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The physical requirements of goldsmithing

I am trying to better understand the nuances as well as the physical
requirements of goldsmithing. Preliminary searches suggest that
goldsmithing is a sedentary occupation (sits constantly and lifts
less than 10 pounds). However, a client I am working with suggests
that the profession requires a fair amount of strength and force
(pulling, shaping, lifting the rolling mill etc.). I would greatly
appreciate some insight into the physical requirements of this

Thanking you in advance.
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

David - my opinion on the subject is that gold smithing is a broad
term for a craft, vocation, profession that depends on how much of
the actual goldsmithing work one wants to do. if one wants to or has
the ability to it does require strength to wind up the vertical
centrifuge or roll out ingots and pull wire. however there are plenty
of suppliers and mfg.'s ready and willing to supply at a price
everything one would need to build a business designing & repairing
jewelry from ready made parts. Then there is PMC, that quaint
substance which is basicly a play dough made with precious metal
baked in an easy bake version jewelry oven. The uniformed
and young college student are agaste with pleasured enamourementover
the stuff. Have you considered watch repair for those with stength
limitations ??? The watch repair people are dying off faster than the
value of the american dollar!

best regards goo

There is no right answer.

Traditional techniques could require as much strength as blacksmith.
On the other hand if one play all day long with the metal clay, even
a child could do it. That is how wide the spectrum is. Pick any place
in it you want.

Leonid Surpin.

Dear David

The physical requirements mostly are to the upper body. Strength in
the arms and back. Yes there is a lot of sitting but in most
workshops there is a fair bit of sitting and standing in a day.
Strength in the hands and arms are essential.

I do a lot of wrist warm up and neck stretches at the begining of
the day.

Hope this helps.

I think if you put together a survey among bench jewelers as to how
many of us are overweight, you’d get a better understanding of the
rigors (or lack thereof) of the trade.

Making very forceful but very small motions is what we do most, I
think. I have had trouble with wrist and elbow tendons. Sometimes
after a long day at the bench, my arms and shoulders feel very tight.
I work out at the gym three days a week, using the machines with
large ranges of motion, to try and counteract that,

Janet Kofoed

Hi Dave,

As a CAD designer who sits at a computer, and very little at my
bench any more, I would say goldsmithing is only slightly more
physically challenging than pushing a mouse, but it’s still a matter
of sitting on your butt most of the time. You do need some strength
in your hands and wrists of course, but there’s really not much
physical exertion. There are often alternatives to the rolling mill,
if that’s necessary.

I might mention that I know an excellent goldsmith who has no legs,
and does everything from his wheelchair. For him, it’s the perfect

Hi David,

I had a young man knock on my door one day and ask if I needed a
jeweller. After recognizing that he had a “HOOK” in place of a hand,
I asked him that I may have some work for him that would be suited
for his disability. He replied that he could do almost any thing that
people with both hands could do. Instantly I gave him a bench and
told him to out fit it with the tools he could use. This man worked
for me 8 years and was a most talented and could do things that I
could not, such as hold a ring in his right hand (HOOK) and weld it.
The young man was one of my greatest assets and I never considered
him to be handicapped. Some times he would break his cabling and we
would take every thing off and re-weld his cable and he would just
get back to work on his projects. Thank you for allowing me to tell
you and the rest that read this, I never considered this person to
be disabled or handy-capped, I miss him.

Stephen Wyrick, CMBJ, CSMP, GIA Grad

Dave, first you need to define “goldsmith”. Not kidding, there’s not
a single thing that is that. Occasionally we need to lift something
like a container of investment, and yes the mill and drawplates
require some strength. I’d say the real strength and force is in the
hands, though. And upper body strength. Sometimes it’s not force so
much as force with extreme control, which requires strength.


A fascinating question, really!

To some degree, it depends on personal working style and the jewelry
one is creating. There are goldsmiths who largely do repair work, sit
at a workbench all day every day doing soldering (hard on the eyes)
and setting (hard on the eyes, primarily) and not a lot else… they
need good hand strength, good eyes, ability to sit in a relatively
fixed position for long periods of time, etc.

For others, it’s a much more physical endeavor. If one is doing
forging, you’re standing, hammering, moving, etc. For using a rolling
mill (if it’s a manual one), you may need a bit of arm and back
strength to turn the handles (while standing). Hydraulic press can
require the ability to pump a handle in a motion similar to using a
car jack (also standing). Casting requires a different set of
physical skills, including reaching into a blazingly hot oven to
remove (with tongs) a heavy flask, place it into a centrifuge, then
melt the metal for the casting. You then have to remove it from the
centrifuge (again, with tongs) and quench it.

