A cautionary tale

So tonight I was working on the finishing touches for a new piece
that I’m really proud of. Yes, I’m tired, but wanted to get it done
so I can get pics of it and get it ready for a show next week. I was
using those lovely 3M radial wheels on the flexshaft that Karen
Christians demo’ed at the MJSA show. I’ve had a few of them for a
while, but hadn’t really liked them all that much. Turns out that I
was using them at too SLOW a speed and needed to stack more of them
on the mandrel. Now I love them! Anyway, I digress.

I was on the last component of the last section of the necklace and
just finishing up when I must have lost my concentration for a split
second. The flexshaft (running at a high RPM, remember) grabbed that
dangling chain (yes, I ignored the first and primary law of polishing
and let the chain just dangle there… should have known better) and
mangled it beyond belief. Along the way, it literally ripped the 3
cast geranium leaves off of the chain and threw them every which way.
They’re heavy little suckers with a pointy stem in the middle of each
that will become a stone mounting shortly.

One of the leaves bounced into my stomach which, thankfully, is
amply padded and I was wearing a nice heavy knit sweater. Even at
that, I now have a nice, deep bruise forming and several cuts on my
skin. The other two managed to miss everything important.

Yes, I had eye protection and I was extremely glad that I did. I
ALWAYS wear a face-shield when using the big polishing motor, but
sometimes “skimp” a little when using the little flexshaft.
Nevermore! If that had bounced toward my eye instead of my stomach
and I hadn’t had a barrier there, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing
this, I’d be in the hospital with a good likelihood of permanent eye

I feel very lucky, but also compelled to pass along my cautionary
tale. I knew better than to have a dangly chain near a rotating
motor. All it took was a momentary lapse. You know how they say that
the vast majority of auto accidents occur within 10 miles of home?
Part of the reason is that we tend to take it for granted and go on
"auto-pilot," assuming we know the area so well. The same thing can
happen in the shop.

Luckily, I have more chain and was able to salvage the main
component pieces to reassemble the necklace. Even more luckily, I
wasn’t seriously hurt. I’m thankful for the wakeup call!

Have a good, safe evening everybody!

Karen Goeller

Thanks for sharing Karen!

Does anyone have a book they can recommend or maybe some basic rules
to follow while polishing? I am kinda self-taught and am rethinking
that! I live in Los Angeles, and while we have a lot of jewelry
classes around, they all have waiting lists!


This one caught my attention. I have been lucky with regard to
accidents, especially because the tools and equipment I have worked
with all my life are even more dangerous than a buffing machine. I
still have all my eyes ands fingers. But I’ve had a few wake-up
calls along the way.

Sure, we know when we’re being lazy or careless, like letting the
chain dangle while polishing as in Karen Goeller’s post, and we know
when we’re tired at the end of a long day - so we feel especially
stupid if and when we ignore those explicit cues and go right on
until something or someone gets hurt.

But even without being able to pick out concrete or identifiable
pre-conditions such as these, I have had another sort of experience
which I have no name for. I feel almost superstitiously creepy
writing about it, but I am also very curious if anyone else has had
this experience. Sometimes I have the feeling that an accident is
about to happen. I can’t see why, but I have the feeling. So far I
have dealt with this feeling by simply stopping what I am doing and
maybe even stopping work for the day. The trick is to just get away
from the situation. That may be difficult if you are working for
someone else, but it’s all I know how to do. Sometimes I feel
foolish about this. After all, if I stop work then, obviously, no
accident will happen. It’s like trying to prove a negative to claim
I’ve prevented an accident by responding to this intuitive feeling.

Anyway, like I said, I’m really curious about this. Have any of you
known in advance when you were about to have an accident? Or another
form of the question - when an accident happens is one of your first
reactions to feel as though it was an expected event?

I feel like my strategy is a good one - I respond to that ineffable
sense of expectation before it is proven true by clearing out of the
situation. I want to learn how to make that feeling even more
noticeable, more identifiable. Because I’m half convinced that the
danger clues are not always outside of ourselves in faulty equipment
or bad practice. Those are the easy clues to spot. I think there is
also some kind of self-damaging trickster inside us that has to be
respected and sometimes deferred to. He/she/it has its reasons.
Maybe the best we can do is to just notice when he is up and about
in our souls. Pay attention.

Marty Hykin knocking on wood in Victoria

Hi Amery,

My raffle prize books from AJM arrived yesterday. Oh joy! Oh joy! One
book is called “At the Bench” by Gregg Todd and Greg Gilman… It has
a section called “Do’s and Don’ts for Polishing Success” Lots of
pictures to illustrate what the authors are pointing out.



I know what you mean, continue to listen to that inner voice. Lost 3
out of 4 tires on a drive once along side the Rio Grande river. Got
the feeling and just pulled over and stopped, it went away after
about 20 minutes so I continued my drive, rounded a curve on a bluff
and ran into a rock slide from an old volcanic throat. Sharp 4 to 6
inch square rocks covered both lanes of the 2 lane I was on. Luckily
it was in the spring and the temperature did not get below about 20F
that night. Could not believe there was so little traffic on that
road. Hate to think how things may have gone if I had been there
when the slide occurred, no guard rails and about an 80 foot drop to
the river and there was no bank to land on.



