Hi, all. I am new to this network and I know this has been discussed
before, but I am having a hard time looking at topics from start to
finish, so I am beginning this one so I can keep track.
I began working in my shop in May of last year. The polishing wheels
are hooked up to a vacuum system, but there is still black dust
everywhere. I try and dust once a week and the dust is there again
almost immediately. The wheels have plexiglass over them so the
rouge is not being flung in your face, but as an asthmatic, I am
concerned after the measures I have taken to take care of myself. I
work for a large company and I'm sure they have taken things like
lawsuits over disability into a lot of consideration, so they have to
make the shop as non-hazardous as possible, I guess. Still, I wonder
if I should wear a full face mask at all times. What kind of
precautions do other bench jewelers take while in the shop? I am not
having a hard time breathing, but from what I understand, one loses
about 75% of their lung capacity before they even notice. Thanks.
Where does the vacuum system vent to? How much polishing do you do
daily? Metal smithing is a dusty job. Can be acetylene dust also.
Your flex shift can be the culprit also
Making jewelry can be a dangerous business. Fire, acids, cyanide,
molten metal, burn out fumes, pickle fumes, and in my day asbestos,
cadmium, and lead as well. Not to forget "bombing" where a gold
casting is placed in liquid cyanide heated like a latte with a
steamer and then when good and hot doused with 20% hydrogen peroxide
til it explodes.
Buffing dirt can be the least of your worries.
A well run shop should have a good exhaust system and good vacuum on
the buffing motor. Most of the old timers in the trade lived to be
very old without the least of what we have today for safety
My siblings were asthmatics when they were young. Luckily they both
grew mostly out of it by the time they were in their early 20s. An
Asthma attack can be a terrifying and dangerous experience. If you
have truly fragile lungs you may want to consider another occupation.
You could go into CAD if need be.
Please send us images of what your polishing set up looks like. My
How can I share files and pictures with the list?
Or.... send the files to the attention of firstname.lastname@example.org and
we will upload them for you....
Have you checked the filters in the vac-system? There should not be
any dust anywhere. Each filter pad must be individually 'shaken &
hand vac-cleaned'. You should use a strong suction vacuum just to
loosen any wheel-cloth while in the polishing machine.
Something is drastically wrong over there!!! Your lungs are working
overtime! I"d speak to the upper-management about the cleaning
procedure & how it's not working!!!..Gerry!
If you see black dust all over, then the ventilation system is not
drawing and collecting all the particulates (and the metals) that
should be caught by the filters in the system. If the shop works
primarily in gold of platinum, money is being lost. Could there be
some unsealed fittings that leak the dust into the shop? Is there a
Before I invested in a buffing system that pulled the dust through
filters, I found myself coughing up black phlegm. Not good,
especially for an asthmatic.
Do some checking,
Judy in Kansas, who is working on stock for the coming season.
You state you have your polishing wheels hooked up to a vacuum
If your vacuum has a typical potential capacity of 100 cfm, it may
be removing much less than that, if you do not have replacement air
for the air the system is removing from your shop. If there is no
make up air your system is creating a vacuum in your shop and this
explains the presence of dust everywhere. Even cracking a window
(1/2") will allow the vacuum system to work much more efficiently,
and thereby remove the fine dust-particles that are now still
Hope this helps.
Kors van Kreuningen
Hello, and thanks for your replies. I didn't receive them as emails
for some reason and couldn't reply on the message board...
confusing. Anyway, I cannot take photos as the company has a policy
against it. I do not do a lot of polishing currently, but the dust
is all over the shop anyway.
Also, Jeffrey, i could not view your photos. The Orchid site is not
very user-friendly. sorry. But your replies have been helpful. I
will talk to my boss. probably will have to go over his head.
