My question is are the thin nitrile gloves safe to use on a high
speed polisher in class? Does anyone use them or am I over
reacting? Would the rubber finger cots work better than the
over the last 40 years, I’ve had a few accidents, and seen a bunch
more. By far the worst one was a fairly new worker, still learning to
buff/polish, in a commercial shop where the head polisher insisted
they all wear thin white cotton gloves (the type sold for handling
things like photographic negatives, back when such things existed).
The guy was polishing a bangle bracelet wrong, going across the wire,
not with it, had his fingers hooked through the bracelet for secure
hold insead of a pinch hold, and was using a small enough buff it
could just fit inside the bangle. It caught, grabbled the bangle and
wrapped it around the spindle. The glove caught too, and though it
might have done so without the glove, it most certainly caught his
hand with the glove. His entire index finger, pulled off his hand,
stayed in the glove. They couldn’t reattach it.
Now, a more experienced polisher probably wouldn’t have been doing
everything wrong, and might well use a glove without that happening.
But I’m convinced, after that, and as well, a number of other less
serious accidents involving gloves, that polishing with gloves is a
dangerous mistake. The buffing machine is already perhaps the most
dangerous machine most jewelers will use. Why make it more so. Yes,
latex or nitrile gloves will help keep your fingers nice and pretty
and clean. Big dieal. That’s what a fingernail brush and decent hand
cleaner or soap are for. They work just fine. You can get hand
creams designed to seal the skin against absorbing too much stuff,
which makes washing your hands a lot easier. Called things like
"liquid glove" or the like.
And frankly, while gloves might help keep my hands clean, i find I
don’t have as good a grip or as good a feel for what is happeneing
when wearing gloves. I do wear them rarely, usually while working on
a split lap where the work might get too hot to hold, and there’s
little chance of anything catching. I also sometimes use vet wrap or
leather fingertip cots. But I prefer to polish without gloves, and
that was the way I was taught, by multiple instructors and
professors over the years. Professionally, I’ve only known or worked
in one shop where the polishers routinely used any sort of glove (the
one with the accident discussed above).
One of the most common operations where things easily get too hot to
hold is using a finger shaped felt buff to polish the inside of a
ring. You can take a strip of leather wrapped around the ring to hold
it, protecting yourself from the heat, and if the ring catches, as
they sometimes do, your fingers are safe, but not caught in anything.
You can find other ways to handle other troublesome polishing tasks
that equally protect your hands, while being safer than gloves.
As I said, an experienced and knowlegeable polisher can almost
certainly use gloves safely if they desire and need to. But I sure
would not want to suggest that practice to beginners or students,
even advanced students, as they’d be working on equipment with which
they might not be as familiar as the buffing machine you own and have
worked on for years. And if working with gloves, I’d usually opt for
something not as stretchy and catchy as latex or even the less
stretchy nitrile ones. Maybe I’m imagining this, but for me, they
just feel less safe, and don’t improve my ability to hold the work
being polished. It can help to remember that it’s not uncommon for
the surface speed of a buff on a 3450 rpm motor to reach speed of
50-60 miles per hour. At that speed, when things catch, and even with
the best of technique, they still do now and then, events happen much
faster than you can react. You need to do everything you can, to
make sure the work pulls cleanly out of and away from your fingers,
so your hand and fingers won’t get pulled into that buff. While
gloves protect against heat and dirt, they do not protect against
being pulled into the buff, and the lessened feel of the work can
increase the risk in my opinion.