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Shop injuries

Helloooo Orchid, Just recieved another 9 stiches from a graver I
allowed to escape and while talking to Brian he suggested I start a
" most blood lost " thread and we both laughed a bit but, hey What
the heck? I do credit most of any cuts or the like to my not paying
enough attention or rushing ( as in this case ) but there are
inherent dangers in the shop and maybe if we who have injured
ourselves would be willing to share our experiences we might save
one of our younger friends a good poke or burn here and there.Again
I would say that most of my injuries ( gravers ) have been caused by
a reduction in attention to task,graver lost its tip, I was’nt
awhere and good-bye control , also I am still adjusting to using
power gravers and one does not need to apply any pressure to advance
the cut using these tools. So this one goes with the learning curve
I guess. I have in the past had some nasty encounters with my tools
. This time around 9 stiches and some bone chips removed, any hooo
how bout you guyz?? Peace (and healing very well thank you ) Karl

we who have injured ourselves would be willing to share our
experiences we might save one of our younger  friends a good poke
or burn here and there. 

Interesting idea Karl. Aside from bilateral carpal tunnel injury
which was bloodless until corrective surgery, my own experiences of
20+ years have been mild:

A tattooed dot next to the fingernail of middle finger, left hand -
wayward drill bit, fortunately a small one.

1/2 inch scar on left wrist from unwatched, very hot solder pick
still being held in right hand. No blood on this one due to
cauterizing effect of high temperature. :slight_smile:

The hot pick also sterilized the wound, reducing the concern for
infection such as you might have with an open injury involving bone!
Be careful to keep that thing clean while healing.

As for the carpal tunnel injuries, the best advise I can offer would
be get (my recommendation) a Benchmate vise and develop ways to
effectively hold your work without thoughtlessly defaulting to your

I fully endorse the Benchmate vise and ring holder and I derive a
valued physical and mental benefit from use of them but I have no
monetary or other involvement with GRS of Emporia, KS than that of
satisfied customer!

Pam Chott
Song of the Phoenix

I’ve got a good one to help this one get started. As I cut thru a
ring shank with a very thin saw blade, like 0/3 or something like
that, I failed to have the end of my thumb out of the way, and the
blade, on a downstroke, cut into my thumb so quick and easy that it
was nearly halfway down the thumbnail before stopping. At this point
I could hold my thumb up in front of me, and look thru it like a
rather large gunsight. It was a ‘V’ open at the top about a 1/4" gap.
Interestly, there was very little blood, and it didn’t hurt at all
until the next day. Also I closed my 3 middle fingers of my right
hand in the safe door, in the middle of Christmas season. The safe
door is estimated at around 400 lbs. The nails on all 3 fingers fell
off by the end of the day, and one finger was flattened so bad that
it was nomore than 1/2 its normal thickness for more than 2 weeks.

I embedded the graver about 1.5 inches into my hand when the shellac
cracked. Judy Shaw

very few tips Never bend over with very hot, or sharp things in your
hands, like soldering pics, tweezers, sharp knives

Never walk to somewhere with a sharp instrument in your hands,
always leave it on the workspot

Never get so emotionally pent up or caught up in a buisness venture
incident, that you lose contact with your surroundings, like when
driving a car, or walking, soldering, cutting, tending your child

Always place your hands firmly down and solid, and have a planned
escape route, or hold, that avoids cutting you when operating ALL
tools, electric, or hand, knives, chisels, burs, bandsaws,
chainsaws etc.

Always wear the goggles, even when you don’t feel like it, it could
be the last chance

Never inhale any shop gasses, or dusts, and don’t guess on it,
know what’s happening, and where fumigants?? are going, including
when they leave your shop!!, be considerate

Be extremely careful as a plan,dp

I have numerous tattoos from drill bits. Seem I can never remember
the drill will break through what ever you are drilling and drill
into my fingers. I had quite a bad burn on the inside of my left
elbow. I was in a hurry and reached around my electro melt furnace
and my arm touched it for a split second. Unfortunately it got

When I first started making jewelry I played the guitar regularly
and had some calluses built up on my left finger tips. I burned a
few holes in them trying to pick up hot balls of silver. I don’t do
that any more. I used to grind a lot of skin off my left hand fingers
while grinding wax with a large metal burr in my Foredom. The burr
catches and there goes some more skin. I now wear a glove on my left

How about the silver splinter you get in your fingers while grinding
sprues. Gloves take care of that problem now. Many times while
grinding stones for inlay I find my right index finger tip starting
to burn. The grinding wheel does not know skin from stone. I bet
there are a lot of you out there that while doing something your are
thinking, “I should not do this.” And sure enough you find out that
you should not have done it. Good Health to all Lee Epperson

We were developing the star awards:

Gold stars meant you did something "spot on"
Brown stars were the antithesis of Gold stars
Red stars were awarded for injuries.

