Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Fumes and ventilation


#1

Hi everyone,

I’m attempting to make my new jewellery workshop as ‘non-toxic’ as
possible. I have asked a few teachers and suppliers about how they
handle ventilation, and their suggestions were about the polishing
wheel. In most cases, questions about soldering fumes were met with
a shrug, so I thought I’d bring these questions to the Orchid Forums.

Background at the moment, making jewellery is my hobby,
with a desire to start selling in the future. My workshop is in a
garage without any sort of exhaust system; the only outside access is
the main overhead door. The torch outfit is in the back corner,
directly above a small dog door. I had hoped to incorporate the dog
door into some sort of makeshift ventilation as currently I cannot
afford an elaborate system, but no luck yet. Until now I’ve just
been working with the garage door 1/4- to fully open, depending on
the weather. I’m in the process of trying to modify a disused
barbecue into a mobile soldering station to use in the open air,
since I have yet to conjure up a plan for the garage. Additionally,
due to my husband’s job we move every few years, so overhauling the
garage each time we move isn’t financially feasible.

Mainly I work with silver, sometimes with copper. I use a Little
Torch with disposable oxygen and propane tanks. No plans at the
moment to try casting, enameling, or anything involving burning
pitch; my main concerns are about the fumes from solder, flux and
fuel. Can anyone tell me exactly what are the health issues related
to flux/fuel/solder fume exposure? I would eventually like to try
PMC (small pieces fired with a torch) and resins (regarding mixing as
well as grinding/polishing) - would working with these media outdoors
be considered safe?

When heated, are citric acid pickle fumes about equal in toxicity to
fumes from an alum pickle (which I am currently using)?

Is one flux less toxic than the others? I use Dandix and have tried
Battern’s self-pickling yellow flux; just purchased a borax cone but
have not yet had a chance to try it out. (While on the topic, would
the base of a terra-cotta plant pot make a suitable borax dish or
would it be too porous?) As well, for firescale I’ve been using
Prips, but I can’t help but wonder if boric acid and denatured
alcohol would be a safer alternative given the less-than-ideal
ventilation.

Any suggestions for alternatives to polishing wheel (does a rock
tumbler loaded with steel shot really produce a good polish? Is it
suitable for medium to large items, or only small pieces?) or less
toxic polishing compounds?

And finally: is an ultrasonic cleaner worth buying if I don’t intend
to use ammonia with it?

I apologize for the lengthy post! Any tips or suggestions are
welcome and appreciated.

Thank you for your time,
Jami Jacobson


#2
    When heated, are citric acid pickle fumes about equal in
toxicity to fumes from an alum pickle (which I am currently using)? 

No, citric acid is much less toxic. Doesn’t work as well, must be
heated, takes longer.

    Is one flux less toxic than the others?  I use Dandix and have
tried Battern's self-pickling yellow flux; just purchased a borax
cone but have not yet had a chance to try it out. 

Yes, some contain fluorides.

 (While on the topic, would the base of a terra-cotta plant pot
make a suitable borax dish or would it be too porous?) 

I think yes. My borax dish (from England) is not at al porous and
is slightly scratchy on the bottom.

 As well, for firescale I've been using Prips, but I can't help but
wonder if boric acid and denatured alcohol would be a safer
alternative given the less-than-ideal ventilation. 

Actually, a big ole’ garage with the door cracked is in some ways
better than a tiny, enclosed basement.

    Any suggestions for alternatives to polishing wheel (does a
rock tumbler loaded with steel shot really produce a good polish? 
Is it suitable for medium to large items, or only small pieces?) or
less toxic polishing compounds?

Most people on this list would, I think, say, no, a tumbler does not
give a good polish. But if I were you I would buy a flex shaft
before a polisher (if only because they are easier to move). You
can do a lot of polishing with a flex shaft. And yes, you can
tumble large items, such as a bangle bracelet.

Elaine
Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#3

JJ

If you set up your soldering & pickle pot close together you can get
a 2 or 3 speed fan and use it to draw the air away from you and maybe
you could also have a floor fan to help exhaust the air out your
overhead door. I find if I draw air away from me it wont disturb my
torch flame.Placing your fan so the torch is not effected is
imortant.

If you have a bigger budget say 1200.00 then you might find a very
good exhaust that uses 4 inch flexi pipe and you could exhaust air
out the dog door. As for the health issues, I think it best not to
inhale any fume if possible. Get a good respirator with the correct
filters for what you are doing! There are filters rated for certain
air born particles be sure to get the best one for what you are
doing, soldering or chemicals.

Email me at, @samuel_olin If you think I can help.

sincerly, Sam Olin


#4

The answers to the questions you ask would fill a book , several in
fact. So you need to buy and read a couple of books that cover a lot
of workshop health and safety

The Jewelry Workshop Safety Report by Charles J. Lewton-Brain Artist
Beware by Michael McCann PhD (there is a new revised edition that is
due out any day now) The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide by
Monona Rossol

Also if you can get your library to get this one for you on inter
library loan, it is rather expensive and you probably don’t need to
own it but it gives you detailed on design of
ventilation systems.

