I’ve been reading everything I can regarding casting and safety that
I can find through Orchid and I have a follow up question. Currently,
I have a basement studio set up with good ventilation and a fume hood
for burn outs and pouring ingots. However, after all of the safety
issues I’ve read concerning silicosis and the casting investment, I’m
starting to wonder whether or not I should move the casting upstairs
into the garage. We have a large 3 stall garage with two windows and
ample room to set up a casting station up there. I figured it would
be safer to mix the investment outside and just walk into the garage
to vacuum and cast. It would mean a fair amount of additional work
and expense, but who can put a price on their health (besides
medical insurance companies, that is)?
So, here is my question: We live in Michigan where we have cold
winters and snow and warm muggy summers. Do you think there would be
“significant” problems in the casting process do to the fluctuations
in temperature… .especially if I am casting in, say 25 degree F
weather? I am pretty new to casting and I do yet fully know the
ranges and one can successfully cast in. Consequently, I 'd hate to
spend the time and money to set up a station in the garage only to
discover I can’t cast during the winter months or something of that
Beyond that, I have one final question: Do you think I am just being
to paranoid regarding safety? And no, I don’t mean that one could be
“too” cautious. Rather, I mean that I have good ventilation (yes it
could be better), but I am just very nervous about the notion of
keeping a silicosis causing agent in our basement, where (short of a
flood) little bits of it will always remain, regardless of how well I
clean. On the other hand, an enclosed space, is an enclosed space.
Either way, you have to take the same precautions. It is not as
though silica behaves like a gas, either rising or falling depending
on its density. It all settles to the floor, whether its in the
garage or in the basement. So does it even matter then?
Well, sorry to have rambled on. I just thought I’d get some other
opinions on it before I start moving everything around. Thanks!
Erich C. Shoemaker
Erich Christopher Designs, LLC
Keep your casting in the basement. Temperature fluctuation will
effect your consistency greatly. Not to mention that working in the
cold really sucks! That’s why most of us have indoor jobs in the
I’m leaning on the too paranoid end of your question. ( Unless you
have small children playing in the shop) There are many tips in the
archives that will keep you safe. The most dangerous part of casting
is in the quenching process, and if you dunk your flasks directly to
the bottom of a deep enough bucket you will find that you get very
little steam after the initial contact. I set mine in a utility sink
and let the cold water run through it during the process to keep the
steam down even more. The rest is just use common sense, and keep a
clean shop! There is dangerous dust every where you go! Have you ever
stopped to think just how much dangerous dust you get standing on a
street corner? Lots of older cars have asbestos brake and clutch
linings, giving off little clouds of the stuff every time they stop
and start. Much more dangerous than silica.
Safety is an issue in almost everything we do, but I’m afraid that
the stress of worrying over it will take it’s tole on you far sooner
than the on the job dangers. I have known old jewelers all of my life
and sclerosis, and old age got more of them than any shop hazard.
If your home (and basement) is heated with forced air, I guess you
should have a cleaner for that. Or maybe really good filters for the
intake vents in the basement. I’d ask an H-VAC expert.
If I were you I certainly would not move into the garage. Here are a
Wet mop the floors after dust settles on them.
Wet wipe your counter tops as well.
Keep a tidy shop with few DC’s (dust-collecting objects that
clutter up the space). If you make cleanability a priority in your
studio design, I think you can stay ahead of the dust hazards. Keep
most clutter behind cabinet doors or in boxes that can be wiped
down, and you will be well ahead of most folks’ studios. Think of it
as a lab instead of a dirty old workshop! BTW, my own studio is not
that clean. But is is doable!
Install a range hood and fan and vent it to the outdoors. Have
back and side curtains of rubber, plastic, metal, or build a booth
surrounding the hood area. Use this area for mixing investment,
quenching flasks, and any other spraying or dusty processes that
might concern you. My range hood is mounted at about neck height for
me when I am standing using it, so dirty air is not pulled across my
face. I can see dusty air move up to the vent when I mix, and dusty
steam flow to it when I quench. (I quench 3" X 5" flasks a lot, and
they do steam.) This is much better than just having windows open!
You want to control where that dirty air ends up. This range hood
also vents my kiln when burning out wax.
I also have a small fan, vented directly outside, with a dryer
vent hose to pull air away from my bench for soldering, using small
rubber wheels, etc. It also vents the pickle pot. I made a sheet
metal end scoop for the hose which can be moved around the bench for
very close access to the work being done. Not that hard to do.