Do you use a bench block? (These jewelry tools are heavy plates of hardened steel about 4 x 4 inches square.) Does it bounce every time you hit a piece of metal on it with a hammer?
I call this the curse of the bouncing bench block and didn’t realize how much I was putting up with this problem until I interviewed a Colorado man who makes polished 35-pound anvils for jewelers. Because of their bigger mass, these anvils don’t bounce, although Cliff Carroll says that these jewelry tools do need to be secured to the stump or platform they are resting on. (See The Curse of the Ringing Anvil and Bouncy Bench Block, Part 1.)
Levitating Jewelry Tools
Here are some examples of levitation:
- When I am hammering on a piece of wire solder to thin it, I place my bench block on a large stump of hard wood. Everything moves.
- When hallmarking a piece of sheet silver, I land a sturdy blow with a heavier maul and the bench block moves.
- I try to hold a hammer, a punch, the metal, and the bench block down at the same time and hit one of my fingers in confusion.
Since I have never seen this problem with jewelry tools addressed, I post this question on the Facebook page of the Metalsmiths Coffee Shop managed by James Binnion and others. As with many forums, opinions vary. But you may find a solution that works for you.
13 Jewelry Artists’ Solutions for Bouncing Bench Blocks
Peggy Foy: Try putting something shock-absorbing under your bench block. Like a sandbag, a rubber pad, or a sheet of urethane.
Randy Hays: Hold it down with your toes.
Avery Lucas: Sandbag or leather under it for the win.
Gerald Loosehelm: Is it on a bouncy wood bench? Place it on a larger block of iron. I put mine on a 6-inch cut off of an 8-inch round bar. About 60 pounds. Mass kicks ass.
Pam Robinson: We use Pilates mats. They work great for cushioning the blow and preventing the block from jumping.
James Binnion: You don’t really want shock absorbing material under it, as it takes away from the force of the hammer blow as it is deformed on impact. The best thing for using an anvil or bench block to produce the more effective results is to firmly attach it to a large mass. A stump or heavy anvil stand. The greater the mass, the better.
Valerie Wood: I use tape that trainers use under the block. It absorbs the shock and keeps the block from sliding everywhere. One of the trade names for it is Coban. You can get it at the drugstore.
Van Calvert: Drilled and taped the underside of my block . . . then bolted it to my bench . . . I also put some felt under it to cut down on the rattling and ringing.
Hamish Bowie: I have my bench block positioned over the leg of the bench; less bounce but I have my cast iron anvil for deforming. For the precious metal forging forces, I use the cast iron. Stands up fine.
Laura Martin-Kubinec: I used to use a sandbag but bought a thick rubber block, which works great.
Steve Shelby: The best thing I’ve seen for a square bench block is four strips of wood, just a little shorter than the block, screwed down to the work surface forming a square into which the bench block snugly fits.
Glen Gardner: Get a bigger bench block.
Julie Sanford, Studio JSD: We have butcher blocks in the studio. They are solid like a stump but taller for standing work. Thin pieces of leather/suede under the blocks keep them from slipping and bouncing. They don’t seem to reduce the force of action like a mousepad does.
Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at email@example.com.