As the spot I sit at most days, I don’t think twice about where things are or why they’re there. But as soon as I visit someone else’s workshop or studio space, no matter what they make there, I’m always so intrigued by their workbench. What they are working on? How have they set up their space? What little clever things have they got to help them with a process? I find it truly fascinating and really inspiring to take a glimpse into another creative’s day to day space.
So, I thought you might like a peek into mine?
My workbench, is a jewellers style’ bench I spend much of my time hand working here. There are also separate tasks I do away from the bench, but depending on the job I’m working on, I might sit at the bench virtually all day. On other days, I’m like a jack in the box – up and down between tasks. I really enjoy this way of working it keeps me energised throughout the day.
This is what my bench looks like on any given day. There is some order underneath it all - a smattering of tools within arm’s reach, little containers of work on the way to being finished and usually an empty coffee cup somewhere.
01 THE SHELF ABOVE MY BENCH
I love this space, it’s full of ideas. Objects, bits and bobs, half made things, experiments that quite didn’t work, prototypes (and plenty of dust) are all squeezed in there. This shelf is pretty well at eye height, so when I look up from what I’m doing it’s what I see. I find it really inspiring, it’s often how I nut out an idea for new work or resolve something that isn’t quite right. By having it in front of me, it gives me time to mull things over and let my mind wander, working out those tricky problems.
02 BENCH LIGHT
Originally from the Art School where I studied, it’s had a few owners over the years before coming into my workshop. It’s an angle poise Plant Lamp. The rectangular light part swivels in every direction, so It’s perfect for moving around to throw light just where I need it. A good light makes all the difference.
A strip of leather looped and nailed at even points along the shelf allows my files to be slid into them for storage. I like storing them this way as you can easily see which file you are reaching for and they don’t scrape against each other blunting them. As you can see here, there aren’t actually any there because I’m forever forgetting to put them back. They’re generally distributed over my bench and in the slung leather ‘skin’ under the bench.
04 FLEX DRIVE
A versatile tool I use for anything from drilling to sanding and polishing. It’s a foot pedal operated tool, it has a lever on the side that allows you to change the tool you have in the end. There is no end to the array of tools you can get to fit a flexi drive – drills, sanding discs, burrs, polishing wheels and so many more. They are a wonderful tool to use to get into small areas and tight spots where larger tools are just too cumbersome.
05 EMERY PAPER CONTAINERS
I have two of these copper containers on my bench – one is simply a copper tube with a soldered base and the other a repurposed vase prototype. Both house my array of emery sticks. Emery sticks are usually aluminium or timber sticks with emery paper neatly wrapped around it. Each stick as a different grade of paper – coarse through fine – and I usually have a couple of extras in the same grit so I don’t need to change the paper so often. I would use emery sticks more often than anything else on my bench.
06 BENCH SPOT
Here is where all my files live when they aren’t back in their leather looped storage. You can usually find a few regular use tools here, these vary depending on what I’m working on (and how long it’s been since I cleaned my bench). I’ve got a couple of really coarse files and some finer ones, parallel pliers, half round pliers, my riveting hammer and a larger hammer.
Where all my pliers live – having them within arm’s reach is important as I’m always switching between different pairs for different jobs. Having them hanging on a rail like this means it’s easy to tell which is which.
I purchased my bench second hand and it came with a couple of nails hammered in just here. Over the years I started using them to hang chains as I was making them. I’ve added a few extra, and use these all the time, grouping the different chains I’m working on or the different stages they are at.
09 BENCH PEG
This bench peg sits front and centre with a big steel plate behind it inset into the bench. I use this peg as support for holding pieces when I’m working on them. It has nicks and marks in it, some intentional to help hold something, some unintentional marks from use. You can also take it out and flip it over if you want wo work against a sloping surface, but I mostly use it this way round with the flat on top.
10 LITTLE STAND FOR DRILLS AND BITS
I keep all my drills, burrs and sanding attachments for my flex drive here. They’re easy to see and spot which one you need. I also have a similar stand over on the right with all my needle files (small files of all different sizes).
11 BENCH ‘SKIN’
This is the big scoop of fabric under the bench. It’s designed to catch all the scrap filings, also called ‘lemel’. Then you can collect them all and once you have a good amount it can be refined and reused. It also catches things if you accidentally drop what you’re working on – very handy as without it that tiny thing you were filing will always seem to roll to the hardest to get to place in the workshop! I’m guilty of also stacking my bench skin full of the tools I’m using and having to rummage away to find that little needle file. I don’t solder at my bench so it’s less important that my skin is fire retardant, but traditionally bench skins are made of leather.
12 SPLIT BENCH PEG
This peg I mostly use when saw piercing. This one is a bit of a temporary one as my last peg was very worn and finally gave up. This one is probably a little shorter than I’d like, but I’ve started to wear it in and it now has plenty of little nooks filed in to hold particular shapes just so. The split down the centre is essential for saw piercing – it means both sides of the cut line are supported, whilst allowing you to freely cut down the centre.
13 BENCH VICE
I have to admit as I write this, I count five different small bench vices I’ve collected over the years around the workshop – they’re just so great! I have two of these either side of my bench, though I mostly just use one. They are great for holding small things and starting off rivets. The clamping system means they’re super easy to reposition depending on the job.
We’ve also created a photo journal of our whole workshop space, a sort of virtual tour if you like. Take a wander around here.
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