Jewelers Bench Pin

The Bench Pin.. Technically speaking you could argue that the bench pin is really not a tool but part of the bench. While this is correct, what falls into the category of bench pins these days is more complex than meets the eye.

The original bench pin was basically a piece of timber that was attached to the jewelers workbench with a V groove cut into the front.

Old Jewelers Bench pin

The purpose was to make it easy to support and maneuver pieces of jewelry in a way in which files and saws could be used away from the main workbench. This principle has not changed, but the selection of different types of pins has grown and many more or less elaborate variations have been created for different purposes.

But if you keep the original purpose of the pin in mind, the selection of options will become less daunting. As a general rule of thumb when first starting out: go simple. It has to work and be solid!

Go for a pin that you feel comfortable “customizing.” By that I mean you cutting your own V grooves where they fit you, adding U shaped cut-outs, dimples, bumps, drill holes or whatever works for you.

It is certainly important to not be worried about cutting, drilling or filing into the pin since you will definitely do that at some point anyway.

That said, the below will run through some of the multitude of different pins that are available out there.

  • Simple clamp on desk
  • Mount into slot in desk
  • Mount with bench block
  • Clamp together for sawing
  • Round cut-out with accompanying ring vice
  • Narrow Ring cut pin
  • Systems (Bench Mate) – Cut-out flat plate

As you can see, each of the pins have slightly different properties and have slightly different useful aspects. The one thing to realize is that you will not find a pin that will do everything well. Your best bet if you want a multipurpose setup is to get the GRS Benchmate system.

GRS Benchmate Full System

You can get “packages” that contains different combinations of attachments, all fitting the same base mounting plate.

So although I would have loved to spend the approx. $500 for the full system for my bench I got the Basic package, which includes The Basic BenchMate Holder, shellac pad, fixed mounting plate and hardware, plus optional mounting adapter.

GRS Benchmate Basic Package

Not shown on the standard GRS stock photo is the optional mounting plate that is included in the package:

GRS Mounting Adaptor

The size is a little deceptive on the photo; it is actually a rather large piece of steel. You can get a better feel for the size here.

GRS Extra Fixed Mounting plate

I got a couple of other bits and pieces with the package like an additional “Fixed mounting plate.” The idea was to have it mounted somewhere on the bench as the parking station for the ring holder attachment when I wasn’t using it. But it turned out to be easier to have that lying in the center of my bench.

I ended up getting the bench pin attachment separately as it turned out to be cheaper than going for one of the larger packages, but if I had my time over (and more $$) I would have just gotten the full package in the first go..

Bench Pin3 GRS

Later on I got the sawing plate as well but that is a bit of a luxury as I could just as well use the base bench pin attachment when sawing.

GRS Sawing Plate

But like many of my other tools I ended up customizing the pin itself with a piece of hardwood as opposed to the somewhat softer wood used in the original Bench Mate version. It’s a bit wider and shorter and I also cut two different sized V grooves to cater for smaller and larger work pieces.

GRS Custom Bench Pin 01 GRS Custom Bench Pin 02

Installing the Bench Mate mounting plate can be done in a couple of different ways: you can screw the angled metal plate directly into the top of your bench which will give you a small raised piece of metal to hammer on. Alternatively, you can just screw the main GRS mount directly into the front edge of the bench and ignore the mounting plate altogether. Lastly you can do like I did and cut out a pattern matching the top of the metal mounting plate to create an installation where the mounting plate is flush with the table top.

Installing the GRS mounting plate  GRS Optional Mount installed

I actually use the top of the mounting plate as the base for a bench block that I have sitting on a piece of Staircase non slip step rubber (which is excellent for noise reduction, by the way).

But short of spending the somewhat substantial amount for the Bench Mate, a lot of the other models will work just as well too.

In the below sections I’ll quickly list the pros and cons as I see them for the different main commercial models.

Clamp on Desk

Clamp on Bench pin

Pros: Cheap, can serve your needs initially

Cons: I suspect you will get tied of it potentially moving around on the desk (they are very hard to clamp down tight). I guess you could screw it into the table top to avoid that.

I find the V groove and the center hole too large for the type of work I am doing. This model is in my opinion better suited to pattern sawing in woodworking.

Slot in desk model

Bench Pin2

Pros: Will sit securely in the desk, easy to change the pin if you use different shapes for different purposes.

Cons: Need to cut a slot in the bench if it didn’t come with one. Depending on the shape of the pin it may be hard to get the pin flush or above the table top (if you are cutting shapes in a larger piece of metal and have to rotate it, the edge of the table can get in the way).

Mount with Anvil/Bench block

Bench Pin1

Pros: The small flat surface can be used as a bench block, and it’s easy to change the pin itself. It’s also possible to quickly change from one shape of pin to another. These models tend to have a more solid clamp than the “el cheapo” wood clamp-on models.

Cons: The flat hammering surface is rather small; hammer noise will be loud unless some sort of rubber insulation is inserted under the block (stair cover rubber may work here ). As with the other clamp-on models this has the potential to move around on the bench too.

Clamp together, Round hole, Narrow ring pins:

Clamp together bench pinBench pin with Ring clampBench pin for rings

Pros: This group of pins can best be classified as specialty pins as they are designed to do one or two things really well. So obviously sawing with the clamp together model will be easy at least as long as you are OK with moving yourself or the saw instead of the work piece (not ideal in my opinion). The narrow ring pin is great for cutting through rings and I’d probably prefer to have that as a supplement to the traditional pin. The pins with a round hole and supplementary ring clamp are again best suited to work in combination with the clamp and are not that hot as an all-around bench pin.

Cons: Specialized pins will do one thing really well but lack versatility as a general use pin.

Bench Mate System – Setters Package

GRS Benchmate Setters Package

Pros: Incredibly versatile, and it has quick change components that will cover any requirement you may have for your bench pin / holding system. Very good quality workmanship, made in the US. A ton of different mounting options, and you can even get attachments for other tools. I could keep going… No secret which type of system I prefer!

Cons: To be fair…it’s expensive! But I guess you get what you pay for. If I could change something I’d like to see the ring clamp have leather jaws as opposed to the plastic ones supplied although you can easily change that yourself. It would be fantastic if the jaws somehow could be made to open parallel instead of the slight V-shaped opening today. But if the jaws were of a non-slip material like leather that would not be that much of an issue. I have found that the sawing plate ends up being a little high when the mount is adjusted for the bench pin but I suspect that could be because I have changed the wooden part as described above. Other than that, this is probably the single best piece of bench hardware I have invested in. Combined with the small bench block it works fantastically.

So summing up: there are a bunch of different ways to get a good bench pin that fits your way of working perfectly. If you can justify the expense go for the Bench Mate system, you won’t regret it.

Regardless of which option you choose, don’t be afraid to customize your bench pin; it has to fit perfectly for the type of work you do. Lastly, you don’t have to have just one bench pin: set yourself up so you can change depending on what you need for the work you are doing.