Introduction: How to Make a Jeweler's Bench Pin
A bench pin is a customize-able, consumable multi-tool which can be clamped to any work surface to support small work for precise operations. Sawing, drilling, filing, sanding, gluing, painting, forming - this surface is adaptive, movable, and in the end, beautiful in its own right. Who knew a small piece of wood could be so winning?
In the photo I'm using the bench pin for a classic technique: sawing with a jeweler's saw. While the saw and blade are tools I provided myself, all the tools to make the bench pin can be found at Techshop Detroit (www.techshop.ws), where I made it.
Step 1: Materials
As you can see from the photo, this is a pretty simple operation. You'll want to cut/gouge/shape your bench pin to accommodate different projects along the way, so consider making two or three of these at a time to replace the ones that get whittled away.
L to R:
- Square, or any combination of tools that will help you measure distance and mark 90deg angles.
- Wood: Make this at least 3/4", and experiment with pieces 2" or deeper for very sturdy support (in which case you'll want to design a mounting system.) This is a piece of pine, for the purpose of demonstration. A piece of hardwood gives more support and is longer-lasting.
- Pencil. Yes sir!
- Jeweler's saw all the way to the right, just to show you what it looks like
*Not pictured: Wood band saw. You'll need this to make your cuts.
I'm showing the finished layout first, so you get an idea of the shape we're after. The triangle in the front will be cut out as a wedge, so each finger can support a side of material for sawing and filing operations. The material left behind the wedge must be sufficient for good clamping; make it deeper and it can be a good place for drilling holes with a dremel tool.
First, measure the width of the wood, then mark its center point. Draw a line down the center so we can locate the wedge cut-out.
The wedge doesn't *have* to be centered, but if that's what you're after, measure maybe 4" up your center line and mark. Then align your ruler along the bottom edge of your piece and measure an equal distance from either side, a little more than an inch. Connecting each of these marks to the one on your center line will give you an even, centered triangle: the coveted Isosceles Wedge.
Lastly mark the length of your block, maybe 7", and use the square to draw a line straight across.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Bench Pin
Bring your work to the band saw. Make sure the blade and motor speed are appropriate for your material (If you're working in a shared space like Techshop, get a hand in checking your equipment.)
Raise the guard only about 1/2" above the thickness of your work, then lay the wood flat on the table. Holding your material so your hands are on either side of the blade path, push your work into the blade with gentle but consistent pressure. Lighten pressure as you approach the point of the wedge and just coast in to the point. Shut off the machine.
When the blade had completely stopped, remove your piece and go in for the next leg of your wedge. If you again coast as you get near the point, the wedge will gently cut off. USE SCRAP WOOD to push it away from the blade, or turn off the machine.
FInally, make a cut across the back of your work to cut the bench pin to length.
Step 4: Shape the Fingers
Tapering our rounding the fingers of your bench pin makes it more versatile; you can use the fingers to wedge in or around parts for work-holding (great for wedging into rings.)
Here I've gone for a classic upward taper, and I used the wood shop belt sander to do it.
I'd say this is an intermediate move on the belt sander, since we need to keep the material perfectly up and down, and control holding it an an angle to the belt. If this is a new maneuver for you, grab a scrap of wood to practice with (narrower is easier.) Do it 'til it feels comfortable.
Hold the pin with the up-side *facing you*. Support one edge on the work table, then hold the work at an angle to the belt. The tips of the bench pin will touch the belt first.
Push your bench pin into the belt so that it sands the fingers at an angle. You want the fingers to be narrow at the tips and wider at the base. You'll see that I'm holding the work so my right hand (holding the back end of the pin) is off the machine and not in any harm of getting sanded!
Sand your angle in until you get to the point of the wedge. Feel free to adjust this angle as you need! The last photo shows what I came up with.
Step 5: Finis
That there's one fine, functional bench pin.
Clamp it down so it's firm.
File a channel across one finger to hold a piece of rod you're sanding.
Saw a groove to hold the edge of a piece of sheet material.
Gouge out a dish you can wrap your fingers around to lightly squeeze-clamp your project.
Make one that suits your next Thing!