Bench Envy: Jean Menden

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Building a dream studio from the ground up

Jean Menden of J. Menden Silver in Clinton, Minnesota, had a small home studio that she had long outgrown. When she and her husband sold their home and moved to a lake cabin in 2019, she took advantage of the situation to construct her dream workspace. She built a 16 foot by 22 foot addition to an existing garage at their new home, giving her more space for all of her tools, more outlets to power all of those tools, and a warm floor to keep her toasty during Minnesota’s long, cold winters.

1. My shop has two benches along with a center island workstation. The benchtops are made from unfinished oak flooring that was leftover from my parents’ house. After sanding the benchtops, I applied three coats of a water-soluble poly product to seal the wood. If I were doing this again, I’d probably use an epoxy to coat the benchtop to better fill in the gaps and crevices.

2. My sitting bench is 30 inches high. It houses my soldering station, a small drill press, and my double Foredom flex-shaft stand. Since venting in a cold climate is not easy, I invested in a Quatro Gold Vault Extractor, which filters both the soldering side (left) and the flex-shaft side (above) of my bench. I have a foot pedal that turns the system on and off.

3. Floor choice was a big deal for me. My previous shop had a vinyl tongue and groove floor over concrete. It was very cold. This shop is heated with electric in-floor heat. It was installed when the cement was laid. Last winter, it easily kept the shop 70 degrees all the time—that’s a big deal in Minnesota!

4. When designing the workshop, I specifically planned the size and location of five windows. Working in natural light is a luxury, and I wish I had included more! Eventually I’d like to install some type of blinds or window shades, but, at this time, my only thoughts are on adding more tools to my collection.

5. Under the bench I have two cabinets that sit on wheels. The small one holds my soldering supplies while the larger black one holds silver. The wheels allow me to pull them out, which makes it easier when I have to dig around in the drawers for supplies.

6. At my soldering station, I have a row of ceramic tiles that protect my benchtop from the torch as well as the flux. My pickle pot also sits on a tile, as it gets pretty hot when it’s on all day.