“Industrial Ventilation - A manual of recommended Practice”,
Committee on Industrial Ventilation, American conference of
Governmental Industrial hygienists, library of congress 62-12929

Jim
Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau


#5

Hi Jami

There=92s a brief but fairly concise description of different
ventilation systems and their uses in a book called Health Hazards
Manual for Artists by Michael McCann. I have the third edition but
imagine the same is in the newest edition as well.

Hope this helps
Linda M


#6

If your work is well prepared, it does a nice job. I’m speaking of
silver as I have little experience with gold. Check out gun shops for
vibratory tumblers and use stainless steel shot. I use a soap based
compound to put in with the shot and water. I feel quite safe to use
my hands to scoop things out. Some of the tumbling compounds have
chemicals in them to descale the metal. I would not put my hands in
those.

marilyn smith


#7

I can answer one of your questions - you’ll want really good
ventilation if you work with resins. I’m pretty sure they are toxic
to breathe, and besides that, they have a really strong smell.

Leah
www.michondesign.com
@Leah2


#8

Hi Jami,

It amazes me how many jewelers solder right at their bench with no
ventilation.

Working with the garage door open is better than working with it
closed. There is a very common misconception about ventilation that
even with an exhaust fan you should also open all the doors and
windows. (It has taken me years to convince my wife that this isn’t
so.) An exhaust fan that works properly moves the air from the
contaminated area out and replaces it with fresh, uncontaminated
air. A fume booth or hood is an air flow chamber that moves the air
away from the operator and gets rid of it. Opening all the windows
when it is windy will create all kinds of uncontrolled air currents
that are just as likely to blow fumes away from the exhaust fan as
they are to help. If you have no exhaust fan, certainly! it is better
to bring in as much fresh air as possible.

I have two fans in my soldering area. A smaller one is enough to
eliminate the pickel fumes when the pot is coverered. I leave that on
most of the time. If I am doing extensive soldering or using any
acids or other nasty chemicals I switch on a more powerful fan that
moves enough air that someone can smoke a cigarette at the soldering
bench and you can see all the smoke go out and not smell a bit of it
even if you are sitting right next to them.

Buffing dust I deal with by having my polishing wheels set up in an
isolated booth that has an exhaust fan in the floor. When the fan is
on there is a downward air pressure that keeps the airflow moving
away from my face. Each machine has a built in filter and regular
clean up is also important. This keeps the dust out of the rest of
the work space and more importantly, out of my lungs. I have a carpet
in the buffing booth, which I think also helps keep the dust down.
Someday I will rip rip up the carpet and send it to the refiner and
recover all the gold and silver that the vacume didn’t pick up over
the years.

I heard someone at a lecture insist that acid etching is best done
outside. I disagree. Outside the wind can easily blow the fumes right
in your face while a good exhaust system is a controlled environment
that will move the air away from you and eliminate the fumes from the
work space.

Stuff is toxic. Many of the best products like flux, solvents,
pickels, ect. are not healthy to expose yourself to. Personally, I
would much rather use the most effective products in a safe
environment than to use the so-called “safe” products in an
unventilated situation.

Stephen Walker


#9

Marilyn,

I use crushed walnut shells in my tumbler with some flitz polish.
Works great. The walnut shells I get at Petzmart and the flitz I
bought a quart can a few years ago and still working from it.

Jerry


#10

Hi Jami,

I can only answer a couple of these questions, and others may
disagree, but:

  1. Position yourself so that you are in front of, not over, whatever
    you are soldering. Buy a small cheap HEPA filter and position it
    (on, of course) behind what you are soldering. This is a decent
    temporary solution.

  2. I only know about standard pickle (usually made from Ph Down).
    Let things cool before you drop them in. Don’t keep it too
    hot–better time than fumes. Maybe keep your pickle pot outside, or
    in the bathroom with the fan on. Turn your face away when you open
    it.

  3. Tumbling is a real option. Check out Judy Hoch’s book:
    http://www.marstal.com/basic/thebook.htm It doesn’t seem to be listed
    on Ganoksin.

Excerpts from:
Tumble Finishing for handmade Jewelery
By Judy Hoch
http://www.ganoksin.com/borisat/directory/library/source/31/90/intro/1

Related Pages:
Library > Surface Manipulation >Polishing > Tumbling
http://www.ganoksin.com/borisat/directory/library/subject/31/1

Good luck!
Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments


#11
        If your work is well prepared, it does a nice job. I'm
speaking of silver as I have little experience with gold. Check
out gun shops for vibratory tumblers and use stainless steel shot. 

Make sure the motor in a vibratory tumbler is up to handling the load
of steel shot. Most of the smaller, cheaper models aren’t up to
handling that much weight.

Sojourner