The thing I am most known for writing about is tools. And, as a jeweler, the tool I use the most is not a saw, it’s not a torch, and not even a hammer or pair of pliers. You may not even remember it’s a tool. What?
Lol… it’s a bench pin.
Your bench pin is the scene of the action. You’ll saw on it, file on it, fabricate on it, use your flex shaft at it, and if you are a professional jeweler, you very often solder at it too. Its hard to believe a small wedge of wood is so important, but you can’t really fabricate without one.
Most jeweler’s benches feature a slot for interchanging and repositioning bench pins, but if you don’t own a bench you can still have a pin. Either way, once you are serious about making jewelry, you’ll customize your pin according to the work you do. Portable bench pins are a great option for workshops held in non-studio situations, like gem shows, convention or recreation centers. There are several options for ready made portable bench pins on the market, and in an emergency, you could even make one yourself with a pine 1×3 and a C-clamp.
On the economy end, there are inexpensive clamp-on bench pins with reversible clamps – a handy feature when you are faced with convention center tables that are of variable thickness. Beginners often choose this type of pin when they are learning metalwork, and it is a fine starter pin, although I prefer a pin with a narrow V-slot. Fine in a pinch, economy pins are lightweight, usually not too expensive and extremely portable.
On the higher end, I have a personal favorite portable bench pin that features a combination steel bench block/anvil as part of the clamp. This bench pin requires custom treatment, which is why I like it.
Here are 5 of my favorite tips for bench pins:
• File a perpendicular and hemispherical slot at the place where the tip of the V-slot ends. Park tubing in there for clean sawing.
• Burr a small depression into the bench pin to hold small parts, stones or bits of wire and metal.
• Drill a hole all the way through the pin for positioning earring posts to sit in as you work.
• File an angle on one side of the pin to allow easy filing of edges.
• Don’t be afraid to file, saw or sand away parts of the pin to allow you to work. Bench pins are easy to replace!