Wolfgang Tümpel served an apprenticeship at the Bielefeld workshop of the goldsmith August Schlüter while also studying at the Bielefeld Kunstgewerbeschule in 1921-22. Then Wolfgang Tümpel went to the Bauhaus in Weimar to study under Johannes Itten, Paul Klee and Naum Slutzky. In 1924 he was accepted at the metalworking workshop, where his instructors were Christian Dell and László Moholy-Nagy, and he also collaborated on Oskar Schlemmer's theatre workshop.
When the Bauhaus was closed down in Weimar, Wolfgang Tümpel, like Wilhelm Wagenfeld and others, did not move with it to Dessau. Instead he followed his friend and teacher Gerhard Marcks to Halle/Saale, continuing his training as a silversmith at the Burg Giebichenstein school for the applied arts. In 1926 Wolfgang Tümpel took his certificate examinations there.
The following year he became a member of Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst [Society of Goldsmiths]. That same year, 1927, he established the first workshop of his own, the "Workshop for Vessels, Jewellery and Lighting", in Halle. In 1929 he moved the workshop to Cologne but in 1933 he returned to his native Bielefeld. Not until 1939 did Wolfgang Tümpel, whose work was already so successful that he had received several awards for it, take his master craftsmen certificate examinations.
In 1951 Wolfgang Tümpel moved to Hamburg, where he again opened a workshop of his own, in Hamburg-Ahrensberg, and taught between 1951 and 1968 as head of the metalworking class at the Landeskunstschule/Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Hamburg.
Wolfgang Tümpel was both a goldsmith and silversmith as well as one of the pioneering designers for industrial production. No stagnation is apparent in his vast oeuvre since Wolfgang Tümpel was always on a quest for "valid form" achieved by applying a new approach to design. His silverware, such as his 1920s and 1960s tea and after-dinner coffee services, candelabra, liturgical vessels, and jewelry, is just as remarkable as the designs he produced for industrial mass production. Wolfgang Tümpel's elegant and functional designs link the Bauhaus formal language with the standardization principles advocated by Burg Giebichenstein.
Tümpel's Bauhaus years had, despite his strenuous efforts to the contrary, produced no industrial contacts that bore fruit. Tümpel would not make any until he was in Halle, where he successfully promoted them from his workshop. Working under the slogan "modern but not modish", Wolfgang Tümpel did not settle for a single style but instead produced functional designs often based on volumetric forms which could be industrially manufactured. His cylindrical lamp for Goldschmidt & Schwabe and a nickel-plated brass electric kettle might be cited (both 1927) as examples of this.
From 1929 Wolfgang Tümpel designed metal objects for WMF (Württembergische Metallwaren Fabrik) and silverware for Bruckmann & Söhne. The 1931 desk lamp No. 03086 Tümpel designed for Bünte & Remmler is one of the earliest mass-produced lamps featuring a tubular bulb (festoon lighting) as the light source. Another celebrated Tümpel design is his 1962 brass and plastic coffee jar, millions of which were made for the German coffee company Tchibo.