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.

More Adventures with Fiber

I have put away the metal clay for awhile and have resisted firing up the kiln until  the hottest days of Summer are behind us.  I also have a load of Cone 6 porcelain to do but I think that one is going to have to wait for the fall.  In the meantime, I am taking a pottery glazing and surface design class (more on that later) and and continuing my work with cloth and fiber in the coolness of my basement workshop.  I have been screen printing on fabric and here are some of the results




The idea is to combine this fabric with other elements and make some wearable jewelry.

Here is some fabric I sewed around welting with the idea of making a multi-strand necklace.



Here’s the necklace I came up with.    I  wrapped the solid color ropes with some reclaimed silk yarn that I love.  I don’t have enough of it to make anything but a few strands of it adds a lot of interest. I am not sure if I like the copper rings and the dangle.  The colors are right but the shapes might not work.


I am looking for something other than welting to fill the cloth.  I tried nylon-filled rope, but it’s tricky to shape.  The necklace has to drape the right way and nylon fiber can be stiff and uncooperative.


I am also looking at various closures.  I am not that fond of lobster clasps for necklaces.  They can be fiddly to open and close.  I think a secure hook of some kind would make getting in and out of the necklace much easier. And it would be easy to make.


The necklace happens to be made from recycled materials.  The fabric  came from old clothes and remnant bins, the wire is stripped electrical wire, the yarn is reclaimed from a hat I bought in a thrift shop and the chain is from a trash-picked necklace.  The only “new” part of it (aside from the Czech beads I have had for years) are the crimp ends  holding the ropes.



My Introduction to the Construction Junction.

My husband is a silly man who often claims, when I ask him a question, that I am “grilling him like a salmon.”  But he is a good sport.  After all, he married me, didn’t he?  So when we were in Pittsburgh last year for the opening of Into The Forest, he agreed when I told him I needed to make a stop at the Construction Junction. He even opened the door for me!


The Construction Junction is a nonprofit used and surplus building material retailer.  It accepts all kinds of donations-construction materials, old appliances, electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, tools, lighting, building materials and many other things too numerous to mention.  This keeps stuff out of landfills and gives it a second life when it leaves in the hands of a customer to be used in a new project.



But the construction junction is also a mecca for creative types.  I found some embossed tiles there that make perfect polymer clay texture sheets.  I got some brass pipe and metal parts that I will recycle into jewelry.   If I wanted one of the vintage stoves that seem to be all the rage these days,  I could pick one up at the Construction Junction and restore it to working order.




The place is HUGE, the staff is friendly and there is plenty of parking.  Check it out if you find yourself in Pittsburgh.



New Year, New Look

I’ve given the blog a new, cleaner look.  I’m  still tweaking and plan to try CSS used CSS to make some more changes.  I’ve  designed a new logo and watermark and a new pull-down menu in the travel category.  I have added links to the tutorial category.   

And now for the tip of the week.   I needed a box for a small gift on New Year’s day and found that a toilet paper roll is a good substitute in a pinch if you have some pretty ribbon to tie it with.  The gift was a porcelain pendant on a silver chain.  I wrapped it with tissue paper and it fit nicely into the box.




I could also see taping wrapping paper around the toilet paper roll.  You’d  tuck the paper in the sides of the roll and tie the whole thing up with a ribbon.

Allow Me To Vent

This has been a frustrating week.  Pictures have disappeared from my hard drive.  MS Word has chosen to save parts of documents and not others.   I spent time circling the gas pumps trying to figure out how to get the fuel tank on the rental car to the correct side to pump gas. And what do you call it when you’re about to finish sewing something, prick your finger with the needle, and bleed on the fabric?  (It’s  a good thing I know the cold water dab don’t rub trick.)   At this point, I  could write a book entitled  Tips and Tricks for Idiots.  And to top it off, I have to start brushing Boris’s teeth.  Oh, the humanity.

Which brings me to the matter of the vent.  My studio is in my basement and I would like to be able to solder and  make glass beads in the winter time.  But the ventilation is not so good with all the windows shut.  So I decided to get me some ventilation.  I first asked my plumber who was doing some work on my house and he proposed something that was expensive and more like the kind of ventilation you would need in a dairy barn with 500 lactating cows. Except that I love my plumber (how many of you can say that?)  And maybe it was my fault. Maybe I asked for too much. I have a habit of doing that to men.   Just ask my husband. Or my plumber.  

Plan B-YouTube.  Mymy there are a lot of YouTubers out there growing vegetables. And flowers.  In tents,  There is a lot of information on how to ventilate your <cough, cough> crops.  If you don’t like gardening,  jeweler Nancy Hamilton has a good tute on how to set up a fume extractor  system for jewelry soldering here.  There are also a lot of instructive images on that famous time sucker, Pinterest. Very few how-tos, though.   I didn’t know how to connect duct work or how to install an in-line fan. But when has a lack of knowledge ever stopped me?  I got married,  didn’t I?

