#5 Watchmaker's Desk Top Bench

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Having an appropriate place to work on watches is important. Bright but soft lighting and a clean environment are key factors when working but today I am going to look at the watchmaker's bench itself. 

(Above) A purpose built watchmaker's bench. Credit: Cookson Gold

In an ideal world buying a new watchmaker's bench made for purpose is almost always the best option, however, if working from home with limited space it can be impractical. They are often big and bulky with a price tag to match. If you have the space and pockets deep enough then go for it, there are a lot of options available, but in my case it wasn't possible due to the lack of free space in my university bedroom. 

Late last year I stumbled across a vintage desktop watchmaker's bench on eBay. It was quite clearly very used and had seen better days. The design of the bench allows for a standard office/home desk or table to be used and it sits right on top- perfect for space saving. Most purpose made watchmaker's benches are made so that the working surface is roughly 90cm-110cm above the floor, this means that when working the user can get close to the movement they are working on without stooping or bending over. Working for a couple of hours let alone a whole day having to lean over is not easy and soon enough back problems will start to develop. A standard office desk sits at about 70cm so doesn't cut it for the purpose of watch repair (unless of course you sit on a lower chair) so the desktop bench raises the work surface up. I still found that it was a bit on the low side so I bought 2 sets of bamboo drawers and mounted them to the bottom of the bench. They fit well and raise the working surface up to 100cm- perfect! At some point I might stain the drawers to match the colour of the wood used on the benchtop.

(Above) My bench completed

(Above) 100cm total height- perfect!

According to a sticker on the rear of the bench, it was originally sold by 'Southern Watch and Clock Supplies Ltd' a company that unfortunately ceased trading in 1996 so finding any history is tough. It consists of a central wooden platform that acts as the working area with an angled arm rest either side, a large rear platform that I put my screwdrivers etc on and a wooden drawer for small hand tools (or it could be pulled out and used as a parts catching pan). A simple but effective design.

(Above) The original retailer's sticker on the rear of the bench

The bench was originally supplied with a hard white plasticy top, and although when new this would probably have been quite nice mine was scratched and marked from years of use. I decided to remove this and retrofit something new. Removing the old melamine top was a pain, it kept shattering every so often and had to be heated to release the glue as it seemed they used an industrial strength adhesive! Once removed the wooden surface was sanded down and the gaps filled.  After some research looking at different options (vinyl flooring, formica etc) I found a product called Papyroboard which is meant for professional drafting boards. After receiving a sample it was the exact right thickness, plus it was soft and the light green colour is easy on the eyes. It is a very similar product to those used for watchmaker's bench mats and for a similar price you get an awful lot more material- a good alternative for saving money! Papyroboard can be bought here. I made a template of the shape of the bench, then cut around the template on the Papyroboard and test fitted the new surface. The new surface was then fixed to the bench using strips of double sided carpet tape. I also lined the inside of the drawer with Papyroboard and I plan to cut some wood to replace the missing drawer dividers.

(Above) Central drawer useful for frequently used tools

(Above) The bamboo side drawers fit my case dies perfectly!

I am very happy with how this mini project turned out and even more happy that I now have a bench adequate for watch repair!

Thanks again for reading, I hope that you enjoyed it!

Best wishes, 

Chris


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