Building a Jewelers Bench

Building your own bench is a sure-fire way to get exactly what you want. You can create a workspace that will fit you perfectly and have all the little features that you would have to buy 12 commercially made benches to get… But (and there is always a but) it is not for everybody to charge into a bench building project.

Because believe you me, it can be a project and a half!  You will need to know your way around the dark dungeons of woodworking to pull off a halfway successful build project.

Having said that, as with all other things it’s not what you know but who you know. So if you happen to have someone in your family or circle of friends who has a woodworking workshop, you should try to convince them to help you out.

Failing that, there is always the option of buying a bench to get you started quicker. Check out my post on how to buy a jewelers bench.

Now enough of bench buying, let’s get back to bench building. Let me start out by explaining how this “woodworking post” ended up on a jewelry making site..

It’s not as far-fetched as you may think. I happen to be one of those “omni-interest people” who don’t just have one interest or hobby, so one of the other things I do in my spare time is woodworking. Ever since I was a kid I have been making things. I use to drive my dad nuts when I used his chisels as screw drivers or smacked his hand plane into nails in an old board. These days I have a love of fine tools myself, so I can totally relate. I would be less than impressed if my prized tools were damaged by wrong usage..

But enough about me…what will you need to consider when building a bench?

Let’s start at the design. You can approach this in a number of different ways:

  • You could modify an existing desk or bench
  • You could use bits and pieces from different desks and put them together
  • You could start from scratch drawing your own creation

Well, I chose the latter I had long been “in love” with the bench setup pictured on on the front of the book  “The jewelers Bench” by Charles Lewton-Brain. A great read for tips and inspiration; you can get it from Amazon and a lot of the online jewelry supply places.

Jewelers bench book

The Jeweler’s Bench Book

I wanted to have the setup on the cover with a number of trays and tool storage under the tabletop. I really liked the concept of the metal-lined lower tray. Unfortunately, all the commercial benches I had found either didn’t have quite the setup I wanted or cost an arm and a leg. So I decided that I wanted to build my own.

But while I had the center part of the bench totally clear in my mind, I didn’t have a great vision of the rest. So I hit Google to do some research. This was pre-Pinterest, so I spent a lot of time going through old Flickr archives and a bunch of other sites to collect ideas. To make things easier I have collected a bunch of ideas on the following two Pinterest boards that will at least get you started on the design journey.

Pinterest board - Studio Inspiration Pinterest Board - Bench Ideas

Once you have a fairly good idea of how you want your bench to look, start by creating a sketch. You can just use pen and paper or as I did use Google Sketchup. It’s relatively easy to get started on and it’s free. You can make either a 3D model or 2D top, front, back, side model. Either will work to get your ideas down on paper so you can get onto the next part of getting the required materials.

To shortcut the process I have made a couple of my bench plans available to give you  a starting point for dimensions etc. Just click on the image below

Jewelers Bench plans with dimentions 2

If you would like to get the full pack of source files for drawings, cutting plans, material lists and build instructions. Just go to the Jewelers Bench Build Project Page you can download it all from there.

Jewelers Bench plans with dimentions 1

Once you have a drawing or a detailed plan you can start concentrating on what material to use. I was in the lucky position of having a colleague who had just demolished his old house, so I was allowed to pick up all the timber I wanted. Being in Australia all the frames were made of hardwood of various types so I picked up enough to be able to construct the main frame and the table top.

Using recycled timber gives the finished project that extra bit of character, but it obviously means that you will have to have access to the more heavy woodworking machinery to be able to plane and shape the timber in the required sizes.

A good trick is to get your local timber yard to do the heavy cutting and shaping for you. It will cost a little bit, but it’s well worth it. If I had to do it over I would choose that option this time, no question. I spent a bunch of time getting all the raw wood planed and cut to size and still ended up with some not-so-straight pieces.

For the drawers I decided to use furniture-grade plywood. It’s light and very stable so I wouldn’t get binding drawers etc.

But much more about all the detailed dimensions is under on the Jewelers Bench Build Project page

There is obviously a lot of work involved in building a bench and getting it just perfect, and as mentioned it is certainly not for everyone, but it is extremely satisfying when you sit down to work at a beautifully-crafted bench that you know is of the best possible quality. And best of all, you designed and created it!