Polishing & Hand Protection


Here is a big doozey… Does anyone wear hand protection while using
the Buffing machine? I’ve seen a majority of people use leather/thick
cloth gloves when doing ther “tripoli & rouge” dance but then again I
have also seen others do it without. Any ideas???


Here is a big doozey... Does anyone wear hand protection while
using the Buffing machine? I've seen a majority of people use
leather/thick cloth gloves when doing ther "tripoli & rouge" dance
but then again I have also seen others do it without. Any ideas??? 

You can use scraps of leather, or leather “fingertips” to help
protect from heat buildup. But please be very cautious with the idea
of actual gloves. Gloves can catch on a buff, and gloved fingers have
less control over the work. Gloves can be downright dangerous. The
worst accident I ever saw in a jewelry shop was a young polisher
working on a bangle bracelet while wearing thin cotton gloves (more
to protect the silver bracelet from fingerprints, than to protect
his hands, but nevertheless, a glove.). The bracelet caught on the
buff, caught the glove in that mess, and pulled the glove off his
hand. Along with his entire middle finger. Surgeons were not able to
reattach it. Without the glove, he might have been whacked by the
bracelet as it spun around, but all of his hand would have remained
attached and intact. The next worst accident was the guy who, after
defeating the safet switches on a small punch press in order to more
easily set up a die, managed to trip it and cut two fingertips off.
But that’s not an accident happening to a naive newbie. That’s sheer
stupidity on the part of an experienced tool and die guy who knew
better… And it wasn’t as much of deal as the whole ripped off
finger on that buffing motor…

Peter Rowe

Gloves and rotating machinery are a recipe for serious injury. Never
wear gloves while buffing. I know we will again have folks say they
always do and have not had a problem but if the polishing motor gets
ahold of your glove you could loose a finger or hand. It is just not
worth the risk.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

I think that wearing gloves at a buffing machine is dangerous. Does
the metal get too hot to hold or do you want to keep your hands
clean? If the glove gets tangled with the spindle or the buff, you
could suffer extreme damage to your hand.


Giancardo- I’ll get some flack for this, but I use nitrile
examination gloves to polish in. I would NEVER wear latex. The
nitrile glove finger tips when caught or pulled will simply snap
off. The latex gloves will stretch and pull your hand into the buff.
I get them at Costco.

The only thing I’ve done longer than make jewelry is play the guitar,
so I need to protect my left hand callouses and my right hand finger
picking finger nails, so I wear gloves when I can. There are several
products out there on the market for protecting fingers while
polishing, but the gloves work best for me.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

these Atlas gloves are lovely


look around online im sure you can find them inexpensively
somewhere, i had a friend get them on ebay. Try your local gardening
place thats what most people use them for, keeps your fingers from
getting too hot and you will be able to try them on. if they fit snug
they will strech a bit just dont get them larger the last thing you
want when your polishing.

best of luck

i've seen a majority of people use leather/thick cloth gloves when
doing ther "tripoli & rouge" dance but then again I have also seen
others do it without. 

That’s dangerous. (though others on this list will disagree with me.)
Leather finger tip gloves or nothing at all.


I think it all depends upon how well your hands can take the heat.
In my class at the Museum Art School, we use finger cots. Basically
just the tips of cut off leather gloves.

At home, I don’t have a buffing machine but use a Dremel and never
use anything to hold the piece I’m polishing. I just work a bit more
slowly when polishing. As the piece gets too hot to hold, I stop a
moment, then continue.

I heard one person recommend mole skin patches that you can put on
your fingers to hold your piece and protect from the heat, but again,
it’s all a matter of preference. Wearing whole, leather gloves would
be uncomfortable for me. Finger cots I can barely handle and I
haven’t tried the mole skin patches yet but I will… Net time I’m in
Walgreens. :slight_smile:

MikiCat Designs

There is a student in the class I help with that works in the dental
industry, and she has used all the same tools in her offices that we
use in the studio. One time she went to the buff, and in a hurry,
didn’t remove her gloves. Something grabbed her glove, and ended up
breaking 3 of her fingers. Now if we have anyone who wants to
protect their fingers from the buff we only use the individual finger
covers. Just in case.


these Atlas gloves are lovely 

Those gloves will hurt you badly if they get caught in the wheel, it
can and does happen. If you just have to wear gloves follow Jo
Hammers advise and use nitrile exam gloves.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


I have a bunch of 1" X 2" leather strips, for really nasty stuff a
couple of leather finger tips off old gloves but they only cover up
to the first joint.

I do have 2 hands and want to keep it that way. Jewellers do tend to
have dirty fingers (often 10), sort of proof you actually made the
stuff :-). Keep them away from the buff and they don’t get as dirty.

Hard core old(ish) guy with little respect for a lot of rules but
not ever this one one.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Ok. Lets state something a little more forcefully here.


Polishing jewelry on a normal “sit down” style polishing machine
with dust collector, etc, means you’re buffing small items on a wheel
that’s somewhere near the same size scale as your hands. These things
are inherently dangerous if used wrong. The buffs turn with surface
speeds that often approach 60 miles per hour, and can quickly grab
items that are held insecurely, or at the wrong angle to the buff.
Gloves can indeed help to insulate your hands from the heat
generated by the buff, but they reduce the sensative feel you have
for how well the item is held, and the result is an increased ease
with which a number of types of items can be snached by the buff. And
when that happens, a full glove can also be caught in the buff,
pinched between the buff and the work as the latter is snagged and
pulled. Fingertip type finger cots can slip off if they catch. A full
glove can not. If you catch the fabric or leather or rubber of a
glove on the buff, there is often a strong likelyhood of injury. As I
described in an earlier post, these can be catastrophic serious

Now, if you’re buffing at the bench with a flex shaft or dremel
tool, go ahead and wear gloves if you like, since if something
catches it will just stall the motor. You won’t get hurt.

