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.