings?  They’re harder to make because  oval coils like to twist and change position.  But I think I’ve  found a solution.   Coming up in a later post.

McGyver Your Ring Clamp

I bought a ring clamp when I took my first metalsmithing class years ago but could never figure out how to use it.  Then I saw Helen Driggs’ article on how to use a ring clamp and decided to try.  But my wedge was too small and I couldn’t hold anything very tight.  I was too cheap to buy another ring clamp so back in the drawer it went.

Then I saw Nancy L.T. Hamilton’s article on how to convert a ring clamp with a too-small wedge into one that would actually hold something.  You basically drill a hole in the clamp so you can insert a bolt with a wing nut to hold the clamp shut.  What a great idea!  I went to drill out my clamp and saw that it was made out of plastic, not wood.  I didn’t know whether I would destroy it by drilling it so back in the drawer it went.

And while this seems like a non-sequitur, it’s not: I ate a lot of popsicles last summer  and the sticks are littering my workshop.  And I have duct tape.  And that was my solution to my non-functional ring clamp.

 

1
Duct tape four popsicle stocks to the wedge.
2
Break off the excess on top

 

3
Cover the wedge tightly

 

5
The wedge should fit tightly into the clamp
6
A ring ready for sawing

7

9
I was able to saw the ring comfortably.  The altered wedge held it tight.

 

May your days be merry and bright and may all your ring clamps hold your jewelry tight! (Sorry)

What’s on my Table

The days are flying by. We are now into week five of social distancing and I could use some nice warm weather and some sunshine. I have been working on the family genealogy and sharing what I find with family members on a Facebook page we set up for that purpose. I read David Copperfield and my new life goal is to be as wise as Betsey Trotwood. I ordered some Fairy Lights to brighten up my basement workshop. The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild had its first online meeting and it went so well we are going to continue. I am baking bread having had the foresight to order 40 pounds of winter wheat berries (and two pounds of baker’s yeast by mistake; I could start a black market business) which arrived before the pandemic.

Here’s what’s on my work table right now:

I thought it would be fun to combine galvanized steel wire with vintage Swarovski crystals. I love making funky asymmetrical chains and I have a bunch of gorgeous crystals from old necklaces I snatched up at house sales. This is what I have so far:

I like the look, but I have to get motivated to to more. Here are some polymer beads. I am waiting for them to talk to me and tell me what they want to be (and if they want to be back filled first.)

polymer

I have been experimenting with different methods of cutting jump rings.  I prefer sawing to cutting because I always have to spend time cleaning up the ones I’ve cut, even though I use good flush cutters.  Too fussy I guess.  But sawing has its own problems.    For a long time I was using a jump ring jig I made myself.

jrholder

The problem is how to hold the coils in place as you saw them.  The jig I made was small enough that I could hold the coils with my thumb as I sawed.

Here’s one great solution-using a wedge of wood rather than your fingers to hold the coils in place as you saw.

But there are other ways of sawing perfect jump rings and I continue to search them out.  I will share my favorites here.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

New Ideas for the Workshop

I have gathered up a few tips and ideas that I am using in my workshop as I continue on my current obsession with learning how to make rings.

Plier Holder- Thrift shop find – a paper towel holder.

4.PlierHolder

 

Rolling Mill Holder: Bench grinder stand from Harbor Freight and a couple of sturdy C clamps.

5.RollingMillStand

Sawblade Holder: Spice holder.  Another thrift shop find.

6.Sawblades

 

I keep most of my stones in photo slide pocket storage pages in a three-ring binder.

7.Stonestorage

 

I raised up my bench pin by securing it to a wooden box

 

1.BenchPin copy

I made a holder for flex shaft and rotary tool attachments.  I found a wood box at the thrift store and drilled holes in the top.

2.Box

And I can keep a few more items, like collets which I am always misplacing, in the box.  It makes it easier to find things so I can spend more time learning and making things.

 

3.Box2

Make Yourself Some Pottery Tools

My posts on making jewelry tools have been so popular that I decided to share some ideas for making pottery tools with you.  None of these are original but they all present my twist on things.  The first one is a clay texture tool.  I found a foot massager at a thrift store, took it apart, and now I have two new texture tools plus some to share.

