Thursday, 25 July 2013

Jewellery benches, squeaky chairs, and how to sit

Jeweller's bench
Photo from Kotomi on Flickr

The perfect mental image of summer seems full of endless time, to be filled on light-filled evenings with jewellery making, blogging, finding new ideas and inspiration... the reality is a little different.

My lack of productivity on the jewellery making front, and the knock-on effect that has had on my inclination to blog about it (harder to do when you're not making much!) is, to a large part, down to the previously mentioned dodgy shoulder. Late last year a slight niggle turned into an awful couple of days of discomfort which has now settled down into a generalised state of unease. My lower back is a bit dodgy too. This isn't a great combinations.

It has brought into sharp focus for me the importance of having the right type of seating and table to work at. Yes, I know it's boring, and health-and-safety-ish, but when the lack of the right chair makes making hard, then you know that, sometimes, health-and-safety might just have a point. Sometimes...

For quite a while now (oh, okay, since forever), my jewellery making place has been an ergonomic nightmare. My work table is, well, a table, an old gateleg table my sister gave me when she last moved. Before that, my work table was another old table, a kitchen one with extendable sides. Neither of these look anything like an ideal silversmithing workbench. My chair is even worse, a hard plastic not-very-height-adjustable swivel chair, with awkward arms and an awful squeak when it moves. I put a cushion or blanket on it to make it more comfortable but it only does so much.

This really isn't sounding good, is it.

Even before my shoulder and back both decided they didn't like me anymore, I did not find either chair or table comfortable to work with. I just put up with them because they were what I had and, for now, that's what I'm still doing. This means making jewellery is slow, necessitating many more rests and breaks and back stretches and less full-on immersion in what I'm doing. I suspect that even with a bells and whistles workbench and a wonderfully designed chair, I'd still need the breaks. If it takes a long time to make a back and shoulder wonky then it takes a long time for them to heal.

I do know how I should be sitting, however, and where I should be sitting. It should be at a tall table or on a low stool - ideally, when working with your hands, those hands should be up close to your face so you can see what you're doing without having to bend, and not down closer to your lap, where your neck and shoulders will have to curl so your head can get close to your work. It's kind of logical and yet it's also easy to miss and/or ignore.

On my long list of silver smithing hopes and dreams is a workbench - you can buy a jeweller's bench, even a space saving one, but it's equally possible to make one (and try this one too, although you have to subscribe (for free) to access it) or to adapt one from a table - either of these latter ways means you can custom design the bench to fit you, so it's the right height and has space for all your tools.

As for me, without a nifty custom-made workbench creating is a slower process than I'd like at the moment but, thankfully, I've felt some inspiration returning to my addled jewellery mind, and by spending small pockets of time (literally a few minutes) at the workbench I've been able to make a couple of birthday gifts (a impending birthday is often a great destroyer of creative blocks of any kind, I've found!).

bracelet with gemstones and ribbon
Look, no silver...

PS. If you want to see a few more examples of workbenches, then check out the Ganoskin Bench Exchange on the subject -  59 pages of bench photos and endless inspiration!

Love this very simple, but wonderfully effective, description of how to DIY a jeweller's bench!

Not sure how practical this is for full-on smithing but if you're short of space, and have someone to store your larger tools, then this article and this tutorial look fascinating...

Also, take a look at this Pinterest page - it's not all jewellery benches, or even benchs, but is still worth browsing through.

Do share your own working space - does it work for you, or is it just tolerable? We can but dream of perfect crafting areas... 


  1. Ow! Sorry to hear about your aches and pains, but it sounds like you have a good idea about how to make your workspace more comfortable. Beautiful bracelet :)

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your poor shoulder and back playing up. I hope it improves for you. I often get shoulder pain and neck pain from the way I sit when I draw, and dream of one day having a studio space with a table designed for creating...I hope you get the right workspace for you in good time, safxxx

    1. It does seem that any kind of art and craft can cause those problems with muscles :( Yes, like you I would love a dedicated workspace...I hope you get your studio and table too :)


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