I had the most red stars of any one in the place when I left that


When I first started learning how to make jewelry I did lost wax
casting. I didn’t have a jewelry work bench or any thing except for a
few basic tools, not even a bench pin. So I had my newly cast ring
held against the kitchen table while I was enthusiastically sawing
the sprue off the ring and suddenly the blade broke on the rapid down
stroke. It want through the middle of my index finger next to the
bone and there I sat with the saw in my hand and half blade through
my finger. Luckily, someone else was at home so they could unscrew
the saw and drive me to the hospital to have the blade removed and
new tetanus shots done. Although it looked horrific it didn’t hurt,
until they tried to remove it… Since then I have never
let my tetanus shots lapse.

Wiser now!


While rounding off a prong with a cup bur, I slipped and jammed the
bur into the end of my thumb. Some blood, but not too serious of an
injury. It healed over, but developed into a persistent sore knot
under the skin. I had the knot surgically removed after about a
year or so. I try to keep the burs on the prongs now!!

Dale Pavatte, Decherd, Tennessee

you guys ain’t seen nuttin yet. I was sawing some metal in my
earlier days during my apprenticeshipa piece of saw blade got stuck
inside my …left ring fingera few days later it began to throb
non-stop and grow thicker and wider and it got too large to bend.The
pain was beyond words. Nature gave up trying to fix it! I went to the
hospital and the attending doctor said …have you eaten lately? no
was my reply, good lay down we’re operating RIGHT NOW!..gangrene was
on the bone! and the doctor was almost ready to have the whole finger
amputated, yuk! six weeks later a piece of the saw blade worked
itself out of the nail bed. Injuries? shellac drippings, drilling
into the finger pads, graver gouging, sanding disk rubbing off the
finger prints, calluses where Nature didn’t plan
them…:>) nuttin much eh? Gerry! the (almost didn’t make it) Cyber Setter:>) LOL !

Helloooo Orchid, Just received another 9 stitches from a graver I
allowed to escape and while talking to Brian he suggested I start a "
most blood lost "

Way back in the early nineties when I was making jewelry just a
hobby I was working off of the edge of a small shelf in my laundry
room. My benc h pin was attached to the side of the shelf with a
c-clamp and the filings just fell on the floor were I swept up for
the trash later. well I was using a barrette file to flatten the
ends of a large gauge wire for soder ing this was one of the first
pieces that someone actually wanted me to make.

unfortunately as I was filing I dropped the file and tried to catch
it in my lap so I didn’t have to bend down to pick it up off of the
floor. At the time I was running a lot and doing martial arts so I
had quite powerf ul legs. I slapped my legs together and felt a
sharp pain. when I looked down I saw 3 inches of steel horizontally
sticking out of my left thigh about 6 inches above my knee. It seems
that I had driven it in there with my right leg… all the way to
the bone. the worst part was when I pulle d it out of my leg, the
serrations on the file sliding past the sinew and meat of my thigh
made a very loud sound exactly like a large wet zipper. The doctors
said that I was very lucky as I missed all of the large vess els and
nerves in my leg. All that I had to show was a small chip of bone
and silver dust in the muscle. I could not walk for over a month
and ha d to take two weeks off of work.

The amount of blood lost in this traumatic injury? A spot about the
size of a quarter around the hole in my blue jeans.

Jerry. PS I have the file framed over my 3 benchs and I still can’t
wear a jack et with a zipper 3D)

    A tattooed dot next to the fingernail of middle finger, left
hand - wayward drill bit, fortunately a small one. 

