The Jewelry Studio

As you can see I’m probably a little inconsistent in what I call the workspace. I’m not 100% sure if the right term to use is workshop or studio so I use those interchangeably. But what we are talking about here is the space where you have your bench and produce your jewelry.

No two jewelry workshops or jewelry studios are the same. The space you set up for yourself will always be influenced heavily by your personality. It will be constrained by the space you have available and it will be sized according to the amount of tools and machines you have accumulated over the years. Or, when just starting out, expect to accumulate. But there are some fundamental things you have to think about when you start planning where you can have your workshop. In an ideal world you will have a totally separate room (or even better, a separate building). Perfectly lit, heated or cooled with ample storage and lots of room for tools and machines…maybe something like this oneJewelry Studio Shed

In the real world, however, most of us have to be content with what is possible within the constraints of available physical space. But before starting the negotiations for that space with the rest of the family, take some time to consider the following:

Light

Having the right working light is very important, be it natural light or artificial. The perfect setup would see you in a room with plenty of natural light and ideally a nice inspiring view of the distant ocean, fields or mountains. Then again, if you’re like me and only really get time to work in the evening or at night, natural light is not really that important. That is where a great lamp comes into the picture (see below for some suggestions). But if you work during the day and have a window area available, that is the ideal spot.

Temperature (heating/cooling)

You need to be comfortable! No point in creating a workshop in your garage where it’s minus 10 degrees in winter or 40 degrees in summer (sorry, European, so this is Celsius not Fahrenheit obviously!). Trying to make jewelry with sweaty hands is close to impossible; those little bits and pieces are slippery enough with dry hands! And large woolen gloves in the winter don’t really work for jewelry making either. So when you plan the location of your studio or workshop, make sure you can keep a comfortable temperature all year round.

Ventilation

As mentioned earlier, you need to make sure you can get rid of any fumes or dust that is created as part of the jewelry making process. Generally any types of dust or fumes are no good for you! Some options you have to get rid of fumes are:

  • Mechanical extraction (g a fan, purpose built extractor unit, vacuum cleaner or the like)
  • Natural extraction/removal (e.g. an open window or door, very high ceilings etc.)

For dust the only option is really a mechanical extraction unit in the form of an extraction unit, in my case a vacuum cleaner or shop-vac with a good secondary filter, or possibly a shop cyclone if you create a large amount of dust. Or, again, one of the extraction units purpose-built for jewelers. A couple of samples:

Foredom Filter hood

Fume extractor

You obviously need to consider if you plan on sucking out dust from non precious sources like stone or wood or you are thinking of sucking out the sawdust from cutting precious metal as well. With the current metal prices you should consider collecting your metal saw dust separately.

Jewelry Bench dust cup

In my studio I have the luxury of being able to stow away a shop-vac under the floor with some “plumbing” going to my solder station and polishing motor. Check out the details on the detailed Dust and fumes page. I also knida cobbled together a low-cost and very effective idea about how to collect sawdust and off-cut bits from some photos on the net. I simply cut out a hole in my bottom bench tray and placed a metal bowl that I can sweep dust etc into:

Noise: Unfortunately, noise can be a problem, but there are two different types of noise to consider: the noise you make and the noise coming from outside into your studio. So if you are set up in the corner of your bedroom it really doesn’t matter, noise in both directions is what it is .. But if you have the option of a separate room, consider this:

Quiet Zone signNoise from outside: Do you need a quiet space to be creative? Everybody is different, some people can create the most beautiful necklaces and earrings with music going full-bore and the TV on while they are tweeting on the iPad…and some people need to have a very quiet space to work. Whatever is important, you need to strive to get it consistently. Unless you are lucky enough to be able to build the perfect studio from scratch, this area is probably going to be a bit of a compromise.

