Bench Tip from Alan Revere
For many bench jewelers, it's important to customize or modify tools for maximum performance at the bench. This applies to your charcoal block. With just a little bit of TLC, you can help to extend the life of your block.
By curing, wiring and maintaining your charcoal block, you can make it work better and last longer. Care should begin the moment you get a new block. First, use a file to put a notch in the middle of each of the four vertical corners. Next, take some doubled and twisted iron binding wire and wrap it around the block horizontally, so that the wires rest in the notches for support. Twist the wire together where the ends meet until it is tight. When the charcoal eventually cracks, the wire will help it to stay in one usable piece.
Next, take a torch and gently warm the entire charcoal block. Let it cool slowly. This will cure the charcoal and release tension that might otherwise cause it to crack during use.
Eventually, when one side of the charcoal becomes cracked or uneven and does not support your work, flip it over and use the other side. When both sides are too uneven to use, rub the charcoal block against a brick, a cinder block, or a sidewalk. This will grind it down to a new flat plane.
Lastly, after soldering for long periods of time, do not leave the charcoal block glowing red. Cool it down with a few drops of water from a mister. By dousing the glowing charcoal, you can prolong its life.