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.

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!

 

Some Great Articles and Videos on Finishing Metal Jewelry

Andy Cooperman wrote a terrific series of articles on how to use the flex shaft which you can read here.

And there is a great series of how-to videos from Martha Glennie who is a professor at George Brown University in Canada. 14 videos on cover every aspect of finishing metal jewelry. You’ll want to watch them all.

 

 

Cheap and Easy Photography Studio

And I really mean cheap and easy.  OK, not free.   I did have to buy some plastic place mats on Amazon. But I got 12 for $18.00 which leaves plenty left over to use as place mats and as traveling work surfaces for polymer.  That, packing tape and white card  stock which I had (you could use printer paper too) and I was all set.

1PlasticPlacemats

I have one of those cloth photo tents like this one  and they are great for taking pictures of vases and bigger items.    But it’s big and unwieldy in my studio and I actually had to watch a video on how to fold it and get it back into its storage bag.    I wanted a smaller photo cube for jewelry and similarly sized items.   I could have bought something, but could not find the size I wanted.  It seems like these things come in two sizes:  tiny and enormous.

That meant making one.  I didn’t want to have to buy special paper.  I didn’t want to have to find the right size box and saw the sides out of it.  When I was finished taking pictures,  I wanted to stow the box in a drawer or on a bookshelf.  So here’s what I came up with:

2Placemat photo setupHere’s the photo setup.  I cut the place mats to size with scissors and used packing tape to make this triptych-like screen.  4open

Here’s the set up with white paper behind the triptych under it.  You can use paper and the other mats to make any kind of configuration you like.  Just tape them together.  You can put the lights anywhere to get the effect you want.  The light I am using here is nothing fancy.  It’s an LED desk lamp I bought at Five Below and it uses three AA batteries which means you can move it anywhere and not be fighting with wires.  You can get something similar on Amazon here.  Don’t pay more than $5.00 per lamp.  They’re great for traveling to which is why I originally bought them.   And don’t think you need to buy  lights if you already have something you can use.

 

So, how do the pictures look?  Let’s see.

Shooting Earrings

Here’s a setup to shoot a pair of bronze clay earrings suspended on a piece of floral wire.

The image on the left is unlit.  I used the lamp on the image on the right.  I didn’t use any photo editing software.

Here are the same images Gimped.  Click on the images a couple of times to view them full size.  Gimp is a free open-source image editor that I have used for years.  It can do anything you want.  Did I mention that it’s free?

3Folded up

This is the photo studio folded up and ready to be put away.  It hardly takes up any room at all.  If you need something bigger,  just tape on another mat or two.  If you want something smaller, cut one down.

Here’s another idea.  The plastic drawers in this storage unit are also made of translucent plastic.  Before I started using the place mats,  I got some pretty good shots using empty drawers. Plastic drawers

1Tassel on box

Here’s a tassel I laid on one of the empty drawers.  You don’t have use a place mat on the drawer like I did; simply turn it over if the underside is free from markings.  You can try putting your small, battery-operated lamps inside or outside the drawer.  Experiment.

 

2Tassel on Box closeup

Here’s a shot of the tassel with some light from the battery-operated lamp.  Not too bad.  One of the great things about these photo setups is that they are small and cheap enough to take outside into the natural light where you should be able to get some pretty good results.  Experiment!  And don’t forget to have fun.

 

 

 

Make Stamps for Ceramic Clay with Polymer

Another thing I did at  Clay ConneCTion was to make myself a bunch of new stamps to use with my pottery.    You can make pottery stamp from ceramic clay but polymer is so much easier!   Since polymer does not shrink, you know how big to make the design.  Plus you can cure the polymer much more quickly than you can fire ceramic stamps.  And they don’t break when you drop them on the floor.  And you can use scrap clay!  All you need to do is roll sheets of clay on the thickest pasta machine setting and then cut and stack the sheets to make a rectangle about one-inch square and two inches long.  You can make designs by carving the soft clay,  adding coils and shapes, or impressing textures into the clay.  If your clay is pretty firm, as mine was, you can put a design on each end and use the sides for more designs.  After you bake the clay, you can make more stamps with the design in reverse.  I recommend that you condition the clay well and bake the stamps for an hour.

There’s another polymer stamp making tutorial on the Ceramics Network site. And there are plenty of design ideas around the Internet.   Check out Hair of the Rabbit  And don’t forget Pinterest.

 

Beads

Porcelain beads ready for the kiln.  I can’t wait to see how they come out.

Triangle Beaded Beads

I have been experimenting with cross weaving which is sometimes referred to as two needle right angle weave.  It definitely uses a different set of “head muscles” than single needle RAW, but it’s not that difficult to learn.    Below are some examples of beads that I discovered by accident while trying to do something else.    My beads are not new discoveries; I have since found other examples of them  on the Internet.

Triangle weave is not right angle weave strictly speaking because the beads are not pointing at right angles,  but it lends itself to a great deal of possibilities depending on the size and shape of the beads you use, how long you keep repeating the pattern, and the manner in which you repeat the pattern.   You can also weave a pattern similar  similar to hexagon angle  weave that to my eyes resembles more of a star pattern than regular hexagon weave.  Then again, these are more likely the same  patterns but they look different to me  depending on whether I use oval-shaped beads or round beads.

The two beaded beads below are extremely simple to make.  The one you see here  is made from six  beads.

I have been experimenting with cross weaving which is sometimes referred to as two needle right angle weave. It definitely uses a different set of “head muscles” than single needle RAW, but it’s not that difficult to learn. Below are some examples of beads that I discovered by accident while trying to do something else. My beads are not new discoveries; I have since found other examples of them on the Internet.

 

This bead is made from nine beads and I have added some seed bead accents.  

The 12 bead beaded cube is the easiest one of all to make.  Here is a good video tute to get you started.

Give these beads a try if you are interested in learning some of the more complex bead cross weaving.