For myself, I’ve set up my home studio (and the one at school to a
large extent promotes this as well) to get me OFF my butt. Sometimes
I work standing up, and I certainly have to move between my soldering
station, my pickling area, and my bench area. That way, I’m not
tempted to “park it” for hours at a time.

I suspect you’ll get lots of different answers to this one, but I
can tell you that the physical capabilities I value the most are my
eyesight, my hand strength/flexibility, my arm strength/flexibility,
and my back.

Hope this helps you understand some of the physicality of the work!

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry

Lifts less then 10 pounds sure, but how often does that lifting need
to be done before it adds up to non-sedintary?

Goldsmithing is very interesting physically it seems to take pretty
much what ever you give it, I still have a fair amount of muscel left
from competetive archery 13 years ago (mostly rotator cuff and lats)
I found ways of using the leverage I had. 5 years of part time wax
injection gave me great pecs and hands that can crush walnuts tool
free. On the other hand I’ve met some goldsmiths that seem as soft as
butter. shrugs I could always be doing things the hard way it would
be in character for me frankly.

But yes I think it can require a fair amount of strength (generally
slow repetitive strength, not much sprinting done on the physical
side, we keep that for the sales technique), esspecially for pulling
wire, that would be a very interesting study on how much force is
required to do. Rolling shouldn’t take a lot of work but frequently
does anyway. Most of it is small scale fine motor skills but spending
an hour exerting 15 pounds of pressure (totally random guess there)
just so with one hand and manipulating a tool with the other ends up
spending a surprising amount of calories. If you are away for a while
you really feel it when you come back too.

It is far more physical then any desk job I’ve had, marginly more so
then leatherworking, carpentry only beats it because that is all
done standing up and I have bad knees…

Can you ask more specific questions?

Norah Kerr

Hi David

When I studied metalwork in college and at uni after 5 years my arms
were very muscular and the difference between my right arm and my
left arm was very noticable, previous to metalwork I had been akin to
a stick insect. Although I used both arms for working with, my
hammers and rolling mill were used in my right hand and so made my
right arm alot more muscular. I then went on to become a teacher and
noticed that the muscle tone in my arms disappeared within a year or
so. I have been teaching for the last 6 years and have recently
returned to metalwork and jewellery. I am finding it hard adjusting
to it physically. I have to take lots of breaks and my hands are
killing me. I have had to buy some hand grip excerciser thingys
because I can’t hold my metal right once my hands are tired. I know
it sounds wimpy, I am a 30 yr old small built female. My back aches
and my shoulders and neck hurt from bracing them constantly. However
that being said, having been through this before I know that it gets
better as you get used to it and in 6 months time I will be able to
sit at my bench nearly all day without any problems. I have found
that getting down on the floor and doing some pressups and stretches
helps me deal with my aches and pains. hope this helps.

Sheffield UK

Dear David and Karen:

I think this is one of the best examples. I believe David is
attempting to get to the bottom of a disability case, I have been a
benefit rep in past life for the “represented” group of employees,
and can almost read through the lines. All Karen’s statements are

Rose Marie Christison

Hi All;

I have forearms like Popeye and a back like a bear. That’s not my
normal build. I know, because during long periods away from the bench
in the past, my physique looked like any average semi-athletic guy.
That specialized bulk I carry in my arms and back comes from pushing
gravers around in stubborn metal, filing, bending, etc. I have a grip
that can turn on a faucet that’s missing it’s handle. My calluses are
thick enough that I can get a casserole out of the oven without mitts
if I work quickly. But that’s not really the issue here.

Anybody can build muscles, even specialized ones. What the job
requires, at least in the manner I peruse it, is a lot of hand-eye
coordination (assembling things with solder and torch), an advanced
degree of fine muscle control (setting stones with pliers), an
ability to work in fairly repetitive ways without the consequences of
repetitive stress injury (filing, sanding, more filing, etc.), and
good eyesight.

All that said, I still maintain that there is a marked division in
terms of wages and potential for advancement between those with an
aptitude for the work and those without. Sorry to seem a snob about
it, but you can work up the physical abilities over time, but if you
lack talent, creativity or the inclination to stick with it before
cashing in, you really need to look at other career options. It’s a
great hobby for a retiree, but it’s a poor choice of a second career
for a 35 year old ex-department store manager.

David L. Huffman

A good masseuse!

My neck, shoulders, and forearms are constantly in need of a good

A masseuse friend of mine needs some wedding rings done. I smell a

Amery Carriere Designs
Romantic Jewelry with an Edge