Safety and Liability Advice for a Home Jewelry Studio

One of the most common topics and questions in the Orchid Forum relate to setting up a home jewelry studio, whether it’s in a house or condo that you own, or a rental house, apartment, or condominium. It’s a very complicated issue as it’s a technical/equipment question, a safety question, and a liability question.

Because there are so many absolute beginners who read these posts, I think it’s a good idea to bring this up as a topic of conversation. I’ll be honest. I don’t have all the answers. There are many variables depending on folk’s individual situations.

For instance, whenever I get asked the question of what torch should I get? In addition to whatever torch advice is appropriate for their situation, I always say that no matter what torch that you choose, you also need to follow the procedures of your city/town, county, and state codes. You also need to get approval by your home or rental insurance company.

Getting that approval can be complicated though and maybe not even possible. For instance, I have a friend who for years had a bench in a shared jewelry studio situation in commercial building. Her circumstances changed and she decided to build a home jewelry studio. Because she owns the house, she wanted to make sure that she has all the necessary permits from her town and that her home studio is covered by her home insurance. In her town, the fire department must approve jewelry torches. Her local fire department doesn’t have much knowledge about jewelry making and no matter what she’s tried, she and the local fire department haven’t come to an agreement to approve a torch. This has been going on for months, which has stopped her from being able to make jewelry.

On the other side that is another story that changed my whole perspective about jewelry torches in a home. About 10-15 years ago another friend of mine’s mother accidently blew up her house in a jewelry torch incident. My friend’s mother had a barbeque style propane tank connected to a torch in her home jewelry studio located the home’s attached garage. There was a leak, that eventually seeped into the laundry room. Once the propane hit the pilot light in the gas water heater, the house exploded. It blew the roof off. The roof hit the house next door causing extensive damage. My friend’s mother suffered 3rd degree burns over 75% of her body causing permanent painful injuries. In many ways my friend’s mother was extremely lucky. She was the only person home at the time, so she was the only person that was injured. I’ve often thought what if this situation happened in an apartment building or condominium? It could have been catastrophic.

Like I said, I don’t have all the answers, but one of the things that I love about this forum is how many wise, supportive, and collaborative members that there are. My question to you all, especially the folks in the forum who are seasoned professionals, what constructive advice would you give to someone who is setting up a home jewelry studio, concerning safety and liability?

Thanks in advance!



Somehow … I think I prompted this relevant post :). As I grow older, the torches bother me more. I got rid of the cyanide years ago, got rid of the concentrated nitric acid, but I can’t get rid of the torches. I’ve had a B tank in my workshop for over 50 years in various locations. Aceteylene does not bother me much … its the propane that scares me. I only have a 5lb tank, but that’s enough to blow me up … and lets not forget the oxygen. I don’t use the oxy/propane Meco much, and honestly could probably do just as well with the acetyelene (which I can never seem to spell) torch for everything. I think it was Rob who said he’s using an oxygen generator with 1 lb tanks … which seems like a reasonable option. I’d hope I could smell a leak before it goes off … but then you turn on the light and … bam.

And, Jeff while we are at it … lets talk about silica dust. No one ever taught me to wear a mask either doing polishing or lapidary work. Its a killer.


After much research, trial and error and a lot of money spent, I have settled on a combo Meco and Little Torch on one, 1 lb. camp stove propane cylinder and an O2 concentrator. My goal was to get as much compressed gas out of my shop as possible. The next step, if I were to take it, is to buy a natural gas concentrator. I do have a large butane torch that is able to do a lot. This setup lets me do everything that I need to do including soldering heavy 8 gauge bracelets and 1 - 2 oz melts. It won’t melt brass. Safety is important to me. That is why I wander the house in the middle of the night to make sure all of this stuff is turned off. I have a vent over my soldering bench and a 900 cfm blower that pulls air through my polishing hood directly to the outside. I wear a covid mask, gloves and a face shield when I polish and have four fire extinguishers scattered around the shop. Making jewelry can be dangerous…Rob


Hello Jeff,
I appreciate all your efforts to make this forum more intelligible and user friendly to new and experienced jewelers, but at some point, we need some stickies or summaries or something that points new people and experienced people who don’t continually mine this forum for the accumulated wisdom that is here, to what’s gone before. As far as torches go, with this last post, you are talking about catastrophic failures and I appreciate what you are trying to do, but, respectfully, I have to state that it appears to me that you are spreading more heat than light with these horror stories.

