Jewelry Studio: Common Sense is Your Most Important Tool

It’s All About the Tools: Common Sense in the Jewelry Studio

It is often stated that the most efficient tool is one’s hands. This is especially true in metalsmithing. In fact, it is true of all of our senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing, all come into play in the studio — although sight, touch and hearing most prevalently.


We don’t advise tasting or eating anything in the studio or shop; in fact, we definitely advise that food should not be consumed without first washing one’s hands and that all beverage containers have lids.


Mainly, that one is always on alert for the smell of escaping gas or the scent of pitch being overheated.


  • Eye protection is paramount in the studio. Wear safety glasses when drilling, sanding, sawing, working with chemicals, basically any task that involves the opportunity of flying particles.
  • As one ages, eyesight changes. Don’t be vain, wear glasses so you can see your work. If necessary, wear an Optivisor or other magnification device to see close up.
  • Do not rely on your sight alone when determining if a piece is complete. We’ve found that taking a quick photo can be quite beneficial as it may reveal areas that need attention that your eyes haven’t noticed.


Listen to the sounds your tools make during hammering, sawing, filing, etc. Does the hammer ring true? Are you hitting the head square to the tool? Does the saw blade require lubrication? Many times the use of ear plugs is beneficial. Don’t play your music so loud that you can’t hear the equipment or tools you are working with.

Touch (hands)

  • Jewelry Studio: Common Sense is Your Most Important ToolAs you work on your masterpieces, take time to close your eyes and run your fingertips over your project. You’ll be surprised that you can feel slight imperfections that your eyes haven’t revealed.
  • Use the proper grip on your tools. Grip your hammer(s) and mallet(s) at the base of the handle — do not choke up on them. Use your arm as a fulcrum bending at the elbow allowing the hammer to fall naturally — letting its momentum do the work for you. Tensing and holding your arm in a locked L-shape is inefficient and will result in a sore arm and shoulder.
  • If you find you’re choking up on the hammer handle, try using one of lighter weight. Or, if you are not a tall person, use your legs. Stand up to get more leverage. Women don’t always have the same upper body strength as men so standing allows women to maximize their upper body weight.
  • If working at a lightweight table, place the work over a leg to prevent the table from flexing and absorbing the hammer’s energy.
    Jewelry Studio: Common Sense is Your Most Important Tool. Use a ring clamp when filing.
  • Brace your work so you don’t “air” file or sand. Bracing your work is more efficient.
  • When filing and sanding small, difficult to hold pieces use your ring clamp — it’s not just for rings. Grip the small pieces snugly in the clamp then brace the clamp against the bench pin to hold it steady.
  • Wear leather gloves when needed for protection. Many women find it helpful to wear a glove on the hand holding the metal when forming it over a bracelet mandrel.

Safety First

  • Use Common Sense: NEVER wear gloves when polishing at the buffer! Make sure long hair is tied back!
  • Take frequent breaks, roll your shoulders, etc.
  • Wash your hands after each studio session.
  • Wearing an apron is also helpful in protecting your clothing.
  • Closed toed shoes are also recommended.
  • Be ever watchful to prevent accidents and injury.

And here’s one more really important piece of advice that we all know and all too often ignore: Stop working when you’re tired. Save it for another time and enjoy it!

Tom and Kay Benham

Tom & Kay Benham are Contributing Editors to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and author its Ask the Experts column. Have a question for them? Please leave a comment below.

Get more from Tom & Kay in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist


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