Tool of the Month:
A steel bench block, I must say is not the most exciting tool on the surface. No pun intended. The bench block is smooth, flat, usually square hunk of steel commonly used to hammer on. However, this little block can be a SUPER time saver. But before I share some of my time-saving secrets, let me tell you a little about steel blocks in general.
The traditional bench block or bench anvil, should have at least one polished surface and one crisp edge. It is useful to have one rounded edge, for projects not requiring a sharp angle. Basic tasks include flattening wire, bending, riveting, and general hammering. In proper use, the hammer never strikes the block directly, which would make a dent. If a blemish occurs, the block should be sanded a polished to its original state. (Which I must say is not a lot of fun!)
The steel quality of your bench block is very important. Tool steel is well-suited to be made into tools, as it has a distinctive hardness, resistance to abrasion, and its ability to hold a cutting edge. While tool steel is susceptible to rust, the hardness can't be beat! Stainless steel is a good alternative as it does not stain, corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel (it stains less, but is not stain-proof). However, stainless steel is a softer steel alloy than tool steel and your standard silversmithing hammers. Meaning if the hammer slips and hits the bench block, you have a larger, more significant dent to remove in your bench block! To inhibit rust, store your bench block covered with a cloth soaked in a little oil.
JFF carries two styles of bench blocks.
The Utility Anvil is made of stainless steel on one side and has a nylon block on the opposite side. The steel side has a mirror finish. It has a rubber base to "soften" the hammer blow sound. These bench blocks are round and come in two different sizes:
- 2" diameter is $22.80
- 3 1/2" diameter is $34.45
- 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" block is $12.95
- 4" x 4" block is $20.00
- 6" x 4" block is $27.00
- 6" x 6" block is $32.80
- Have you ever been trying to sand something flat and you just cant get it perfect? Place the sand paper on top of the bench block, grit surface facing up, and sand away.
- The flat surface is a great place to layout your work.
- Many times I have a couple projects going on at the same time on my bench. To keep organized I section off my bench block to keep the components separated but easily accessible.
- Are you trying to see if the edge you are filing is flat? Place the edge perpendicular to the block and look for any light between the metal and the block. If you see light, time to break back out the file!
- While I'm setting stones, I keep a small bench block with my stones on it. If I'm bezel setting, I have a flat surface to wrap my bezel around the stone. If I'm setting faceted stones, I keep them table side down and I can easily measure & remeasure my stones. As an extra bonus the raised surface keeps me from accidentally knocking the stones into my sweeps drawer.
- Do you have another useful tip for using your bench block? Please leave comments on our blog to share your bench block tips and tricks!