Yes, people should know that they can blow up and blow other people up. However, there are ways to minimize the danger and this was covered in discussions which were had, I think, before you became a moderator here. Long discussions and lots of them. At the very least we should reference earlier posts along with the horror stories. Rob and I were participants, among many others, in discussions about minimizing the risk of a home studio, by using a 1 lb propane cylinder and an oxygen concentrator. Certainly there are risks even to using this setup, but they are minimal, and I don’t think you will find any home insurance company that won’t allow you to have a 1 lb propane cylinder in your home. You can also use a natural gas booster, and that was discussed here, too. Water torches, both the expensive name brands and the Chinese knock-offs, were also discussed. Ditto the small creme brule and other butane torches. If you want a real low tech alternative, you can use an alcohol lamp and a blowpipe, and you can solder chain and small silver pieces this way. Is your insurance company going to refuse to allow you a bottle of isopropyl in your house? Let’s just lay out the choices and the risks and what the insurance companies have said and what people’s experience with their HOAs and Fire Departments and Zoning Boards has been…in short, as Joe Friday said, “The facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” If you do that, a few horror stories become part of the factual record and are fine.

I just don’t think it serves anybody to rehash what’s already been discussed ad infinitum. If you were a newbie, I’d say you were just naive, but I’d make a plea that we all do a little research, just say three or four clicks, before we start sending reams of prose that plows ground that’s already been plowed muchly before. It turns a resource into a chat group…I know we are part that, but we’re also a repository of knowledge and if I ask a million questions that have already been answered, I’m wasting people’s time. -royjohn


No argument, but to the best of my knowledge Ganoksin is based upon packaged software that has a very poor search function. That makes trying to referencing previous content almost useless. Sorry if I’m being too hard.

I get Orchid posts via email, and for a long time I saved all or most of them in my email program, Thunderbird. Here’s an example of an excellent search capability:

That might not be easy to read depending on your screen resolution, but in one search I can look for all of the following criteria: a subject (what is or is not in the subject), the sender, and multiple words or phrases in the body of the message or that are not in the body of the message, and can even specify a date range to search.

If the Ganoksin search function had a fraction of this capability perhaps more of the past content would be searched and read by users, or that Jeff or others of us could reference to help answer questions.

Sadly, the search function is minimal, and with best intentions in mind with canned software, I doubt Ganoksin can do much about it. Without a good search function it is simply easier for people to just ask a question that has been answered over and over.

Neil A



another thing to mention…kinda obvious…but maybe not…

making sure to close down the tanks, bleed the lines, and release the regulator, at the end of a soldering session.

and, periodically testing the system…connections… hoses (all the way up to torch connections if inside torch handle) for leaks, with a leak detector solution (kinda like soapy water) that will expose leaks with bubbles…



Neil…You make a good point. I always do a search before I post a question. Sometimes it will result in an answer that satisfies my need, but often not. I also do a google search. These will often reference a ganoksin conversation. When I read a question that I can answer, I assume that there are others among us with the same question, but are uncomfortable asking it. This is why my answers may go beyond just answering the original question. I try to add what I know is needed to understand the answer. I guess that this is because I am, or was a teacher…Rob


Thanks for your thoughts royjohn! I appreciate it.

Since I started moderating the forum in March, issues surrounded setting up a home studio has been one of the most common topics. While my job is to moderate the forum, I don’t run Ganoskin. We all meet every week or two and talk about how things are going. In one of those meetings I brought up the topic of safety and liability in a home studio. They asked me to write an article, but the truth is I don’t know all of the answers for every situation, in every state, county etc. So we made a decision to bring it up again in the forum as a current topic.

I know that it’s been talked about in the past. I just want to make sure that new forum members who are here right now think about these issues.

You mentioned in a previous post royjohn that you have a comprehensive liability policy. When you said that, I thought to myself, “This guy is smart!” But I do wonder if folks who are just starting out think about having a comprehensive liability policy. One of the things that sucks about life these days is that lawsuits to solve problems have become much more common. Good for you for being proactive in protecting yourself and your family.

I hope that you and some of the folks who have been around for a while, can have patience. Over time we probably will bring up issues around safety and liability over and over again.

Please don’t feel pressure to participate in any thread though. Especially if you’ve participated in the past.

Thanks again for your thoughts! I’m really glad you are part of the forum!



