Bench Tricks


Taking five minutes to make three simple alterations to a pair of standard pliers can save hours of precious work time at the bench as well as increase the precision of your work. JAr Certified Master Bench JewelerT Jeffrey Mathews of Jeffrey Mathews Designs in Dallas, Texas, has fabricated hundreds of three-stone rings-from scratch-using these altered pliers.

Constructing the gallery wires underneath each stone is a process requiring high levels of precision. It can be done in one of two ways: by piercing from sheet or by fabricating from wire. Mathews, who uses the fabrication process, has found it can be difficult to hold those wires while filing notches, making cuts, and forming their shapes. To help solve this problem, he uses a standard pair of pliers modified as follows:

Select an inexpensive pair of short flat-nose pliers, with substantial width toward the end of the pliers’ “jaw.” The pliers must feel comfortable while being firmly held in the closed position. Inexpensive pliers may work best for these modifications, since they can typically be cold-worked-i.e., modifications can be made without heat treatment or other types of preparation.

Modification #1

1. Hold the pliers in the closed position. Measure down from the top of the pliers about 2 mm and scribe a guideline. With the pliers in the closed position and supported on your bench pin, drill a hole through the width of the pliers using a standard 1-mm drill bit.

2. Bevel each outside end of the drilled hole with a tapered burr such as an old setting or bud burr.

Modification #2

3. Now, divide the top portion of the pliers jaws in half and scribe a line at the top.

4. Drill a .5-mm hole down from the top to the perpendicular notch just created. This modification will help hold round or square wires for shaping and forming.

Modification #3

This notch is designed to “fit and lock” onto a portion of Mathews’s bench pin, eliminating unwanted vertical and horizontal movement. To accomplish this, the pliers must be notched at the proper angle, so that they can be held firmly against the bench pin when the user’s arm is supported by an armrest. You may need to modify these instructions so that your pliers will “fit and lock” onto a portion of your bench pin.

5. Measure down from the top of the pliers about 10 mm. Using a square-edged heatless grinding wheel, grind a notch at an angle in one side of the jaw. The notch should be about 3 mm deep.

6. Remove excessive tool marks left behind by the alterations by using rubberized abrasive wheels and hard felt wheels with tripolli. This step will eliminate the transfer of tool marks from your pliers to the wires you are holding and working on.

Mathews manufactures a three-stone ring from scratch in a video entitled “The Platinum Expert, Volume II: Fabricating with Platinum.” Call JA at (800) 223-0673 to purchase a copy of the videotape.

Benefits for the Working Bench Jeweler

1.Precision. Ideal for making precise notches and cuts for shaping and forming wires of all shapes.

2.Security. “Locks” onto the bench pin, increasing safety and accuracy.

3.Continuing education. This technique will be helpful to those taking any levels of the JAr Bench Jeweler CertificationT practical bench tests.