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Traveling with a full metalsmithing studio

Learn how one silversmith takes her show on the road
Traveling Workbench with all tools
Traveling Workbench ready to go

This summer, we've been taking a look at how to travel with your jewelry making. We looked at vacationing with your kumihimo and preventing your beads from spilling on a road trip. But this metalsmith takes traveling with your jewelry to a whole new level! -kk

My portable workstation is very compact, as my husband, Jim, and I are full time silversmiths and we travel extensively vending at shows. My workbench has to fit in our vehicle along with our wares, tents, and other necessities, as well as fit in our booth at shows, so I try to keep its footprint as small as possible.

We use our workbench in our booth for demonstrations. We find that customer curiosity is aroused when they see us working, and that makes for great conversations about our handmade jewelry (and usually leads to better sales!). This setup can easily be converted for beading, if that is your medium.

My tools and other small items are stored for travel in a heavy-duty roller case from an office supply store. It came with a place for our business card and logo, so even when packed up, my workstation has a clean, professional look. Though it locks I never, ever leave my tools in our booth overnight. My tools are my livelihood and I can easily roll them back to our car at the end of the day.

Traveling Workbench chair

My metal folding chair can be spray painted as needed to keep it looking fresh and clean.

We use zip ties to keep it closed while traveling. For cushioning I stuff a tote bag with a thick, comfortable chair pad. The padding is easy to carry and pack and the tote bag is machine washable. The handles of the tote bag are long enough to drape over the back of the chair to keep the pad in place. From the customer’s view, it has a tidy appearance.

Traveling workbench table

Because of all the hammering I do, I use a heavy-duty folding table. The table measures 32" X 16" and I added Velcro strips to the edge of the underside with corresponding strips on the table cloth. Set-up is a breeze and the fire retardant table covering stays in place.

The pegs across the top bar of the corral holds finished products, special orders, and hanging tools. On the edge of my table, I use a foam insulated pipe cover from the local hardware store to cushion my wrists and forearms as I work. Cut to size, it allows me to securely attach my armrest and vice to the table.

Everything has its place on the workbench as well as in the roller box. This allows me to set up, work, and break down quickly and efficiently. I have an armrest that keeps me working comfortably for hours. It hooks onto the table, and a small trash bag discreetly hangs off it. I have a rubber pad under my center workspace to dampen the sound of my metalworking. The constant hammering draws the attention of passersby. Mellowing the sound creates interest instead of annoyance.

Traveling Workbench dapping
Traveling Workbench ziplocks

Tools are organized by the job they perform and kept in separate metal tins. Some have lids so the tips of the tools are protected when packed down.

A streamlined vintage metal letter box takes up little space while keeping varied-shaped dapping blocks, bezel pusher, burnisher, templates, pen, etc., contained.

Another tin holds hand forming tools, punches, large and small files, and a zip lock of various grits of sandpaper. Other tins hold stamps, my corrugating tool, engravers, saws, and hammers. One tin is dedicated to my metal blanks and wire. I arrange them by shape, gauge, and metal type, in ziplock bags.

When open, the lid handily holds a small notebook for working out designs, pricing, and notes on fabrication. I keep my polishing cloths tucked into the space between this box and my sawing/vice station. The empty roller box, with the handle up, acts as a side table to hold small components such as ear wires, chains, bails, jump rings, rivets, etc.

Traveling Workbench hand tools
Traveling Workbench other tools
Traveling workbench Helen booth
Traveling Workbench rolling

If I am working the booth alone, the workstation is placed directly behind the product tables. If, as is most often the case, I am working with my husband and business partner, I set up kitty-corner in the back of the booth. From here I have a clear view of our full run of tables, keeping an eye out for theft, or for customers requiring extra help, and I can easily step up when it gets busy enough that both of us need to be working sales.

Until then, I remain visible demonstrating and acting as a theft deterrent. This set-up also affords us the most open space within the booth. Everything in our booth can be made on my portable workbench, (we specialize in stamping, chasing and repousse, and chain maille.)

Our home studio houses our finishing tools: tumbler, flex shaft, torches, etc. But my workbench travels back and forth from our brick-and-mortar store to shows, exhibitions, home, and on vacation. The view from my portable workbench is refreshingly ever-changing.

I can and have taken this portable workbench everywhere: to a cliff overlooking the ocean, the backwoods of my 24-acre homestead in Massachusetts, to the Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show, the largest jewelry show in the world. I even modified it further and worked at my trade in a sleeper car on an Amtrak Train!

Designing, manufacturing, and selling our wares to retail and wholesale customers full-time means we have to constantly be creating new lines. I find with a portable workbench I can work wherever I happen to be.

FIND MORE: metal , finishing , forging

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