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21 June 2010

Archives April 2009 : Tool of the Month

Tool of the Month:
GRS BenchMate™

In the past two tool of the month articles I have mentioned a the GRS BenchMate™. This month I thought it was only appropriate to focus on the BenchMate™. Please note, while there are tons of attachments I could mention, I am only going to mention a few.

The whole of the BenchMate™ system begins with the fixed mounting plate. This steel plate is screwed to the edge of your bench top for mounting the various components of this system. Each attachment has a mounting bracket on the back that fits perfectly onto the mounting plate. Because the sides of the plate are beveled, BenchMate™ accessories can be easily removed by sliding them upward.

GRS BenchMate™ Bench Pin

The BenchMate™ bench pin attachment has a mounting bracket on the back that slides perfectly onto the mounting plate. The bench pin holder has one wing nut and a bolt on the bottom to lock in the bench pin for a more sturdy hold. (As pictured to the left)

The bench pin is made of hard wood and can be modified for individual needs. Because it is so easy to change out, some jewelers even have a bench pin attachment for each use, wax carving, sawing, filing, etc.. But don’t worry about a bench pin for bracing your ring clamp, the BenchMate™ Holder and ring clamp attachment has that covered.

GRS BenchMate™ Holder

The BenchMate™ Holder or, as I like to call it, ring clamp attachment, is far superior to most other ring clamps because it is hands free. The holder will freely tilt and rotate in all directions and tightening the pivot knobs will lock the clamp solidly in any position or add selective resistance. The BenchMate™ Holder and ring clamp is sold in a basic kit that includes: the mounting plate with 5 wood screws, the BenchMate™ holder (ring clamp), shellac pad, ring channel bridge, extra plastic jaws, and 2 hex keys.

BenchMate™ and a few other companies have come up with attachments that fit into the holder, including a small pitch bowl and the Wolf Belt sander. Below right is the Wolf Belt Sander GRS attachment, simply remove the ring clamp and slide in the Wolf Belt Sander attachment into the holder. Below left is the pitch cup attachment, the pitch cup has a small tang on the bottom that can easily be held in the ring clamp itself. (The pitch cup is not a stocking item, however it is available upon special order.)

GRS BenchMate™ Inside Ring Holding Attachment

Many wide, delicate or unusual rings are difficult to hold with an outside clamp. This Inside Ring Holding attachment adds inside ring-holding capability to any BenchMate. The holder is perfect for channel, bead and bezel settings. The Inside Ring Holder comes with a set of seven collets ranging in ring sizes from 4-13. From the set of collets, you select the closest size that fits inside the ring. The screw expands the collet to hold the ring securely. These hard plastic collets won’t scratch or mark rings. With an extra collet set, you can double-stack the collets for extremely wide rings or hold several rings simultaneously for production work.

GRS BenchMate™ Double Third Hand Soldering Station

The BenchMate™ Double Third Hand Soldering Station is one of the most versatile attachments. Mounted on a metal base with a replaceable 6” non-asbestos working platform, the soldering station has two removable third hands. It has the dove tailed mounting bracket to fit on the BenchMate™ system and also has non-slipping rubber feet to sit directly on your work surface.

GRS BenchMate™ Engraving Vise Shelf

My favorite attachment is the Standard Engraving Vise Shelf (it does not include an engraving block). Which may sound funny to most, as I am not a hand engraver. But let me explain a few instances why this shelf is the coolest attachment for your BenchMate™.

My bench top is cluttered with projects, burs, saw blades, saw frames, pliers, hammers...well, I think you get the idea. I have no room to keep my handy Proxxon vise on my bench permanently, and to be quite honest I’m too lazy to screw and un-screw the c-clamp of the vise as I need it. The Standard Engraving Vise Shelf is perfect for that, I just slip my bench pin out of the way and slide the shelf with my vise already clamped in place onto the mounting bracket!


I have always been told that you are supposed to be at eye level with your work. Sometimes, I need to be looking down on my work. I use the engraving vise shelf as a second, lower bench surface for this. I don’t have to change the height of my chair or stand for hours (if the project takes that long).

The GRS BenchMate™ can be quite overwhelming when you are first introduced to it, with multiple attachments and accessories, it looks like a serious tool for a serious jeweler. I had heard Dallas and some customers singing the praise of the GRS BenchMate™. To me it looked like a ring clamp on steroids that could be switched (seemingly like magic) into a bench pin, soldering station, engraving block, or pitch bowl. All the accessories really overwhelmed me, but upon Dallas’ suggestion I decided to start small with the bench pin attachment. If I never got any other attachments, I could at least have a nice bench pin that could easily be moved out of the way. But next thing I knew, I was using the ring clamp attachment, and then the engraving block shelf!

The GRS BenchMate™ Fixed Mounting Plate is $15.98.
The GRS BenchMate™ Bench Pin Kit is $23.95.
The GRS BenchMate™ Basic Kit (the BenchMate™ holder and ring clamp) is $198.00
The GRS BenchMate™ Pitch Cup (special order only) is $22.95.
The GRS BenchMate™ Wolf Belt Sander Adaptor (special order only) is $16. The Wolf Belt Sander, also special order only is $160.
The GRS BenchMate™ Inside Ring Holder is $69.00.
The GRS BenchMate™ Double Third Hand Soldering Station is $99.95.
The GRS BenchMate™ Engraving Vise Shelf is $36.95.

The BenchMate™ System and accessories are mostly sold individually, however, the BenchMate™ Deluxe kit is a practical way to start. The kit includes: the mounting plate with 5 wood screws, the BenchMate™ holder (ring clamp), shellac pad, ring channel bridge, extra plastic jaws, 2 hex keys, a third hand, 2 soldering clamps, and bench pin kit. This Deluxe Kit is $269.

Please note: some of the photos are of my home studio, please excuse the mess!

Prices are subject to change without notice.

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