A typical jeweler's bench pin.
A typical jeweler’s bench pin.

Dave Hrynkiw of Solarbotics recently shared this tip with me and I thought it was enough of an “ah-ha” to share it with you. Dave retrofitted his workbench to add a pop in/out bench pin, a standard tool used by jewelry makers.

A bench pin is basically a small work surface that juts out from a main workbench, allowing you to approach the work from more angles than you can if you’re leaning over a conventional work surface. Most pins have V-shaped “horns” that allow you even more access, for sawing and for shaping objects.

A happy Dave works away on his bench pin. A happy Dave works away on his bench pin.

I haven’t built one on my workbench (which is metal and plastic), but Dave swears by his. He says it makes it “super easy to cut and form things properly, and all it cost was little more than a chuck of 2×4.”

A closer look at Dave's pin and how it slots in. Notice the bench molding that he preserved and made into a pin that returns the bench to its normal mode when the bench pin is not in use. A closer look at Dave’s pin and how it slots in. Notice the bench molding that he preserved so that it can be slotted back in when the bench pin is not in use.

A removable bench pin would be a really useful tool for anyone who does close-hand fabrication work where you need to hammer, drill, saw, shape, and cut, especially at odd angles and with precision. This would likely be a useful tool for any kind of small-scale metal-, leather-, and woodworking, jewelry making, modeling, electronics, and the like. Basically, if you find yourself using a jeweler’s or craft saw in your work, you would probably benefit from a bench pin.

The simple bench pin project on Instructables. A simple bench pin project on Instructables.

If you want to build your own, here is an instructable that shows how to make a very quick and easy clamp-on pin. As they point out, the one in the project is made of softwood and wouldn’t last very long with regular use. If you end up taking to this tool, you’d probably want to invest in a more permanent retrofit like Dave did or go commercial.

An inexpensive commercial bench pin.

An inexpensive commercial bench pin.

If you’re lazy like I am, you can buy very inexpensive commercial bench pins where the pin holder C-clamps onto your bench and then the actual pin slots into that. The pin can then be removed when not in use.

BTW: Dave claims he got the bench pin tip from Calgary-based multimedia artist, Jeff DeBoer (Dave is a fellow Calgarian). And that’s one of the things that I love about shop tips and tales. They often come with a lineage. When a tip is really good, you start using it, you remember it, and it becomes part of your workflow. You tell others about it. And if it’s useful for them, they do the same. Your tip goes viral. Those cherished work-a-day tips we learned from our parents — how far back in time do they go? It’s fascinating to think about.

Do you have a bench pin? We’d love to hear your experiences of how you use it.