From Charles Lewton-Brain’s list of bench trick guiding principles read through the best ways to learn and come up with new ideas in your trade.

What is a bench trick?

A shortcut? A faster way of doing something? A better method? A tool used for one purpose converted to another? A tool or technique that saves time, effort, thinking and work? Bench tricks are keys to understanding process, signifies that someone has understood the process occurring and they are therefore useful to understanding the nature of metal and metalworking. Think process and look for patterns around you when working to invent new ones yourself.

These are some bench trick guiding principles for coming up with new tricks, new ways of doing things.

  1. Use contrast and comparison to understand a system faster and deeper.
  2. See the patterns, if something looks like something else there is probably a relationship. (A burr is a file wrapped around a ball etc). Shift mental categories, categorize objects you look at in new ways.
  1. Describe the problem as clearly as you can, ie good ventilation=’move air fast’. Then you can look for solutions that fit the problem. Describe the Process occurring. What is happening?
  2. When you have an accident, see if it is a solution for something else, for instance getting copper plating on a piece in the pickle with iron tweezers-you can use this to plate the recesses in a gold ring and then use liver of sulfur to darken it.
  3. Look for someone who uses so much of something they do not value it for the best deals. (Bic® lighter wheel, vibratory tumbler in gun shop, Sodium Bisulfate (Sparex® used as swimming pool acid, the Scotch brite centers of floor polishers etc.).
  4. What is the action going on? Is there a smarter way of using this? (chuck key in handle, self-mounting flex shaft tools, thumb on cogs to close flex shaft chuck).
  5. Combinations. Can you combine elements of a job into one tool? (chuck key in handle with screwdriver shaped end, needle file with end shaped as a graver for scoring)
  6. Look for industrial examples of what you are after, if you keep seeing the same solutions there is a reason for it (efficient air movement for a given motor size=squirrel cage blower like on a hair dryer and as small tube, like on a vacuum.
  7. When building things use relative fitting, where each part is built relative to what you have constructed so far
  8. Look at other industries and fields for how they solve problems you deal with.
  9. Can you organize the space and workplace better to speed the work?
  10. If you are constructing something and you want parts to be related, make them from the same unit (that you then cut apart).
  11. Simplify the procedure. Boil it down, distill it, reduce the steps, combine things. (like using ZAM or Fabulustre instead of two polishing steps like tripoli and rouge)