Here’s what I did.  But first, allow me to vent.  Will you look at this window? It’s 14 X 6. Whoever heard of a window like that except in South Philly? It’s probably the only one in the world.  I needed to cut something to fit said window, and then cut a 4 inch circle out of that to put the dryer hose through. I grabbed an old plastic  storage container, cut it to size,  made the hole,  got a vent collar at Home Depot and I had my hole to the outside.



I needed an inline fan with a speed controller that was not too noisy.    I ordered this    from Amazon waited two weeks for it and then they cancelled my order and gave the option to reorder.  Wha?  I asked them, how about you give me free overnight delivery and I order it again.  They said yes and it came the next day.


Now, I don’t know the numbskull who designs these things, but there was no room for a drill or screwdriver to allow me to attach it to the wall.  So I had to brace a couple of stud scraps, run the screws through backwards, fasten the stud to the wall and   fasten the fan to the stud with nuts.  Nuts I to that say.


While I am venting,  I learned that the adjustable clamps are next to useless for attaching duct reducers to the fan or ducks to ducts.  Or ducts to ducks or ducts to ducts.  But I learned (through thorough research those indoor gardeners know everything!) about self tapping machine screws.  Except mine would not self tap.  They were probably worried about going blind.  Do you even get that joke?  I ended up making the holes for them and all was well.


The speed controller which is also the on-off switch  is off to the side.  



Here is the completed venting system.  I put a blast gate on the other side of the T duct because I might want to extend the system.  I then have to put another blast gate on the bottom of the T duct to close it off.  That project comes under the heading of maybe later or maybe never.  My favorite part of the system is the hood with is a trash-picked wok cover that I cut a hole in.  I got the rest of the stuff from Amazon and Home Depot.



How does it work?  Look at the picture.  I’m happy.  All the parts even with my mistakes cost about $100.00.




Resource and Treasures



I am so cold today!  Yesterday I had to go out in a whirling snowstorm to deliver a sick portable hard drive to the computer hospital.  Today, the computer doctor called me with the happy news that the files on the drive would live. I feel like I dodged a bullet. Fortunately, I already had the pictures for this blog post ready to go.

Which brings me to the Resource Exchange.   I heard about this wonderful place a couple of years ago as a space where film  and play companies deposited their leftover props and set equipment when production was finished.  Then I leaned that the collection of leftovers had grown to any kind of material that could be used to make art.  Which includes everything when you think of it but we won’t go there, will we?

No, the Resource Exchange offers all kinds of reclaimed arts and craft supplies that you can mention in polite company AND use to make art.     These supplies would otherwise end up in the trash.  The Resource Exchange gives them new life.  Let’s see, conservation, art, creative reuse-looks like a win/win situation to me.

And if you have a bunch of discarded art supplies, builder supplies, tools, and old sewing machine, a stuffed animal, a bolt of  cloth a case of paper clips, bring them to the Resource Exchange.  Someone, somewhere will want them.

On my trip to the Resource Exchange, I found some bead storage boxes,  jute webbing that I used to Boris-proof my foot stools, gold thread, giant wooden beads,  and some more things that I can’t remember-all cheap and in good condition.

Beading Yoda was thrilled   because now she has a place to bring all her Strawbridge and Clothier Bags because the people at the Resource Exchange know the difference between trash and vintage.

Be sure to check out the Resource Exchange’s web page and follow them on Facebook.  In the meantime,  here are some enticing pictures.
















Hey Baby Nice Glass!

Continuing on last week’s post, here are some more glass cabochons. 


Click on the pictures below to see how I made them. Most of these cabs were fired a minimum of two times. I kept cutting, fusing and reassembling until I got a result I liked. Who knew you could stack ugly beads in a kiln and make something new? It goes without saying that all the glass must have the same COE if you want the fusing to be successful. And you have to get every last speck of bead release out of the holes. I mean all of it, because fused bead release is not pretty. On the other hand, if you fuse a cab and find that you didn’t clean out all the bead release, you can grind or cut or it away and try fusing the glass again.

Here’s the Fusing Schedule I used.  Yes, you can fuse with Moretti glass!  And here are some ideas for using lampworked bead scraps in fusing projects

IMG_9628My fancy camera set up

Thrift Shopping in Marin County California

Why go thrift shopping in Marin County California? For one thing, Marin County has one of the highest per capita incomes in the US. That means that the thrift stores there get their stock from a high-income populace who wear good quality clothing with designer labels and who probably replace items in their wardrobes more often than the hoi polloi can afford to. Secondly, at least in San Rafael, there seems to be a cluster of thrift shops near one another because the typical consumer is a lower income person. And yes, there are poor people in Marin County. I checked out three stores in San Rafael. The first one was the Goodwill located At 805 Lincoln Avenue.