Or if you’re polishing things the size of a teapot or other larger
hollow ware, at one of the big stand up buffing motors that generally
use large (18 inch, for example) buffs, and often do not have a dust
hood to restrict the space around the wheel, then it’s probably OK to
wear a good leather glove for protection, as in this instance, it’s
pretty hard to catch something on these large wheels (though not
impossible. But the large scale of the wheels and work relative to
the size of your hands makes it less likely to catch the glove)

But by the same means with which they protect you from heat, full
gloves are slightly clumsier in holding the work, and for normal
jewelry buffing, that’s simply too dangerous. Don’t do it.

You have options. The fingertips cut from gloves or the heavier
leather finger cots with elastic at the back surfaces work well, and
are safe. Or you can hold work with other than your fingers. some
items can be held on fixtures or even with pliers (polish the jaws
and they don’t leave marks if you’re using the right style of plier
on items suited to this.)

One of the tricker type of item to buff with heat problems are the
small flat items one might wish to lap against a larger flat felt
lap. It’s small so it heat’s up quickly, yet you have to keep it
pressed flat to the lap. So make a fixture. The end of a wood dowel
can have a depression carved into it that fits the item. Use this,
then, as a sort of handle on the item to press it to the lap. For
production runs on lots of the same thing, make a more elaborate
fixture. Cut the outline of the item out of sheet metal (steel,
brass, etc) and afix it to the end of that dowel. The item should fit
snugly into that outline, and just the slight buildup of buffing
compound will hold it in place for lapping.

Other things can be held in a ring clamp. I’ve even got a pair of
wooden pliers I use for this. Not sure where they’re made, and I’ve
not seen them in U.S. tool catalogs, but they’re a cool idea.

As things get hot, cool them by holding in the fast air stream of
the dust collector outlet, or by dunking in a bit of water now and
then. Or buff several items at once, so as one gets too hot to hold,
set it down and work on the next one.

Heat build up can be annoying and a problem in buffing. But the
buffing motor may be the single most accident prone and dangerous
tool in the shop. The motors are strong enough to do serious damage
to your body when something goes out of control, and the very nature
of buffing wheels makes the occasional accident inevitable. Gloves
greatly increase the odds of those accidents damaging more than just
the jewelry. Almost all of the most serious injuries and accidents
I’ve seen happen in my 35 years making jewelry have involved buffing
motors. You need to be attentive and have full control of your hands
and the work being polished to do it safely. Gloves reduce your
control and are themselves a “handle” the buff can get on your whole
hand. That’s potentially dangerous. I’ve seen at least one whole
finger ripped off the workers hand by a buffing motor when a glove
was used. That sort of thing is a life-altering injury rather unlike
the usual range of cuts and dings one gets at the workbench. It’s
right up there with using machine tools like drill presses or milling
machines without eye protection. Don’t use gloves to polish.


Don’t use gloves to polish.

Peter Rowe

I have been using white gloves from Euro tool they are tight to the
hand and have a thin grip coating and work GREAT! I haven’t had 1
problem mainly because I pay attention to what I’m doing. The are
thinner than the finger covers that are thick and bulky. You can get
them at ARMSTRONG TOOL AND SUPPLY 800-446-9694 for about $7.00 a
pair. Never a broken finger!



I’ve never bothered with gloves, but if the piece I’m polishing does
get too hot I just put finger tape on - problem solved. And you
don’t have to for out for a pair of gloves.

NEVER wear gloves. A polishing machine with any kind of power will
tear your hand right off if the glove catches the buff. Items get
hot when polishing, that’s how it works. The best way to protect
yourself is to cut off the thumb and forefinger of a leather glove
and use only those. If either catches on the buff it will just be
(hopefully) harmlessly stripped off your finger. There are fancy
versions of this sold by suppliers like Rio but this is way cheaper.


At least once a year I have someone tell me how great the gloves
they wear to polish are and how I could keep my fingers clean if I
used them. Fortunately the accompanying stories of losing fingers when
polishing comes up much less. But I personally have known two people
who have lost fingers polishing. (What are the odds?) It is by far the
most physically dangerous part of our job. (chemicals are another

It seems that most novices to a shop (& sales help) think they can
polish and do so willingly.

Good thing you don’t need 10 fingers to dial 911. Bare hands are the
safest, the heat is real, and dirty tough fingers are an
occupational result.

One thing I do to hold a small item that’s apt to get hot while
buffing is to use a narrow piece of leather to hold it. I’ve got
several small strips of leather from about 1 - 2 inches wide & 3 - 5
inches long.

I make a sandwich of the item to be polished & the leather. Then
hold the sandwich between my thumb & index finger (usually).
Occasionally, depending on the shape of the item I’ll have one get
pulled from my grasp, but not often.

I’ve found a thin, flexible leather like that used for chamois works
well. Another source of leather is an old belt that’s not too thick
or stiff.

Your fingers will get dirty, but that’s what soap & water are for.


I use these rubber finger tips by Tory and they are great. They also
credit me back for some of the shipping costs because their online
ordering system overcharges for quantity pieces.


I echo Jim’s clear advice against using gloves at a polishing
machine. An intersting comment that nitrile ones snap if caught as I
have a friend whose fingers were broken when a latex glove they were
wearing sucked them into a polishing machine. Here at Ganoksin is an
extract from the Jewelers Workshop Safety Report book that discusses
gloves in some detail:



Ok guys, cool.

After being thoroughly shocked and frightened, I don’t think I’ll
beusing any gloves any time soon [ever] on the Polishing buffs.