Jeffrey Johnson has two stores, 18 bench jewelers, and over 100 employees-and he still has time to work at the bench. “I wouldn’t be who I am without the bench,” he says. That’s why he’s got one set up in his office among leather arm chairs, file cabinets, and a desk.

When a customer comes into his office, Johnson can sit down at the bench and sketch a design or perform a quick repair right in front of them. It’s this kind of customer service that he says has done wonders for his business-and shaped the culture of his company.

1. “My employees and my customers understand that the president of this business still works at the bench-he’s not just some suit,” says Johnson. “When I’m out on the sales floor or in the shop in my apron and headpiece, I get a different reaction from people. They are more comfortable knowing that I’m involved in the process and truly understand the craft. There’s that unspoken level of trust.”

Photo: David Polner

This Ames draft pack by Olson Manufacturing and Distribution in Kansas City , Kansas , is handy and inexpensive (around $100). Because I like to render at the bench, I built a tray that slides right into my bench where the jeweler’s tray usually sits. I can switch between the two quickly, transforming my bench into a drawing table in 15 seconds. And the draft pack is portable: It folds up into a briefcase.

Photo: David Polner

2. I rest my left elbow on this elbow pad when I’m doing most bench work. If I’m holding a ring clamp in my left hand and pushing it onto the bench pin, the elbow pad anchors my arm and keeps the ring clamp steady. It’s also beneficial ergonomically: I’ve found that working this way prevents neck pain.

3. When I’m doing a technique at the bench that requires movement and speed, such as bright cutting, I use the elbow pad method. However, when I’m doing a project that requires an inside ring holder, I prefer to use the GRS Benchmate holding system. (The vice attachment for the Benchmate is shown here.)

4. My father made this V-shaped sawing fixture from a piece of steel about 50 years ago. It holds pieces steady for sawing, and it’s removable.

5. To prevent wasting precious time hunting for files, I color code mine by shape. For example, reds are barrette files. In addition, I engrave the number of the file coarseness into the wood on each tool.

6. Many of my tools have green handles. This color coding system is leftover from when I worked in a shop with other bench jewelers. Since tools have a tendency to walk away, I advise anyone working in a shop with others to color code their tools.

7. I drilled a hole for my chuck key in the bench tray so I always know where it is.

8. Organization is key to benchwork, whether you are a storeowner or a part-time jeweler. I label all of my drawers so I can locate things quickly. For example, my “counter tools” drawer contains everything I’d use at the counter for a customer’s goods, including plastic bags, diamond papers, and a ring sizer.