My finishing techniques are up close and personal. The majority of my polishing work is done at the same proximity to the work piece as fabrication or stone setting. For me, the majority of my finishing is a bench technique.
For many, it seems to be a long distance event – done at arm’s length while standing in front of a large buffing machine. It is important to watch your progress as you work and to judge your next move based on the result ofyour last. I wear a head visor and a dust mask when I polish. Sometimes I set the visor aside and work under my bench scope. I take this stuff seriously.
When I was just starting out on the bench, I was on my own. I didn’t have a teacher and I didn’t know much about any aspect of bench work but achieving a good finish was important to me from the beginning. Aspiring to a good fit and finish has served me well over time. I have never held myself out as a designer or a specialist in any aspect of the field. I’ve just done what has been asked of me from the beginning and I’ve tried to do as tidy a job as I could as I tackled new techniques and procedures. As plain and unadventurous as many of my pieces have been from time to time, the fit and finish made the sale.
After more than three decades of taking my work seriously but not taking safety all that seriously, I have developed a constant wheezing in my chest from, among other things, not wearing a dust mask while polishing for most of my years and not having a vacuum system at the bench to catch the inevitable dust that will be generated. I have burned the cornea of one of my eyes by jerking a red-hot wire back while I was soldering because I wasn’t wearing safety glasses. I amputated the working end of my primary thumb while polishing a chain clasp one day when I was distracted by a co-worker. Safety matters. Safety matters to you if you want to be able to live a full and complete life. It matters if you wish to freely pursue your career. Safety matters to your family if you want to share life with them and to provide for them. Jewelry making is an industrial vocation. It’s potentially very dangerous. It may also be an art form, a form of expression, a lovely way to pass the time – but losing a body part or blowing up the neighborhood isn’t a very appealing form of expression.
Always wear a pair of glasses. Wear special safety glasses if you don’t need eyeglasses.
A “Gerson # 1775” dust and mist respirator with adjustable nose former is the minimum breathing apparatus that I d suggest. You are welcome to use more advanced respirators if you choose to. The better they are, the less dust you’re going to breathe in.
Good to great dust collectors with a hood at every polishing station will keep the air that you breathe cleaner. They will collect plenty of precious metal along with other polishing debris and they will pay for themselves over time. Busy workshops will actually make a profit on your dust collectors by virtue of the volume of precious metal that is captured for recycling. My last scrap return paid me over $300.00 per pound for the platinum rich dust from the dust collector at my workbench.
It is my belief that neckties don’t belong in a workshop – but that’s just my opinion. Many folks do wear a necktie in the workshop. If you wear a tie, tuck it into your shirt between your second and third button to keep it out of harm’s way. Roll your shirtsleeves up above your elbow or button the cuffs at your wrist. Sleeves that are flapping around your forearms can get caught in rotating equipment, snagged on your bench pin or armrests and generally get in your way.
A lab coat or other washable/expendable cover up will help to protect your clothing.
Long hair needs to be tied back in a ponytail. If the tail is long, it might be a good idea to tuck the tail into the back of your shirt to prevent it from falling to your front and getting tangled up in your equipment. Long beards can also become entangled in your polishing equipment and will prevent your respirator from doing its job. Dust will be pulled into your respirator from around the edges because the matt of your beard will prevent the respirator from sealing against the flesh on your face. Get a shave if you intend to live without respiratory problems in the future.
Trim them back to normal length. Don’t wear false nails at the work bench. Your dexterity and a firm grip on your work are essential in controlling your work piece and your tools. Vanity has its place but safety and control are more important on the job.
If your work should become captured by the rotating shaft of a polishing motor of flexible shaft, back away from it for your own well being. Turn off the power to the motor as soon as possible. You may have just lost a week’s work or shattered a customer’s valuable stone but if you get clear of impending harm to yourself, you’ll have the chance to try again with your faculties intact.
A “Dead man’s” switch on a polishing motor is a great idea. If the operator steps offthe foot petal, power to the motor is cut. If the wheel captures your work and it’s the fourth ofJuly under you polishing hood, simply step away from the machine.