Just a few suggestions:

  1. For any hammering processes that go on for more than 30 minutes -
    I wear gloves that have gell pads in the palms. You can get them at
    bicycling stores. I buy Pearl Izumi brand - they can be anywhere
    form $19 - $45 depending on where and when you buy them. The bonus
    is that your fingers are “free” so you still have tactile advantage.

  2. Posture: sit up straight or stand - both feet on the with ground
    weight evenly distributed - have your stakes mounted at a height
    that will allow you to do your work with good posture and keep your
    elbow in and your arm coming down from your shoulder in the natural
    manner - hammering with a raised elbow or shoulder will contribute
    to neck and back pain.

  3. Take frequent - every 30 -60 minutes - breaks - just 5 minutes
    for a walk & stretch does wonders for releasing the tension created
    by focus on hammering - especially planishing. Stretch your hands -
    press them into the table, palm down, flex and rotate your wrists.
    Swing & rotate your arms from the shoulder.

  4. Take some yoga classes and learn about body mechanics- it will
    help you examine how you use your body in every thing you do. I
    prefer Iyengar style yoga. Shoulders down/sternum up.

  5. If possible mount your stake holder or vises in a hardwood stump

  • the wood will absorb some of the impact the impact.
  1. If you do not use the combination of steel hammer plus steel
    stake , you can reduce the impact - Consider making some of your
    own hammers and stakes from hardwood or HDMW- a plastic that will
    absorb the impact and not transmit it up your arm ( if you ever see
    old bowling pins at the flea market - they are made from super hard
    maple and can be shaped into great mallet or stakes).

  2. If you are not intending to do a lot of filing/snading and
    mirror polish the finished piece, and you have good control over hwo
    you move the metal - consider raising with a thinner gauge metal.

  3. And - hopefully you will not be horrified at this last
    suggestion - but you can expedite the forming of a vessel by
    starting it off with a spun blank (you can even work with the
    spinner to design your own chucks) or use a deep draw Bonny Doon
    press. This is much like a potter would do - throwing a symmetrical
    peice on the wheel and then altering is very common in the ceramic

I have been making raised vessels - albeit not constantly or
continuously - since 1970. I alternate with many other projects &
techniques: wax carving, casting, fabricating, sketching, drawing;
polishing - and teaching 3 or 4 days a week. When I do work on a
vessel - though I can be at it for hours on end - day after day -
and honestly it can be done without pain and injury. In fact I get
more back and neck stress from hours of wax carving - probably due
to the head bent over posture everyone has been discussing here on

Hope this helps;
Linda Weiss

One thing I’ve found both with jewelry making and other hobbies I’ve
had, I’ve had to arrange things so that I was forced to get up and
move. The common consensus of convenience is to group everything
within easy reach. This is not a good idea for those of us who need
to move more often than younger folk. In a full time business
situation, this may not be as easy to do. I keep something that I use
frequently out of reach so that I have to get up to get it. I’ve also
used a timer so that I have to get up to turn it off every 30 minutes
or so. (When I had the timer within easy reach, I’d just turn it off
and ignore it.)

I so agree with the others: move, move, move, especially if you have
no control over the height of your bench and condition of your chair.



I agree with you on the area about bosses not caring about the
worker’s needs. Several years back we were using a bench top buffing
system that didn’t catch all of the buffing dust. It was going all
over the room and in my lungs. My boss had four stores and I was
doing the work for all of them. After repeated attempts to get him to
upgrade to a good collection system I gave up. One day, his
daughter-inlaw was talking to me in the shop and noticed the
polishing dust on the wall. I commented (in a semi-joking manner)
that a few more years of breathing that dust and I would contract
some sort of black lung disease and sue my boss for everything he’s
ever made. In less than a week I had my new system!

I too, suffer from repetitive strain injuries to both of my arms.
Too many years of busting my rear, working faster but not smart.
Unfortunately, we learn too late. I hope the young people will read
these and take action to avoid these injuries. Set your bench up
properly with with ergonomics in mind and with a good chair. Look at
your filing and other techniques to prevent problems down the road.
There are basic exercises that can be found on the web for RSI to
help rehabilitate that could be used to prevent injuries.

James S. Cantrell CMBJ

        Are you hammering at the right height? If you are short,
the stake you are using may be too high resulting in you lifting
your shoulder to compensate. The hammer and your arm should be in
alignment and the swing from the elbow. Are you annealing enough?
If not, the metal requires more force than what it should. Are you
using the right hammer to either push or stretch the metal? It all
adds up. Also as mentioned, breaks and stretching are very
important. I have a chronic shoulder problem  and feel lucky that
I don't have to do any of this full time. 


To my knowledge, I was doing everything the correct way, or at least
as correct as can be in a school environment. I annealed after every
round of raising. I confirmed with my professor that I was using the
correct hammer and stake. I always checked carefully to ensure I was
at the correct height. I took a break for stretching and moving
around after every round of raising a 6" diameter bowl.


Peggy and all !

My very own Opti-Visor is a number 5 which has a focal length of 6
inches…I use at times a number 7 but this number will make you
"bend over" too much. I am very comfortable with #5 lens, trust me.
For some more detailed viewing I will use my trusty 10x power loupe.
If anyone is going to use a number 7 or higher, you will definitely
will be looking into neck pains and shoulder spasms along with lumbar
loss of support. Now do we really need all of this overkill viewing
at risk of our backs?..“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”

    To my knowledge, I was doing everything the correct way, or at
least as correct as can be in a school environment. I annealed
after every round of raising. I confirmed with my professor that I
was using the correct hammer and stake. 

If you are taking such a very big bite that the last inch or so is
beginning to have a “ruffled” look, anneal again. You should not be
holding the hammer with a death grip just in case you are doing
that. It is a repetitive action so you may well be doing everything

marilyn smith


I read your comments regarding proper stature, gloves, etc regarding
smithing. and thought I was reading my own response.

I use the bicycle gloves also, I started using them when I had hand
trauma and a hand physical therapist suggested it. I use them for
repousse and chasing also. The new Pearl Izumi bicycle gloves have
really good gel inserts in them now, so of course I had to have a
pair. They bicycle doesn’t get them, but the smithing etc does.
Along with stretching your hands don’t forget to strenghthen your
wrists. Use a 1 lb weight in each hand and flex your wrist in side
to side motions, and up and down motions. We all have a tendency to
forget the importance of our wrists and hands when working in metal

It is so good to hear someone else talk about proper stature and
hammer usage. When I teach silversmithing I spend a large portion
of time talking and teaching proper stature. I injured my back
years ago by not holding the hammer properly. And one mustn’t
forget to breathe when hammering. I built a table for my stake
holders that places my stakes at just the right height when I am
sitting. Therefore no strain on the legs, I am comfortable and I
can concentrate on all my other movements.

enamelist, silversmith, and granulation