Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Younger Years-- My Mobile Jewellery Bench

Once upon a time, in the day when there was no digital photography, and there were things like a local hardware stores and people actually hand wrote thank you notes and posted them to you, I built a mobile bench for making jewellery.

I had this idea to travel in my VW Combi and do the north and south coast of South Africa in the summer, and then mellow round Cape town up to Swakopmund in Namibia in the winter making jewellery as I went along.
That would take care of my year, I figured.
The bench was about five years old when I took these pictures and then I lost them for about fifteen years.
I just recently found the negatives, so I bought a scanner and used it to turn them into digital photographs. The quality ain't so good but hey, what the hell, they give the drift.

I spent over 500 hours designing and building this bench.
Basically, it is a complete jewellery workshop. Melting, rolling and polishing.
I sized it to go into a VW combi.
You know, jewellery, the girlfriend, the Van, the open road, 'Born to be Wild' playing............yeah...

All the power is fed in from the plug at the left bottom.
When the pink handle and the red one on the other side are in the upright position, then the wheels are engaged, and the bench can be rolled around. When they are lowered, the wheels also are lowered and the bench becomes immovable.
And when I say immovable, I mean it.
What with doming blocks and rollers and all the tools of a jewellery workshop the fracking thing weighs a ton.

The black drawers go in the front section, under the peg.
In retrospect, I made too many drawers, so things tended to rattle around a bit.
At the bottom right was where my pickles and acids were stored.

The blue and red box at the bottom is the filter unit and vent for the polishing motor's extraction fan.
The pull out shelf below the swivel vice is lined with leather so delicate things don't chip or jump.

The burr box on the left and the soldering pad on the right both slide out when they are needed.
The little flux bottle above the soldering pad could pull out and a little way inside the hollow bar to the right was a secret place to hide things, you know like gold or diamonds or your stash.

In South Africa, Afrox make a very cool mini brazing set.
The black bottle is oxygen and the small blue bottle is propane gas.
These supply the melting torch, (which is actually a cutting torch) and my 'Little torch' for soldering.
The melting pad is on top of the bench, above the bottles.
At the bottom left is a sliding recess which has my borax, flux and various crucibles.
The red handle in the picture is down so the bench is solid on the ground.
When the handle is pulled back and locked, the wheels lift the bench and it can be rolled around.
So in winter, I would move the bench around the room, following the sun.

Below the roller is a sliding shelf from which my pliers, hammers, triblets and files hang.

Towards the 'front' of the bench is the polishing section.
The top drawer contained the rouge buffs and the bottom one the polishing stuff.
To the left of the polishing motor is the intake for the extractor fan.
The right hand side had a grinding wheel for sharpening things.
The whole bench was painted during many sessions of altered states of reality( in the pre-Anne era)...
Ahem, that was then--- and this is 20 years later.
Dang, I miss those times....growing old is just plain boring.
I don't care about the fracking old age wisdom bit.

This was the only flush side of the bench, because of the drawers.
In this picture the door is closed.
They could be removed easily though, if there was little space around the bench.

Action stations.
This was the first show I did in Pongola in Natal in S.A. in 1989 or so.
If you want a five stone eternity ring madam, I'll make you one.
Come back in a couple of hours, or you can watch if you want.
Chain repair? Right now, as you wait and watch.
It generated intense interest amongst some people.
At one show in Ricards Bay, a young mother took one look at this set up, turned to her husband, gave him the two kids and told him to frack off for the day.
And every time he pitched up with the brats, she would tell him "Voetsek, ek's besig"
(Piss-off, I'm busy) And off he'd trot again.
She spent the entire day standing there, watching me work.
And when the show ended, I would have make up orders to complete afterwards, so I would take the bench to where ever it was needed and do the work in-situ, right at the customers house.
Worked like a charm.
You can see Cujo, my Blue-fronted Amazon parrot checking the scene out over my shoulder.
Of course, these days the Fire Marshall will wet his pants and have seventeen puppies if you pitch up in a tent with oxygen and gas and start melting gold.
But in those days it didn't even occur to us.
Center of attention.
The concept worked amazingly well.
When we moved to Botswana I had an immediate operative bench.
And it went to Zimbabwe as well, very sucessfully.
Unfortunately it was destroyed when Elephant Hills Hotel in Vic Falls in Zimbabwe burnt down to the ground.
Otherwise I would still be working on it.
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