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Polishing gloves

Good afternoon everyone,

I have a question about wearing gloves while polishing at a bench
grinder motor with spindles type setup. I feel gloves are high risk
for injuries.

My co-instructor teaching a beginner silversmithing class insists on
wearing latex or nitrile gloves and claims students should be taught
both ways. I tried to compromise by bringing in leather finger cots
and vet wrap which she would not use, and to be honest I didn’t like
them either.

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 leather?


Nitrile gloves are safe to use with buffing wheels. They just rip if
they catch, and they rip very easily. I’ve never had a problem, and
they really save my hands.


No gloves, ever, while polishing on a wheel! Never, never, never.

Linda Kaye-Moses

I use cotton welding glove liners. I buy them by the dozen and I
toss them when they are too dirty to use. I have a 1/2 hp polisher
with spindles and it frightens me every time I fire it up. When I
turn on a new wheel I am less worried because the spindle is buried
in the wheel. But over time the spindle pushes through so I have
some small felt buffs I use to obscure the spindle and protect me
from catching a glove.

Please don’t use gloves ! Had a serious accident in our shop after I
came back from a workshop and recommended gloves for polishing. We
all grab the mandrel to slow down to change buffs and gloves can
stick and grab and twist fingers! Luckily no fingers were lost! But
dislocations and months of therapy and workmanship comp! I only use
finger cots now, and would never recommend gloves! Just my 2 cents!


Aurora-Your instincts are right. A big NO to the latex gloves. They
stretch rather than break and if caught in the buffer will drag your
hands into the machine.

If your instructor is telling you to use latex please ask her to not
do that any more. It’s really dangerous. I use nitrile gloves only.
They act a little like silly putty. If pulled slowly they stretch. If
pulled fast and hard they cleanly snap away. Be sure to get the size
that fits snugly on your fingers.

There is no sin in having dirty fingers. If I am polishing something
small and delicate I always polish bare handed.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Hello Aurora,

I, also, have wondered about the safety of using nitrile or surgical
gloves when polishing. Could anyone offer personal testimony of
injury related to those gloves? Just wondering. My limited
experience is that the gloves tear easily, and don’t counter the hot
metal problem. I used to use ladies skin tight, leather dress
gloves, but was alarmed by several on Orchid who had horror stories
about the gloves wrapping up on the buffer wheel.

Vet wrap is probably as safe as anything, but should only be used on
finger tips. The temptation is to wrap further up the finger. The
leather finger cots are bulky and really don’t stay on well if one’s
fingers are small.

I rarely use my polishing wheel any more. Now I use a combination of
3M radial discs and tumblers to polish. But then, I have the luxury
of being the only one using the equipment. That is not the case in a

I will be interested in the responses from the Orchid community. Judy
in Kansas, where evenings are in the lovely cool 60s, encouraging
the tomatoes to produce. Time to plant the fall vegees and fertilize
the strawberries.

Wearing any kind of glove while using a rotational tool is asking
for injury. Once any polishing motor spins up, it’ll happily keep
spinning no matter how many appendages you feed into it. I’ve seen a
bunch of people use nitrile gloves while polishing, and I’ve never
seen one of them get hurt, but my hands? I’ve seen what disability
insurance pays, no thank you.

Having to take a few minutes to wash up at the end of the day isn’t
worth a potentially career-ending, life-altering injury.


I’ve been wearing cuffed natural cotton gloves for 30+ years without
an incident.


Thank you everyone who replied - like Judy I’d be interested in
hearing experiences from more of you. I’m hoping to compile enough
experiences to convince my co-instructors gloves should not be used
in our classes where students are inexperienced.

I did have a bit of a bad experience last year wearing Nitrile
gloves. My fingers are slim and tapered so its difficult to fit snug
Jo so perhaps that was my downfall.

The gloves did rip but not before my fingers took a serous beating
on the rotating spindle. I was using a worn 4 inch cotton buff on
the spindle, which is to say it was more like 3 inches diameter. I
can’t recall how big the piece was I was polishing, I suspect it was
small so that may have been a contributing factor as well.

My left hand did get hauled in around the spindle and my fingers
were badly scraped, cut, bruised and sore for several days. I have
the glove taped to my polishing hood as a reminder and all but one
finger are torn off as well as a large section of the palm to wrist
area. It seemed as though the tip of the spindle caught a finger
tip, began hauling that in then the palm area lend more material to
pull on before I broke free. I was lucky!


My father, brother, and I make very heavy sterling silver cuff
bracelets. The heat generated to polish them would be unbearable
without some kind of heavy glove. I use heavy leather/cotton combo
gloves for cut down (tripoli, LUX Blue, ZAM) and a light cotton
glove for final polish (rouge or LUX white). In forty plus years I
have had the experience of my hand being badly injured by getting
the cotton glove wound up in the spindle and would not like to do
that again. Latex or nitrile gloves would not last a second. Like my
brother, I try to jeep the spindle tip covered and just take all the
precautions that I can. When I can, I go without gloves. This is
usually when working on smaller pieces where the glove just doesn’t
let me hold the piece securely. Over the years I have tried all of
the alternatives suggested, including tumbling, but none work as
well as gloves. I do this knowing that there is the potential for
injury and do what I can to avoid it. Thanks. Rob

Rob Meixner

Well gloves.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. As I said before I use gloves and
here is why. I have very little feeling in my fingers as a result of
hand injuries over the years. I can’t tell if I am being burned until
I am burned. The worse burns I have ever had have been from hot
polish coming of the wheel and onto my hands. I use cotton welding
glove liners which are light, easy to remove and cheap enough to be a
disposable item. I really don’t care if I get dirty fingers as I have
access to soap and water.