I began working in my shop in May of last year. The polishing
wheels are hooked up to a vacuum system, but there is still black
dust everywhere. I try and dust once a week and the dust is there
again almost immediately. The wheels have plexiglass over them so
the rouge is not being flung in your face, but as an asthmatic, I
am concerned after the measures I have taken to take care of
myself. I work for a large company and I'm sure they have taken
things like lawsuits over disability into a lot of consideration,
so they have to make the shop as non-hazardous as possible, I
guess. Still, I wonder if I should wear a full face mask at all
times. What kind of precautions do other bench jewelers take while
in the shop? I am not having a hard time breathing, but from what I
understand, one loses about 75% of their lung capacity before they
even notice. "
Denise - In trying to answer your concerns about polishing, I have a
bit of confusion.
Are you working in your private studio so you have control over your
work place? Or are you working for someone else? ll try to answer
for both situations.
If you are working for someone, OSHA would be a useful ally to get
your workplace in compliance. I'm not sure your employer would
welcome their "help" but it would either get you a better collecting
and exhaust system or a hazard mask that would keep you from
breathing the dust. If you don't want to call OSHA, you can obtain
their regulations on what is permissible in your business.
If you are speaking about your private studio, you might look at
designing your work so that you could use tumblers for finishing
your work. While I have a dedicated vacuum system for my buffing
machine, I seldom use it because my tumbling process pretty much
eliminates all dust and hazards. Rio, Ottofrei and Gesswein all carry
the book I wrote on the process of mass finishing jewelry - "Tumble
Finishing for Handmade Jewelry".
There are other dust creating hazards in jewelry finishing that also
require attention - any sanding or grinding operations can also
create hazards. For that I have a vacuum with an intake mounted to my
GRS bench pin plate. It gets most, but not all, of the fines from
sanding or grinding at the bench.
When I started in this business 22 years ago, I found the same kind
of problems as you are experiencing with dust. I had a small buff
with a filter that collected some of the dust. I then invested in an
expensive purpose-built polishing buff with a big vacuum and
I still breathed more buffing junk than was healthy. I then
researched what big commercial jewelry manufacturing firms used for
polishing and discovered mass finishing. With help from many people,
I figured out a way to repurpose existing rock tumbling equipment and
media to smooth and polish my work.
1) If you are seeing dust outside your buffing area your filters may
need to be changed. You mentioned you have a vacuum system but does
this system have filters? There are systems out there that will trap
95% or more of the dust generated.
2) Also there are new compounds that contain no toxic silica and are
water soluble. Luxi brand is one and Dialux is another. Google 'Luxi
brandbuffing compounds'. These also make clean up so much easier and
work as well or better than the old compounds we all know and hate.
I kicked bobbing compound, Tripoli and rouge out of my studio about
6 years ago. My fingersare not permanently black anymore and no more
painful cracked finger tips.
3) Also if you buy better buffs (US made) instead of the cheap ones
you will generate less lint and string. Lint is useless and does
nothing butclog your system.
4) PS I hate wearing a dust mask as much as the next person, get a
good dust collector
5) One other coo thing. Luxi designed a Low-Speed compound for bench
buffing with flex shaft called Luxi Green. It really works at low
speeds and does not clog or streak.
Hope this helps
Rio Grande Technical support
Most of that advice is excellent, though, I must disagree with the
comment about not needing a respirator when polishing. I have a
bag-house dust collector with 550cfm. When raking a buff or polishing
the inside of a vessel with buffs 3" or larger, there's always the
chance that particulate will be thrown back at the user before being
sucked into a dust collector. Don't purchase those smaller units that
are used behind a polishing motor - they don't have the suction or
proper HEPA filtration.
Take a look at cyclone dust collection systems. There are several on
the market. I just bought a Dust Devil from Oneida Air Systems to
test on my grinding and sanding bench. It works great. Go to
to see their product line. I plan on adding one to
my polishing hood where I currently basically blow everything
(including silver and gold), out the window. I have collected the
duff from this hood and fed it through the Dust Devil and it
separates it with nothing coming out of the blower exhaust back into
my shop. Good luck. Rob
It's helpful to remember that wearing a dust mask or respirator does
not prevent dust from entering the air space of the studio itself.