You can also saw up a broomstick a dowel and apply craft foam or hot glue to make patterns to texture clay.  There are some examples below.  

The glue stick makes a nice texture.

05.GlueRoller

Make a clay cutter to cut canes for Nerikomi.  I cut the end off a metal plant hanger and strung  it with 24 gauge wire.  You can use any form that will keep the wire taut and if the wire breaks, it’s easy to replace.  

I love the idea of a tool that will bevel the edges of clay slabs.    Enter the beveler!    I got the idea to make my own from this site  but mine is a bit different.  The wood I used is a sidewalk find.  I trimmed the smaller piece so the edges were straight.  Then I nailed it to the larger piece so I would have two beveling angles, one shallow and a longer one.  I didn’t measure anything; I just eyeballed it.  I notched the four corners to keep  the wire in place and used a screw eye to hold the wire taut.  I tried my beveler out and it works beautifully.  It really comes in handy when you are beveling curved edges.

And finally, although this is not a pottery tool, I had to include it. I made myself a rawhide hammer from a dog chew following Charles Lewton-Brain’s directions here.  My conclusion?  Go out and buy one. The dog chews ended up costing about as much as a small hammer and it was much more difficult the make than the instructions let on.  But still, I like the way my hammer turned out and I’m using it.

11.mallet

 

Feel free to share this information and if you  want to share ideas for tools you’ve made, leave a comment.

 

A Box of Hammers

I love going to flea markets to shop for old tools to use for jewelry making. I love unusual hammers most of all. I picked up an old cobbler’s hammer at a sale a little while ago (just because it looked interesting) along with a nifty tack hammer that will be just perfect​ for texturing and maybe riveting.

15364

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “dumber than a box of hammmers.” I suppose a box of hammers would not have the collective intelligence of a box of beetles for instance or a box of bicycle messengers. On the other hand, a bag full of hammers is not likely to be more intelligent because said hammers are not in a box.

8
A Box of Hammers!

That being said, I initiated the conversation that led to the sale with the question, “Have you ever heard the expression ‘dumber than a box full of hammers?'” The person selling the hammers told me he was familiar with the expression and then gave me a very smart price on my selections from his box of hammers.

910

My New Jewelry Making Tools

Who doesn’t love a good deal? My friends know that I am a bargain hunter. Here are my latest jewelry making tool scores.
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Otto Frei close out two Fretz mini raising hammers $84.00

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Ever since  I used Artsy-Sciency’s metal shears in Puerto Vallerta,  I wanted a pair.  They cut so easily.  ArtGirlsTools  $13.25 plus shipping

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Haiko flush cutters  Amazon

16 gauge    $9.29

10 gauge   $12.67

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Optivisor – low cost version. I had a couple of genuine Optivisor lenses but no holder. I didn’t want to invest in a genuine Optivisor so I tried this low cost knock off. My Optivisor lenses fit and it came with some lenses of its own. Probably not as good as the genuine thing but you can’t beat the cost.

$$16.50 plus $3.00 shipping from China.  Delivery takes a few weeks.  Order it here.

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Foredom Bench Lathe  $188.50

Jets Jewelers Tools and Supplies  Order it here,

There’s a story behind the bench lathe.  I was jonesing for one ever since I attended a Clay ConneCTion retreat a few years ago and got to try one out.  I went searching for a deal and was wary of  buying a poorly made knock off or, worse yet, a counterfeit.

I had one prior order with Jets Jewelers and Supplies who does business on eBay.  I didn’t like the item I got and they refunded my money in full no questions asked.  So when I saw the deal on the Foredom Bench Lathe,  I ordered it.  Jets Jewelers promptly sent me an email informing me that I had ordered the 240 volt model and asked me if I had not really meant to purchase the 120 volt model.    I thanked them for catching the error and my bench lathe arrived a couple of days later.  I love it.  And I commend Jets Jewelers and Supplies for their great customer service!!

Note: Some of these prices may have gone up since I bought the items but they are still great deals.  I have no affiliation with any of the sellers or manufacturers.