Jewelry Studio: Bench Pins — A Metalsmithing Essential
Bench pins have been around for a long time, probably since the jeweler’s saw* was invented, if not before. (*The idea of saw blades being placed in saw frames under tension, the forerunner of today’s jeweler’s saw frame, originated in ancient Rome, according to Oppi Untracht in his Jewelry Concepts and Technology, oft revered reference for jewelers.) For centuries, bench pins were about as simple as a tool can be — a strip of wood with a “V” notch cut into the front edge, which is then fastened into a mortise cut into the front edge of a workbench.
The bench pin remained basically unchanged until modern times when GRS introduced their dovetail mounting system.
We immediately invested in one of these and then another — there are two of us in the studio, after all. The bench pin quickly and easily slips in and out of the secured dovetail mount. The flat side of the pin is used for sawing. Turn it over to use the angled side of the pin for filing. The good news is, because the pin is easily removed from the mount when not in use, we haven’t bashed our foreheads on the edge of a pin in a long time. Check with your favorite jewelry supplier to see the wide variety of gadgets that can be mounted onto the GRS basic dovetail mount as well as other brands that have since joined the mix.
Iconic Artist/Instructor Thomas Mann has introduced his StudioFLUX™ Multipurpose Bench Pin. Especially designed to be mounted on the top of the workbench, this bench pin is ideal for flat, continuous sawing. Lately, we’ve been pondering the new, all metal, multipurpose bench pin designed at Knew Concepts which is, happily, designed for use with our dovetail mount. And, more recently, Jayne Redman has designed her innovative rotational bench pin with interchangeable surfaces of aluminum and purpleheart wood. So many choices…
Note: The Mann and Redman’s bench pins are available through most jewelry suppliers.
Back to the basic wood bench pin, which is the simplest but arguably one of the handiest and most important tools in the jeweler’s tool kit. Over the years we have observed and photographed many of the more interesting and creative examples. The pins that impressed us the most were traceable to Phillip Fikeb a well-respected and regarded jewelry instructor from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Mr. Fike incidentally, was one of the founders of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). He created bench pins by hand from exotic, colorful hardwoods and was well known for presenting them to lucky friend and student recipients over the years.
Several years ago we published a ‘how-to’ project, Custom Hardwood Bench Pin in the November 2012 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. This project is available as a download so you can make your own favorite bench-pin.
Our bench pin incorporates many of the features included in Mr. Fike’s unique bench pins.
To see the bench pins of other metalsmiths, see Tammy Jones’ article: Each One Like a Snowflake: Learn to Customize Your Bench Pin and Workspace.
Tom & Kay
Tom & Kay Benham are Contributing Editors to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and author its Ask the Experts column. Have a question for them? Please leave a comment below.
Get more on bench pins in our shop!