Wow, I have that exact same “tattoo. I wonder if this isn’t a
"jewelers spot”. Violin players have a discoloration that looks like
a bruise located on the lower jaw area on the left side from
supporting the violin while practicing hours commonly called a
"violin spot" I think. Also I have “mold cutters” scars. Two of them
one vertical and one horizontal, each two inches long (I forget how
many stitches) above the knee on my right leg. I pry a rubber mold
open as I make cuts using a can opener attatched to the edge of
table and once in a while the scalpel slips and I slash my leg open.
After doing that twice though I’ve become much more careful. Annette

Hello Karl and All: I think that this could be useful to some. Like
you, Karl most of all accidents are due to carelessness. The very
first accident I was witness to was in the early 1980’s at Paris
Junior College. A girl with long hair was at the buffing machine (you
know where this is going don’t you?) 3400 RPM buff grabs her hair and
after a skull slamming sound heard round the world and the quick
thinking of a guy next to her all that was heard was the
plat-plat-plat-plat of about 12 inches of hair and a one inch piece
of her scalp slowly coming to a stop against the buffer cabinet. She
was fine other than a nasty bruise on her forehead, but I’m not sure
if her hair ever grew back quite right in that spot. The next thing
was of course catching my hair on fire by breaking my container of
alcohol and boric acid onto my bench while my torch was lit. Leaned
on a girls bench one time to talk about what had happened at lunch on
"All My Children" and burned a hole in my wrist with her lit torch.
The person who replied about the saw blade reminds me about a guy in
trade school who was putting to much pressure on the blade (Guide the
blade, let the blade do the work) Snap goes the blade and straight
down through his thumb nail and out the other side still connected to
the saw frame. Oh how wonderful trade school was, so many memories.
Well on to mistakes in the real world of trade work. Had a circle
shaped burn scare on the inside of my left elbow from setting a
freshly soldered gold band on my steel block to cool and proceeding
with the next job that evidently required me to set my arm on it.
Splashed pickle in my right eye when tossing a ring in. Drilling
holes in my thumb because I’m in to much of a hurry to only drill
holes in the ring. Cutting deep into any finger and then super gluing
it closed so I can work without a soaked Band-Aid from getting my
hands wet 25 times an hour.

But how about the small mistakes? The ones that don’t hurt yet.
Being exposed to small traces of investment powder on a day to day
basis. Breathing small traces of solder fumes every day. Cyanide
plating solutions. Epoxy solvents for removing pearls and such. All
the little things that add up to possibly being very ill later in
life. My best advice to the newbe and the veteran jeweler alike is
pay attention to the small things. Michael R. Mathews Sr.
Victoria,Texas USA

The nails on all 3 fingers fell off by the end of the day, and one
finger was flattened so bad that it was nomore than 1/2 its normal
thickness for more than 2 weeks. Ed

I think I’m going to throw up! that’s what we call a natural
consequence. We "most likely’ knocking on the hardest wood
available…will never have that happen again… If there are some
torch stories out there …let’s hear them…! E Houston

The following stories are true and rather graphic.

Fall of 1973

While cutting a filigree panel in 14kt gold the saw blade snapped.
On the upstroke the blade entered my left thumb at the joint and
broke off. I could feel the metal in the joint when I tried to bend
my thumb.

My wife took me to the hospital and x-rays were in order. The
technician taped a paper clip to my thumb so that metal from the
blade would show up similar to the steel paper clip in the x-ray.

In surgery the doctor opened my thumb and probed for a minute and
said " As big as that thing is we should be able to find it!" He was
looking for the paper clip on the x-ray. I was watching the surgery
and explained the size of the blade and using the paper clip for
reference only.

He finally found the blade, removed it and gave me five stitches. No
loss of mobility, just another battle scar.

Ya’ll Wanna Hear A Torch Story? Summer of 2000

I turned the torch while picking up a piece of platinum wire while
welding a platinum ring. I didn’t realize that the flame would be
aimed at my left hand.

I received a third degree burn about the size of a small pencil
eraser. I treated it with burn cream and finished the job.

About three weeks later the area had grown to 20mm in diameter with
a height of 5mm. All of this from a small burn, which seemed minor at
the time.

After visiting with my physician, surgery was imminent. The surgery
only lasted 30 minutes, this was done on my day off to eliminate a
lost of time accident. The tissue was sent to a pathologist and the
verdict was malignant. I had about 15 stitches across the top of my
hand and now the word “malignant”. My hands have been my income for
the past 30+ years and the news was devastating.

I had to have surgery again to remove a marginal area to insure that
the cancer was removed. Now 45 minutes of surgery and another inch of
skin removed from my left hand. I left the hospital, was back at work
about an hour after surgery. I now have 27 stitches across the top of
my left hand. No restrictions, except that I can not lift anything
over 4 pounds with my left hand.

