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Understanding jewelry bench safety is essential. It is one of the first things, if not the very first thing that jewelry artists and metalsmiths should know. Contributing editors Tom and Kay Benham compiled seven of their tips regarding safety at the bench. While some of these tips may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that these are tips for a reason, sometimes even experts can forget to go over these crucial steps.
Above: Silversmith at work. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
A jewelry bench can be a dangerous place. There are sharp tools, motorized grinders, torches, acids, and many other potentially hazardous situations. But if we use good techniques and work carefully, we generally go unscathed. Unfortunately, most of us fall short when it comes to preparing for those surprising situations. So here are tips for working smart and staying safe.
Secure Torch Tanks
Every soldering station must have a working fire extinguisher close at hand. In addition, all tanks should be properly secured so they can’t tip over. Should a tank fall over, it could easily break off the gauges and instantly become a flaming missile.
Keep Your Hair Away from Machines
When using grinders and polishing machines, always make sure your hair is tied back and out of the way so it can’t get caught in the machine. We won’t go into the gory details here.
Secure Rolling Mills and Anvils
It is surprising how unstable a rolling mill can be when it’s not bolted to a stand or sturdy bench. One good twist of the handle and down it goes. With any kind of luck, you’ll just break some part of the mill and not crush your foot putting you on crutches for six months. The same safety concerns apply to anvils. Bolt them securely to avoid a needless injury.
Have a First Aid Kit Ready
Minor accidents will happen occasionally, so it’s a good idea to keep a small first aid kit handy, it doesn’t need to be fancy, just have the basics: Band Aids or similar bandages, antibiotic cream, and burn ointment. Be sure to keep your kit updated.
Having experienced several minor burns, we’ve become strong proponents of using oil of lavender rather than aloe or other over-the-counter ointments. It immediately removes the sting, keeps the skin pliable, plus, you smell good. After several applications, all remnants of the burn will disappear.
No doubt you keep some elsewhere, but the first aid kit is also a good place to keep some aspirin. It’s right there in the studio for those headaches you encounter when solving elusive technical problems.
Protect Your Eyes and Lungs
Wear safety glasses and dust masks when working with flexible shafts and grinders. Your eyes are important tools that cannot be replaced, and breathing is essential.
Keep a Flashlight Handy
Some type of emergency lighting is required in case of a power failure: you don’t want to be trapped and stumbling around in a pitch-dark room. One or more flashlights work well for that, and they are great for finding those small parts that fall in those dark areas beneath your bench.
Use Automatic Shutoff
We also urge you to use a timer to plug your pickle pot into a timer so that it automatically shuts off after several hours — averting a messy meltdown and possible fire. No worries about remembering to turn the pickle off before you leave the studio or waking up suddenly in the middle of the night when you wonder about it!
We know that we’ve barely scratched the surface of studio safety, but hopefully we’ve made you alert to some of the dangers lurking in your workplace. You should always be thinking and doing something about your own personal safety.
By contributing editors Tom & Kay Benham, excerpted from April 2017
Do you have a burning jewelry making question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and your question and answer may appear in an online article.
Related: Don’t Melt Your Bezels: How Hot is Too Hot When Soldering Jewelry and 4 Tips on How to Solder from Kate Richbourg