One of royjohn’s suggestions was to add some links to previous Orchid discussions. I’m sorry for not thinking of that myself! Thanks for the suggestion! Jeff

Here’s 50 links to previous Orchid discussions under the query of “home studio”

Here’s two that I thought were especially helpful.


Hi NeilA,

Yes, the less than optimal search function is an issue, but let me tell you what I did when I saw your post. I clicked on “Visit Topic” in my email. Then I clicked on the “orchidganoksin” logo at the top of the page and typed in “propane oxygen torch.” The first entry that came up was a dead link to a BenchTube Video, May, '14; the next five threads referenced were from '17 to '21, and, skimming them, I see about all the relevant points you could need if you wanted to know about setting up a p/o torch in a jewelry studio…To sum up, it was: Visit topic>> orchidganoksin [logo, Upper left]>> “propane oxygen torch” [using the magnifying glass logo on the RHS adjacent to the orchidganoksin logo]>> various informative topics. That was FOUR clicks.

Admittedly I am a deep searcher who often gets lost in the weeds, but thinking back to searches I have done on this forum, I haven’t had that much trouble locating what I’m looking for. It takes a little reading, but, hey, we’re making jewelry here, don’t we need to read a little to learn how to make good stuff?

I don’t have the complete answer to how you make a forum welcoming and user friendly without making it cluttered with the same stuff every month or three. I suppose part of it is experienced users who post links to earlier discussions with “That’s a great question! Try looking here!” I hereby resolve to be one of those.

One of the things I value most about this forum is the wealth of pithy and knowledgeable past posts from the likes of Charles Lewton-Brain, Peter Rowe, the inimitable Vladimir Frater, and a host of others. There is a book to be written called The Best of Orchid Ganoksin: Tips from the world famous jewelry forum and I think it’s sad when people don’t find and use that stuff along with the very germane new posts which are made every day, esp. by our current moderator, JeffG.

Maybe we can work together to make the accumulated knowledge of the forum more accessible and user friendly and encourage some judicious topic-mining. The search function is less than optimal, but it can work! -royjohn

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Hi All and JeffG in particular!
JeffG, I don’t think I have fully appreciated your ability to call a spade a spade while admiring the spade and complimenting the person who has the spade, all the while avoiding calling it an $&%# shovel. I think the links to those home studio discussions are helpful. JeffG, have you thought of putting your name in for Secretary of State?

When you look at all the regulations on torches and safety, different in all 50 US states (I guess) and various city jurisdictions and the those in foreign countries, the mind boggles. Maybe some folks will share lessons learned in their states/cities. There are probably commonalities due to borrowings from the International Fire Code (IFC), but then there may be differences, too. There are the famous (or infamous) NYC regulations…

When I posted yesterday, I was thinking of some of our new jewelers who have posted here in the past, very nervous about torches. Yes, it’s appropriate to be cautious and even worried…but, armed with the relevant facts (there’s Joe Friday again!), one can make good decisions about torches…and other dangers of the studio…(pickle pots, hammer-smashed fingers, krause burs).

I apologize if the tone of my previous post bordered on the snarky and I’ll try to do better in the future!


I’ve had a lot more trouble than that. On the other hand I was searching for specific posts I only partly remembered, rather than anything on a specific topic.

Thunderbird search has really spoiled me. As Rob suggested, I too sometimes do a web search to find things in Orchid.

I would buy the book you mentioned in an instant!

Neil A

Good conversation.
As Ben Franklin once said, " An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Always make completely shutting down your workspace THE priority. Learn best practices and use them.
Every. Single. Time.

Granted, in my university program, I had the benefit of very good instructors with thorough safety training and shut down procedures. (Thank you Sandie and Val!)
Does ad hock learning make getting these lessons more difficult? Maybe yes, maybe no. That’s why Ganoskin is such an important online resource.

I’ve been at this for nearly 40 years, and I have never known any of my many colleagues to have a catastrophic accident (i.e. blowing up the house).
Here’s hoping my learned skills - and luck - hold.

Hi NeilA,
Yeah, I’d buy that book, too. I guess JeffG and his team need to get started on writing it! At least a bunch of us would buy it because we were quoted in it, right? And, if my comments were omitted, there would be great stuff in it. Contributions from Peter Rowe, Vladimir Frater, both of Les Frere Meixner, Charles Lewton-Brain, Leonid Supin (sp??), Jo Haemer, Judy Hoch, Cynthia Eid, Jeff G., Jurgen Maerz, and whoever else is not right on the tip of my tongue at the moment, esp. the guy who has posted those beautiful pieces of handmade platinum jewelry…Jim ???..blank on the last name.

