Mini-Blog: Workbench Hacks #1

While I was working at my bench tonight, I realized that I have some odd little eccentricities in my work habits (probably other places, too, but that's not the topic here. . .).  I think every crafter or artist probably does.  You know, those little rituals that help you to be more productive, more organized, to save time that you could be using to actually make stuff.  The tricks that make your work just a little easier.  So I thought it might be fun to run a little series, to be posted somewhat regularly (I hope), about my own and other artisans' workbench hacks.  Here's my first:  the graph paper hack.

I almost always work with a piece of graph paper beneath my project.  I start out with clean sheet of graph paper, and along one edge, I draw a line down the grid, and then mark little hashmarks at each inch or centimeter, depending on what kind of graph paper I'm using.  It gives me a handy and stable place to measure my wire without rooting around for a ruler or measuring tape.   If possible, I label the paper with the name of the piece I'm making, or a description.

The graph paper makes a very handy place to note measurements for individual lengths of wire for a part of a piece of jewelry, or for the dimensons of a formed shape.



I also use the grid throughout the whole process of a piece to check the symmetry of my shapes.
When a piece is finished, I save the notes so that I don't have to trial-and-error my way through the same or similar pieces.
And that, ladies and gents, is my very first workbench hack post.  What tricks do you use to make life easier when you're making?


workbench hack

I keep a wooden rack loaded with all my tools (pliers. tweezers, reamer, etc.) right next to me as I work so I don't have to hunt for the right one in the middle of a piece, and put each tool back in its spot after each use, so I know right where it is. Saves tons of timing looking for where I laid something down, plus keeps the tools out of harm's way.

I have the bad habit of

I have the bad habit of letting my tools stray away from their rack. I use a softsided one that's easy for me to move from place to place, but my tools always seem to be floating somewhere away from the rack. I've considered leashes. . .

This is a great idea

I have trouble keeping organized and making myself take notes so I can easily recreate items. This is a great idea to make the sketching an organic part of the process. Thanks for the post. I'm looking forward to more great workbench hacks!

Thank you!

I have trouble keeping organized myself. It doesn't come naturally to me at all, so anything I can do to make it a little easier is helpful. I hope the rest of my hacks are as helpful as this one!

Enjoyed this tip

Thank you for sharing. I'm looking for any tips on improving my designing skills. I use graph paper too but I didn't do the measurements at the time. Going to do this from now on.

Thank you, Catherine!

I'm glad you found this helpful! Feel free to stop by and let me know how it works for you. If you like, catch up with me on Facebook and let me know how it goes! You can find my facebook here: Thanks again!

Extra help!

I use graph paper, but not to the extent in expanding it to create another 'tool'. Yes, this would be very handy to escape the time wasted in re-learning when expanding a design idea the next time around :) I often take my stuff to my friends houses to work, so my tool hack is that I have multiple identical plastic craft boxes that I can easily pack into a backpack. I call it my portable studio ( one for hammers/dowels/mandrels/ruler, one for non-spool lengths of copper/brass/bronze, one for hand tools, one for various beads/stones/work-in-progress). A quilter's rotary cutting mat to hammer on and keep little metal bits for clean-up, and soft sanding blocks (carpentry) to smooth ends or polish (well worn one for light work, one impregnated with joint compound for harder metals).

Excellent idea!

That is a fantastic idea, Janine! I may have to try that out myself!

first blog

I love this hack and the comments people make. My hack is using crimping pliers to tuck wires with

Terrific idea!

That is a terrific idea, Lillian. Thank you!

Bracelet forming

I have a favorite piece of a dowel stick cut about 5" long that is the perfect size to curve and form my wire bracelets

What a great tool, Jean!

What a great tool, Jean! Quite a few of my tools weren't designed for the purpose I use them for, and they're usually my favorites.

Manicure Tools I use

A wooden cuticle stick is perfect for pushing wire instead of your fingernails and it doesn't mar the wire. An emory board makes a good file for wire ends and nicks, and a 3-way nail buff with the shape, smooth and polish pads are also great. Especially the side that polishes, makes your wire really shine and the edges can get into some pretty tight spaces.

I never thought of doing

I never thought of doing that, but it makes perfect sense. I'm always saving the cuticle sticks from manicure sets, thinking I'll find a use for them, but I never have. Until now. Thanks for sharing that!

Thanks for all the great

Thanks for all the great ideas. I just have to get everything back in place because have been going to shows an carrying everything with me. So will be good to set back up with these things in mind. Love the graph paper idea, I use it but don't keep it when done. So will do it a little different now. Great ideas an thank you for posting. Will be looking forward to more

You're welcome, Sonya! I'm

You're welcome, Sonya! I'm glad you find it useful!

Tape Measure

I have a 1/4" cloth tape measure that I have cut out of its roll-back container and glued to a piece of felt that covers my work table. That way a ruler is always right in the middle of my work.

Tape measure

That's fantastic idea, Kathy. And being glued to the felt, that's very portable, too. Thanks for sharing that!

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