High Noice AreaNoise you make: Well for most this part is probably more important that your tolerance of noise from the outside world. Trust me, if you’re not into jewelry making, the rhythmic ping a hammer on a bench block sends out is NOT pleasant, not to mention the somewhat heavy-handed banging required to use the circle gutter with a heavy mallet. And somehow the high-pitched noise of the polishing motor is not something most people appreciate. I know, hard to believe, but that is unfortunately my experience. So it’s important that you consider how you best minimize the noise coming from your shop. There are a ton of different little steps you can take along the way, but one initial way to get around some of the noise is to make sure you have a door that can be closed when you need to. The closed door also serves as a boundary to make sure your kids don’t get into the workshop while you’re not there and potentially hurt themselves.

Fire Exit SignEmergency access/exit: We hope it will never happen but you have to plan for it.. What would happen if something caught fire, or even worse, exploded? You will be dealing with high-pressure gas cylinders, and for the more advanced setups potentially high-pressure oxygen or acetylene cylinders too. So while we take all the precautions we can to avoid anything bad happening, if anything does go wrong what are your options? In other words, make sure you can get in and out of the room, NEVER lock the door while you are inside! If possible, have an alternative escape route. You will need to have a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, and access to fresh running water close by. When you leave the room for the day, turn off all cylinders at the main valve and have a “gas sniffing” smoke detector in the room. Be careful of placement of the fire detector though; some of the gases are heavier than air and will collect along the floor if you have a leaking cylinder. So best option is really two smoke detectors, one at floor level and one in the ceiling. I know it sounds rather alarmist, but hey, better safe than sorry. In any case, I’ll cover a lot of this in more detail in the tool section  about soldering tools. So this largely covers everything about the room. The last bit to think about is what sort of furniture will you need in the workspace.

Furniture

The bench/work desk is obviously a must but you need to consider what size will fit the room as well as what sort of storage you will need for tools, machines and material. Take some measurements; you will be surprised how easy it is to choose a bench that is way too large for your space. You can either buy a bench or build one. If you decide to buy there are so many different bench options on the market it would be strange if you couldn’t find something that could fit your requirements. Here are a couple of examples:

Amazon Sample Jewelry Workbench 01

Jewelry workbench

Light: As mentioned above, get the best light you can afford. I got myself a secondhand Dazor bench light like the one below on eBay. Depending on your workspace and amount of  desk space you may go for a table top model as it is a little easier to move around.

Dazor 2134 clamp-on Jewelers lampDazor Desktop Work light for Jewelers

The light I got came from an American seller but although it is 110V (we use 250V in Australia), that was easily sorted by a transformer that converts to 250V. I got a rather beefy model and a US plug power board as I anticipated that with power tools much more readily available and at MUCH better prices in the US, I would be likely to have other tools requiring 110V.

220v and 250v to 110v transformer           US 110v powerboard

If you pick a fluorescent lamp, try to go for one that can take daylight-colored tubes as it will give you a much better ability to judge the true color of your work. Don’t be too uptight about the lamp, though: any light that is bright and can be directionally adjusted will serve you well initially and you can always upgrade later if necessary.

Chair: Being the thing that keeps you off the ground and supports your back while you are working. The chair you choose is not unimportant. A good office chair is a great choice, one that can be adjusted in height as in most cases you will need to work in different seating positions depending on the work you do. I use an old office chair I have inherited from work and again, if you are not keen on having to spend a large sum on a chair, there is always the roadside cleanup. Office chairs are almost always among the discarded stuff (as are vacuum cleaners for dust extraction).

Office Chair

This should give you some ideas of what you need to consider when setting up that space where you can start creating those magnificent pieces of jewelry that you have in your mind. Check out these Pinterest boards  for some inspiring studio setup ideas..

Pinterest Board - Bench Ideas         Pinterest board - Studio Inspiration

If there is stuff I missed or didn’t cover well enough, drop a line below I’d be quite happy to hear from you, especially if you have some other great tips and ideas you can share with others just starting out. Perhaps even some pictures?

If you are thinking of getting a new space to set-up your jewelry studio, then here are some great tips for you. First, make sure you have proper lighting, be it natural or artificial. Lighting is extremely important as your work requires intricate detailing which is impossible in poor lighting. Other factors to consider are temperature and the ventilation system.