I never use gloves that will reduce my tactile sensation. Leather
will soak up the heat and I’ll be burned before I know it and I wont
be able to take off the glove before some damage is done. This same
problem occurred for me with those leather finger condoms. Rubber and
nutrile just don’t feel right. And rubber can become sticky and hold
onto the work.

The first danger is the point of the spindle. I don’t worry about it
with new wheels because the tip is buried in the body of the wheel
but as they are used and become worn in the spindle protrudes from
the wheel. I have small felt wheels that I use to cap the tip of the

The turning armature between the wheel and the motor housing is a

I have a piece of clear 1" neoprene hose slipped over the armature.
It fits between the wheel and the motor. This keeps the armature
obscured and protects any work that may slip off the wheel onto what
was a spinning spindle body. It also acts a brake to hold onto when
changing wheels.

Gloves can be a danger and no doubt about it. I watched an anal
retentive machinist loose the skin on the top of his hand by catching
his glove in a turning ball mill.

This is my only lecture about polishing:

Incredible care and attention is required. Illuminate. Always have
good ventilation. Never polish when you are tired. Never wear jewelry
or loose clothing at the wheel. Put you hair up in a hat. Have the
kill switch in reach.

I will never tell people who have been doing this craft for years
that they are doing something wrong. We all have our methods so
tightly engrained that we won’t change anyway.

This is how polishing works for me.

Don Meixner

I would recommend Tory Finger Pads.

They come in sizes and I use one for my thumb and index finger.

They protect from the heat of the piece and a little grime.


I've been wearing cuffed natural cotton gloves for 30+ years
without an incident. 

Jeff,…good luck!

Gloves in general and polishing in particular

Hi All,

Todays posts have been some of the most interesting, and from my
little perspective in the UK think I aught to add my 2 pence worth.

So lets start with gloves, it does depend on what your doing, for
examplewhen im cutting fire wood with my tractor 30in TC tipped
blade its always leather riggers gloves, cos if by chance, touch
wood, so far, Im too close to the saw blade, ill feel it touch the
glove before it touches my hands. Also if im polishing a 18 in dia
bronze bowl ive forged it has to be riggers gloves as well. This is
done on a 3hp motor driven seperate shaft supported on plummer
blocks. all bolted to a strong bench as if its not, then me pushing
will tip it over with an 8in dia stitched sisal mop.

However on small items like finger rings I dont need gloves as I
always put the ring onto a piece of wood like a 1/2in to 1in over 6
in tapered piece of broom handle some 12 in long. So much easier to
work 2 handed, especially as the polishing compound gets onto the
wood and does a super job of polishing the inside of the ring. The
ring spins on the wood and that smokes! too hot to hold but then im
not! I then drop it into a bucket of cold water and retrieve to
check. Thats on a little polishing setup of 1/2 hp. all run at around
1550 rpm, but with stepped pulleys I can shange the speed up to 4000

Ive never seen wood broom handle mentiond here, is it too obvious as
every one does this? Also on professional/industrial polishing
machines there is always a rubber sleeve over the spindle shaft
except where it tapers so stopping it, with your hand is safer. Never
safe tho!. For polishing buttons, well I use a file handle with a
1/8in dia by 2in steel wood screw bent round into a hook set in so I
dont have to hold the button directly. Always find a way to support
your work up against the polishing mop, other than by hand.

Finally theres proper vacumn suction of 600 cf min on the big

An old polisher in the trade told me the golden rule. if your not
polishing always keep a mop on the taper.

Your hands are the most precious part of your work place. Protect
them at all costs.


Please don’t even think of using gloves if you can. I use Avon
Silicon Glove hand cream on my hands before buffing and use the
self-sticking bandage tape to prevent heat build up on my finger
tips. When done polishing, an easy wash-up and then you say to
yourself, “I was polishing? My fingers look so clean!” And by the
way, there are still 10 fingers here. Ruthie

Great idea - I do the same. Plus you don’t want to slip off your
buff and hit a bare spindle with the piece you’re polishing.


Here’s the deal, folks, you need to train to use cotton gloves. EVERY
polisher at Gorham used gloves. Every polisher at Tiffany uses
gloves. I can’t imagine anyone in the jewelry industry not using
gloves. I would never encourage anyone to use them if they felt
uncomfortable. I never use the cheap, thin gloves. I use these:

They have a tight cuff, they’re reversible, and machine-washable.
When I see a hole in a glove’s finger, I toss it.

Once again, it’s a comfort level. I feel comfortable and confident
using them.

Jeff Herman

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.

Peter Rowe

Look, you need to feel what you are polishing. Gloves are way more
dangerous than not wearing non gloves. If getting dirty and having
fingers that resemble someone that works in a trade isn’t your cup of
tea, then maybe you should choose a different occupation. Sacrifices
have to be made. Plain and simple. Wearing gloves is gambling.
Period. Good luck.