After rolling, the ribbon of gold is cut into one-inch squares. The first step in the beating process is called the cutch. The cutch is made up of approximately 150 skins. In the early days of the trade, ox intestine membrane (Goldbeater’s skin) was used to interleave the gold as it was beaten. Today other materials, such as Mylar, are used. Using wooden pincers, the preparer picks up each square of gold and places it in the center of each skin. When the cutch is filled with the small gold squares, it is wrapped in several bands of parchment which serve to hold the packet together during the beating. Parchment is still the best material known to withstand the hours of repeated hammer blows needed to beat the gold.
The gold is beaten on a large, heavy block of marble or granite. These stone blocks were sometimes placed on top of a tree trunk set deep into the ground. This created greater resiliency for the hammer. Beating of the cutch by hand takes about one hour using a fifteen-pound hammer. The goldbeater instinctively follows a pattern and sets up a rhythm, striking the packet with up to seventy strokes a minute. The packet is rotated and turned over to ensure that the gold inside expands evenly in all directions. The original small squares of gold are beaten until they have expanded to the outer edges of the four-inch square cutch. The gold is taken out of the cutch and each piece is cut into four pieces with a knife. Using the pincers, these squares of gold are put into a second packet called the shoder, which has approximately 1,500 skins. The shoder is beaten for about three hours until the gold has expanded to a five-inch square.