This is a big store with large Men’s and Children’s departments as well as Women’s. The prices were a bit higher than what I’m used to on the east coast, but not outrageous by any standard. I saw Ann Taylor blouses in excellent condition for under $10, lots of low priced Banana Republic items and a nice leather skirt for $10.00. There were some interesting looking items on the shoe racks, but I didn’t investigate. (My wide bumpy and mangled toes limit where I can buy shoes.) Hospice By the Bay Hodgepodge Thrift Store has less clothes and more dishes and tschotskes. There are a lot of the latter to choose from if you want to furnish a new place on the cheap with expensive looking items. They are nicely displayed.


Hospice By The Bay didn’t have as great a variety of clothes as were as the Goodwill and they were a bit more expensive, but they do important work and  certainly deserve to be supported.   Most of the items were dressy or casual Friday office wear. Very little men’s and children’s clothes.

Image for Success Retail proceeds enable IFS to provide complimentary wardrobes to these in need.  Women’s clothing, good condition, older styles and trendier takes, designer labels and a nicely curated shoe department. You can get a formal gown or a casual look. Smaller then Goodwill and more expensive but it seems like the the clothes are screened and uniformly in good condition. Women’s dresses only    

Mill Valley has a well-earned reputation as a bastion of  affluence. The high school looks more like a well-kept hotel to a golf resort than a dungeon of higher learning. I have heard that the people are supposed to be snobby but everyone I had contact with during my thrifting exploration was very friendly.


I walked into consignment shop Diamonds  in the Rough  thinking it was a thrift shop.   It’s not, There were a lot of designer labels-Christian Dior clothes, Jimmy Choo shoes and Kate Spade bags as well as less expensive brands like Ann Taylor and Jones New York. Oddly enough, some of the clothes seemed to be in less than mint condition for a consignment store. The prices were high but for some shoppers used to buying at high-end boutiques, a store like Diamonds in the Rough could produce a real bargain.


The Family Thrift Store is right next to Diamond in the Rough and it was my hands-down favorite. It carries men’s and women’s clothes, children’s items,  housewares, and pretty much everything else.   There’s one pricing scheme except for a few specially marked items.


For example, all women’s tops are $5.00 except for those marked differently



like the Eileen Fisher silk shell that I snagged for $8.50!


Silk hand-dyed scarf $3.50!

I hit a few more stores between Mill Valley and Ft. Bragg that I’ll write about in another post.


Turn An Old Skirt into Something New!

I wanted a dreamy looking leather satchel in a soft, buttery leather only I didn’t want to shell out a couple hundred dollars for it. I saw a cool looking black leather skirt in a thrift shop and I suppose they were having a hard time moving it because it was marked down to $7.00. I grabbed a back leather belt for $2.00 and away I went!


I turned the skirt inside out and marked there I wanted to cut it.  Since the skirt was lined, I could skip lining the tote.


I had to decide how to work around the zipper and  decided that I would  make a seam there and remove it.


I’m glad I scanned the Internet for tips (see end of post) because I got myself some heavy duty needles which helped immensely.  The leather I used was thin-it had been a skirt after all, and the Singer Slant-O-Matic had no trouble handling it.  Plus it glided smoothly because the lining and not the leather was making contact with the sewing machine.



I cut the handles from a thick leather belt which was very hard to cut.  I used a utility blade.


I attached the handles to the body of the bag with grommets I bought at Harbor Freight.


I stitched the  handles to the top of the bag with a sewing awl, also from Harbor Freight.  You can see that I had to make the holes with a drill, but the awl was great for passing the thread back and forth between the holes.


I installed a magnetic purse snap and I had a leather tote for under $10.00!


Here’s another one made from a suede thrift store skirt

This tutorial from was very helpful.  I also liked this one from the Vintage Ramble blog.

And here is a good video to get you started.


Christmas Ornaments in Progress

I’m trying some new things this year.  I decided to try making armatures out of compacted newspaper wrapped with aluminum foil.  I could have used all foil but I wanted to recycle.  So far, it’s worked pretty well.  Nothing I’ve covered and baked has cracked and it all seems pretty solid.  I’m not sure how I am going to hang these ornaments when they’re done.  I’ll figure that out later.


 Three birdies dancing.  These are the armatures covered with scrap clay, painted and baked.  I am going to add some more clay features and bake again.  The crooked beaks are intentional.  I  want the birds to have personality.

Birdie in Oven

One Birdy Baking

Tinted TLS

I added a drop of the ink to about two tablespoons of  liquid clay to paint the bird..  You don’t need much ink; a little goes a long way


I like the translucent look of the tinted liquid clay. Since my scrap clay was mud colored, I painted the bird with white acrylic clay before I baked him the first time  to get the full effect of the translucent clay.    He gets a second baking for the blue layer.


One sea turtle swimming.  This guy has the same newspaper and foil core.  I painted the fins with liquid clay tinted green to test the effect.  He still needs a lot of details added and a proper shell.


This ornament will be a pussy cat.  It’s baseball sized and built around a newspaper and foil core,  


It’s starting to take shape.  I haven’t decided whether to give him crazy feet or put feathers in his mouth.

The Model

I’ll ask the model what he thinks.