Yes I also have had the same feeling right before I do
something…usually stupid…or costly. Saw blades into fingers was
the most common but I’ve learned to trust the feeling and change the
way I am holding a piece. Burs into the fingers…well they still
happen too often. And that last touch on a setting job I have been
able to avert too.

Intuative or just more experienced? I don’t know.


I learned a long time ago in the jewelry industry that you have to
trust your “gut-feelings.” Whether it is a customer that doesn’t seem
"right," e.g., someone looking to steal or rob, a piece of
potentially dangerous equipment that works only on a sporadic basis,

or working on a piece of jewelry that is only going to present
problems down the road. After experience you will intuitively know
how to handle problems which used to baffle you. THINK SAFE, BE

Sometimes I have the feeling that an accident is about to happen. 

You know, Marty, It’s funny… I never focussed on it til I read
your post, but what you describe has a very familiar feel to me.
That “Yeah, I’ve been there” feeling, like deja vue. So I guess I
know what you mean, and I agree completely. If whatever powers there
be in the universe (or within us-- same thing) give you a tip-off,
you’d be a damned fool to ignore it. Same for inspiration. If the
muse visits you, you don’t wanna say, “not now, I’m eating
breakfast”. In fact, I’d go so far as to say what you’re describing
IS inspiration.


Marty tells a nice story about having ESP. Very interesting, and
enlightening, too. I would have to agree - there are times when you
feel like there’s “bad air”, or something. Like “Earthquake
Weather”, or something. My mother (GRHS) had her finger tip whacked
off by a chain in a polisher - it was too small, and too dirty to
replace, so she asked me to make a gold and a silver everyday
fingertip to cover it. She wore them ever since, and I also made it
for someone else, too. Another thing is long hair - I knew a lady
years ago who was scalped by several square inches by a polisher. It
is a truth of industry that all accidents are preventable - which is
not to say that they are foreseeable. Fatigue is the biggest
culprit of all.


Your occaisional predilection about an accident about to happen
sounds to me like a mild form of an exotic paranoia and/or a self
realizing prophesy (thanatos wish ?). We live in such an
unpredictable and chaotic world that it is perfectly reasonable to
sense that anything could happen at any time. On the other hand, when
you start thinking that you can sense impending disaster without
there being tangible indicators you may be letting your imagination
run wild. Much of the crap that comes out of Hollywood plays on
these insecurities !

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

Hello Marty,

You’re not alone. I have had that same feeling - like deja vu in
reverse. I think it is the subconscious acting on input of which you
are unaware, giving a warning. That vision or feeling makes me stop
or alter what I’m doing, and most of the time there is no difficulty.

Judy in Kansas

Count me in on the positive side. Some people fear such moments of
cognition. Some for religious reasons. I on the other hand feel the
more religious could feel the hand of whomever guiding them. An
Angel on their shoulder.

Isn’t there something that says, “forewarned is forearmed?”

Protected by such “messages.”

On the other hand, when you start thinking that you can sense
impending disaster without there being tangible indicators you may
be letting your imagination run wild. 

I would respectfully submit that if you ignore or repress all
responses to the world around you that you cannot tangibly explain,
you will live in a far poorer world. There is no doubt that we all
possess senses and sensitivities that are not tangible or not yet

Where does inspiration come from? The word comes from the Latin for
"breathed into"-- the idea being that some spirit outside the body
breathed the idea into one. There is often the sense that the idea
came from some unknown source. Maybe unknowable source. Most of us
don’t want to poke that source with a stick, for fear it will
disappear. We can learn how to open our minds to the creative
process, though, and encourage inspiration. It seems to me that,
once we learn to do that, we may increase our sensitivity to other
things, like subconscious awareness of possible danger.

The inspiration to protect oneself from danger may be just
imagination, and I would not argue for letting nebulous fears
control one’s life, but “there are more things in heaven and


I find these posts fascinating, because the only thing I can be
absolutely positive of as I grow older is: There is much more out
there that I don’t know, than I do.

Thank you for the education.

O boy, lots of times I’ve had this experience, and I, too, stop
working, or tell myself, “no way is it going to happen.” This
strategy also works.

Worse case scenario for me was on the freeway one time, husband
driving, 3 kids in the backseat. In my head I saw a car heading
towards us speeding in the wrong direction in the left hand lane of
the freeway, the one in which we were going the right way. I told my
husband to change lanes. He thought I was nuts, but did it anyway, I
guess responding to the urgency in my voice. Guess what? Along came a
car… and there was no way I could have physically seen it. It
creeped me out, but taught me to listen to that inner voice that says
"accident ahead, change what you are doing."

I have friends who have reported similar circumstances.

Alana Clearlake