Ok. Lets state something a little more forcefully here.
DON"T WEAR FULL GLOVES FOR POLISHING. IT’S DANGEOUS.
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.