Once you remove your mask after finishing your tasks, the dust will
still be present in your breathing space. A dust collector
eliminates or at least minimizes this. I run a collector while
grinding and finishing using a flexshaft and I also protect my face
and eyes with a face shield.
Hello again Denise,
I hope you have been able to discover the reason for all the dust in
your work space. As Jeffrey noted, you would benefit from wearing a
Judy Hoch mentioned using tumblers to accomplish finishing - I do
However there are times when you want immediate results. A few years
ago I began using the large 3M radial bristle wheels on a small bench
motor for immediate buffing. There are seven grits - 80 to one
micron. There is no need for tripoli or white diamond, rouge, etc.
The wheels are impregnated with grit and do not fling polishing
compound, because there is none.
I digress. Bottom line, because the tumblers and bristle wheels
handle most of the finishing, I only need the buffer for items with
large flat surfaces.
Judy in Kansas, where temps are rising a bit, but the wind keeps it
I suppose just about everything in life comes down to money in one
way or another. I just want to mention that there are excellent dust
collecting systems available for polishing jewelery, systems that
dramatically cut the polishing dust down to nearly nothing and at
the same time increase your metal recovery for refining. One that I
particularly like is combination of the Quatro dust collector and
their Clearview hoods. That really does an excellent job of
containing most of the dust. It's more expensive than a shop vac
set-up, but it's nice to, if not eliminate, at least reduce the dust
in your shop/studio and your in your lungs. I attached a couple of
links to show you the product, it's not the only one like this
that's available and I have no affiliation. Just shop talk. Mark
Thank you, Jo, for your reassurance. I could be over-reacting.
probably am, actually.
There were lots of helpful and supportive responses. Thanks to
everyone who was positive.
I recently bought a Quatro JR polishing unit with a polishing hood
(not the clearview type) What I discovered after I started using it
is that when I want to put a small mandrel with a brush on it, or an
inside ring polisher, is that it extends past the hood! Kind of
defeats the purpose, yes? does anyone have a solution to this? The
guy at Gesswein was nice but had no idea how to solve the problem. I
can't find alternate (shorter) spindles in any of the usual places.
The one that came with the unit is a friction fit brass spindle.
Would love to have some suggestions.
We really don't want to be inhaling anything, but does anyone have
experience with LUXI brand polishing compounds. They are supposed to
be much safer.
I vent my dust into a filter box or outside. If you don't smoke you
might want to start, then the dust will be the least of your worries
I recently bought a Quatro JR polishing unit with a polishing hood
(not the clearview type) What I discovered after I started using
it is that when I want to put a small mandrel with a brush on it,
or an inside ring polisher, is that it extends past the hood!
Margaret, I have not seen one of those up close, but I'd think the
solution is to change the hood? I would think ideally you could add
the clearview hood in some way and that will give you the extra room
you need as those are pretty big, that might involve changing the
top work surface. When I look at the pictures of the two the
difference seems to be yours has a smaller 'counter-top'. You might
consider calling Quatro directly and see if they have a solution, I
wouldn't be surprised if others have had the same complaint. I have
ordered weird little odds and ends from Quatro, (usually thru Otto
Frei), so they might be able to sell you the new top with the
clearview hood. Then you just use yourexisting motor and assemble
it. That would give you the room you need and collect all the dust
A less expensive choice would be to make a new top that is a bit
wider yourself. I will say that most hoods havea similar issue,
where the hood is too narrow to fully contain the inside ring buff
and the brush doo-dad when you have your regular buff centered. In
the past I have dealt with that by drilling 4 indentations into the
counter-top for the 4 rubber feet of the polishing motor to position
the spindlewhere I want it for the buff. Then drilling 4 new
indentations, slightly to the left, to position the motor where I
need it to center the inside ringbuff in front of the hood. Then you
just move the motor back and forth as needed. If that makes sense?
Hope that helps! Mark