Might have to download Thunderbird again…

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Royjohn, I go through the old posts I saved from time to time, and the list of talented and interesting contributors over the life of Ganoksin is very long.

It was Leonid Surpin and I’m sure Jim Grahl you have in mind.

Neil A

Royjohn, I just checked my saved posts, and they go back to May, 1996.

The two earliest contributors still with Orchid are Charles Lewton-Brain and Peter Rowe.

Figuratively, they should stand and take a bow, as we applaud them.

Neil A

Absolutely, they should take several bows! Thanks for reminding me of the spelling of Surpin. An irascible genius who has passed on, regrettably. Jim Grahl is still walking this mortal coil, tho’ IDK whether he’s on here much at present. His website says he’s just coming up on 65 y/o, with 48 years experience at the bench and in industrial design. I wish I had started that early! Others on here should look for images of his hand crafted (not cast) platinum jewelry. I hope I live long enough to work in platinum or palladium. When all the gas cars are gone, maybe the price of both will be a bit lower.

royjohn…Thanks for including me in this group, but I beg to differ. What I have to offer has been learned by screwing up and learning from it for the last 50 years and I have a lot more screwing up to do. What I do know is how to teach that which I have learned and I am more than happy to do so. So many of the questions that are posted, while they are often a repeat, need to be addressed. I agree that it would be great if we could figure a way for people to easily ask a question and get an answer. The problem is that there isn’t always just one answer, so we need to go through this torturous process. I am happy to participate to the extent that I can. Thanks…Rob

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Hi Rob,
You pose some interesting questions. Is a beautiful, classical silver piece as amazing as handwrought platinum or a well designed and cast gold piece? Well, we could debate that all day. I think you and Don are in the Pantheon of revered contributors here because of your long experience, classic designs and, OK, you win, because of the ability both of you have to teach so well. And you do it so often and so unassumingly. Having thought about this, I think there is a place for answering anew and for sometimes saying, let me share this link and see if that answers your question. I don’t want to drive anyone away, but I have to say that I respect people more when they ask thoughtful questions and provide enough info so that responders can answer intelligently. Being a craftsperson is a little different from visiting Hobby Lobby twice and stringing some beads or…like on one of my other forums, a HS kid asking which trumpet he should buy for marching band. I don’t want to take over as the forum curmudgeon, but maybe if I see a question that is less than optimally thoughtful, I’ll be tempted to answer it with a question. Or lay out of the discussion. -royjohn

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So. NOTHING I am go to say is advice for you to do something. Legal disclaimer.

I fully understand the safeguards. I like Rob’s idea about an O2 concentrator and 1 lb tanks. Propane scares me … it pools. Used 1 lb tanks for YEARS when I was young … all I could afford.

But as a reality check. There are 100,000s of thousands of B tanks lurking in garages, etc. I’ve had one for (well several) for over 50 years. I did get somewhat intoxicated and as stupid questions about (which way to turn the valve). Really I did. Never seen or heard of a B tank exploding (Presto-lite, Silversmith, etc). We’ll not get into how an acetylene tank works. BUT propane scares the living hell out of me. It pools. I do have a small 5lb tank and small oxygen tank on a mecho. In my studio. I don’t use it much … mostly for ingots. I am totally comfortable with the B tank … had one in my living space since I was 16. Propane still scares me. I check the memo gauges every day. The straight acetylene one does not put down enough heat for some stuff … and with Paige tips it can be really useful for ingots and really in there hot and fast for high karat gold or argentium (bane of my existence). I use.a small butane torch a lot … just gotta know its limitations. Even the 5lb propane tank scares me. B tank … meh. Ain’t killed me yet. But as my dietitian wife is careful to point out … the ain’t killed me yet does not include the opinions of those who it did kill? I dunno … I think we can overboard with safeguards. I think … recklessnes can kill us. Propane tank bothers me … and the O2 beside it. Of course, I have 10 or 20 1lb tanks where and there for may camp stove. I aint dead yet … but my wife says … I dunno what the answer is. Mine is to not much worry about the B tank … and be scared as hell about the small 5lb propane tank … don’t forget the o2 tank beside it. Still I have both. I ain’t giving up the oxy/propane mech … so …