Is your workbench setup is as ergonomic as possible?

As any seasoned jeweller knows, how you sit during your workday can affect your body in both the short and long term. The bench is the cornerstone of the craft and should be highly customised to each individual’s comfort and task requirements, but even the most well designed setup poses future health risks simply from too much time spent in the chair.

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure & cholesterol, deep vein thrombosis and even dementia have been identified as potential serious illnesses that can develop as a result of sitting more than eight hours a day with no physical activity. But hitting the gym regularly may not offer protection either, as further research indicates that even several hours of exercise a week seems to be ineffective at reversing the damage done by sitting for just 7 hours daily.

So how do jewellers counteract these harmful side effects of the job? According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, what’s best for the body is simply to get up and move – preferably every 30 minutes or so.

Standing desk

Standing desks may be an impractical full-time solution for many jewellers (plus being on your feet all day is also not good for you) but they do offer an alternative for certain tasks. Ergonomic analyses of crafts factories reveals that much damage could be avoided simply by utilising a variety of different working heights, and ensuring that the height of each workstation is appropriate for the tasks that need to be performed there.

The standard jewellery bench height for sitting is between 90 and 100cm, which puts the bench pin level with your chest while you’re seated, but of course this is an average and your setup must fit your body, and your workshop layout.

Especially if you’re running out of space for tools at your current workstation, you could consider expanding the surface area by adding another tier above your current benchtop:

Tips for adding a standing desk level to your jeweller’s bench:

  • Choose solid hardwood to ensure durability, stability and the best sound dampening properties.
  • Secure your new surface firmly to the existing bench using quality wood screws so that sawing or filing motions will not cause the bench to sway.
  • Brace it to a wall if needs be, then seal the gaps with silicone or a similar product to prevent metals dust being lost between the wood and the wall.
  • Don’t forget to add a lip and side rails to your new, elevated benchtop.
  • Finish a low-glare matt paint or sealant to avoid squinting into reflected light while working.
  • You may want to consider adding a skin or catch tray right under this new level (just bear in mind if you go the tray route that gems and other small items can ricochet off of the hard surface).

Customise to your heart’s desire!

PRO TIP: Fully utilise all available space by adding ring sizing guides or a ruler to the armrests of your bench

Not ready for a woodworking project just yet? Here are some basic ergonomic guidelines to weave into your day:

  • If space allows, create separate soldering, buffing or forming stations so you can move around more and your main bench is not crammed full of tools.
  • Choose a great chair that is adjustable and supports your lower back, and good, relaxed posture. Your spine should be near vertical, your hips and legs about 90 degrees to each other, thighs parallel to the floor, and feet flat.
  • Chairs with wheels make it a challenge to brace your body properly for stonesetting and other jobs, and can cause muscle tension and strain.
  • Sufficient lighting is paramount. Don’t risk eye, neck and back strain by hunching awkwardly towards the brightest spot on your bench.
  • Avoid twisting and reaching for tools – rather have them at arm’s reach, or in a spot where you have to stand or move your body in a healthy way to get them.
  • Try out the standing desk concept by using a bookshelf or similarly tall surface to place your computer on and check emails and do your admin there.
  • Drink plenty of water! Apart from the obvious health benefits, you’ll be compelled to take short walks for bathroom breaks.

In summary – your future self will thank you if take every opportunity to stretch your legs and alternate activities wherever possible to relieve the discomfort of sitting for long periods of time, and give your body a chance to recover.

Will you be making a raised platform for your workbench? If so let us know how it goes – and always bear in mind to optimise any workshop project for precious metals dust collection and maximum refining returns!

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