Making jewelry safely is one of the most important steps of metalsmithing. I recently did a photoshoot with a friend of mine and it
involved taking staged photos while I was “working” at my bench. I type it this way because it meant I was doing various metalsmithing activities with my hair down, in a business jacket, and without my safety glasses. Despite how it looks, this is not how I usually make jewelry.
I am all about safety when I’m in my studio. I was fortunate to have a teacher who taught not only metalsmithing skills and techniques but important jewelry safety practices alongside the techniques themselves. This means every time that I step into my jewelry studio her voice runs through my mind.
Inspired by that, here are 5 jewelry safety tips I follow religiously:
- Tie back your hair – For anyone with long hair (ladies and gentlemen alike) this is a very important tip. Not only will it keep the hair from falling in your face and obstructing your view, it will keep you safe. Hair is flammable, so if you’re soldering or doing anything with a flame this is critical. When operating any machinery, long hair runs the risk of getting caught in a machine and being very violently ripped out. Better safe than sorry on this one.
- Safety Glasses – Your eyes are such valuable tools why would you risk them by not protecting them? Every time I saw, solder, use my flex shaft, or sand something I wear my safety glasses. I’ve had the same pair since high school so we’ve logged some serious hours together. Putting on your safety glasses when you step into your studio and keeping them on the whole time are a wise habit to get into.
- Saw slowly and be mindful of the blade – I may be notorious for cutting my finger when sawing, simply because I reach the end of the metal with a bit too much force, but I’ve heard stories of blades going through fingers, so I try to be extremely mindful of my blade and speed, especially when I get close to the end of the metal. Taking the extra time to saw safely can keep you from having a very serious accident involving your fingers.
- Proper Ventilation – In metalsmithing we burn some pretty questionable things and it’s important to avoid inhaling them over long periods of time. Ensuring you have the right ventilation or clean airflow is critical. My current workspace is in my garage so I can easily open the garage door for air circulation. If you’re in an enclosed space having a ventilation hood anywhere you may solder, buff your metal, or sand is super important.
- Gloves when buffing – When buffing your metal it tends to get hot. For this reason, I try to have material around to hold my metal when it gets really hot. However, I will say I’ve found that if you pay attention and make sure you are pausing occasionally, you’ll rarely have a problem.
BONUS: Wearing a dust mask – When you sand or file, wearing a dust mask can help you avoid inhaling any metal shards. To be perfectly honest, this safety practice isn’t one that I follow on a regular basis. Always have one on hand because you never know when you’ll want to grab it!
Lastly, I would advise anyone who is a metalsmith to be mindful while they are working. Paying attention to the task at hand fully can help prevent so many accidents. When your mind wanders you not only start making mistakes, but you’re more apt to forget those basic important things steps which can lead to a safety disaster.
These are just five of the things that I follow religiously in my studio, but they are definitely not all of the safety tips that are out there. What safety tips do you follow to ensure you’re making jewelry safely? Leave them in the notes below!