I came back to work and fabricated a platinum mounting for princess
diamonds. What we must do to keep our customers happy.

After talking with the oncologist, even a small burn from any hot
object can develop into a melanoma. So we must all be careful.

The positive side of the story…

My left hand after the cosmetic surgery looks like that of a 20 year
old, must I consider having the right one done?

Having more than 30 years at the bench, I am not necessarily
accident prone. The number of hours that you spend pursuing what is
to me a hobby, provides income and opens the door for accidents.

Be Safe while practicing our trade!

Regards To All,
Roger, Professional Jeweler

Hi Karl Your post on shop injuries brought to mind a story my gem
setting instructor told to impress upon us the need to pay
attention. He had been a setter for years and was pave setting some
diamonds, when in a moment of inattention, his graver slipped and
not only gouged his knuckle but shoved the stone into the joint of
his knuckle. Believe me it drove home the point (pardon the pun)
that gravers are sharp and without care, dangerous.

Brigid Ryder

Probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done (besides set myself on
fire, but now I turn my torch off after every solder) was to stab
myself with a file. I was filing a piece like crazy with my barette
needle file, and somehow it slipped and I jabbed it into my right
thigh, in that big artery, so it was bleeding like crazy. The file
was pretty new, so it went in a good inch! I went to one of those
"Doc-in-the-box’s" because I couldn’t get it to stop, and I couldn’t
remember when my last tetnus shot was. The doctor, who thought my
jewelry was one of his wife’s worst habits, just shook his head and
looked at his clipboard and said out loud, “
Hmmmm…female…35…caucasion…stabbed self with file…” and
just burst out laughing. No moral to this story. I’m sure everyone
on this list way more coordinatated than I am!!

Wendy Newman

1 Like

Most of my “mistakes” have happened outside the world of jewelry and
metal-work. Let’s just say that scalpels are very sharp and cut
through fingers like butter. I did make one mistake in shop. During
my jewelry course, about 3-fourths of the way through the semester.
I just finished soldering a piece, turned the torch off and set it
in the cradle. Then promptly grabbed the piece between thumb and
forefinger. Quickly decided not to continue holding it. Luckily it
must have cooled down enough that it didn’t burn.


        A tattooed dot next to the fingernail of middle finger,
left hand - wayward drill bit, fortunately a small one. 

I have one of these. Left index finger. Not from a drill bit. Poked
it with a crowquill loaded with india ink.


    you guys ain't seen nuttin yet. I 

Yeah, Gerry. I’ve seen a few too.

I also spent some time in the hospital some years back, that were
jewelry related. sort of. On a day on which I was leaving home for a
road trip to go to a bankruptcy sale of a manufacturer in Jew Jersey
(I lived, then, in Detroit), I’d managed to get accidentally bitten
on the foot by one of my rambunctious cats. just a couple leeetle
holes. No big thing. Washed it out, finished dressing, and hit the
road. Two days later, saw an E.R. in New Jersey, where the mostly
spanish speaking doc gave me the wrong antibiotic. I did, though,
manage to buy the neat equipment (a straight line engine turning
machine) that I’d gone there to get. Two days later, back in Detroit,
I unloaded my car, and got a ride to the E.R, at the hospital where
the docs knew me, from routine care of my diabetes. They took one
look at my by then football shaped purplish red foot, and admitted
me. It took three weeks of I.V. antibiotics to get the infection out
of the bone. Almost lost the foot.

And there have, of course, been all sorts of graver sticks and saw
blade cuts, as others in this thread have described. Most are no
biggie after a few rueful days of healing.

But the worst jewelry accidents I ever saw, fortunately, not
happening to me, were when I briefly worked for an upstate New York
silver jewelry manufacturer who used, among other things, punch
presses. One guy disabled the safety switches on his little one ton
air press to speed things up, and managed, a few weeks later, to trim
off the last quarter inch of both index fingers when the press
misfired. Ouch.

Even worse was a young man they’d hired just a few weeks earlier, to
be a polisher. A total newcomer to the field, learning just there on
the job. They polished silver using light cotton gloves, like photo
gloves, to keep fingerprints off the metal in the final polish
stages. This kid was buffing a solid (no open gap) forged oval
bangle bracelet. Final rouge polish, with about a 3 inch loose
muslin buff. buffing across the bracelet, not in the direction of
the metal, AND, he had his index finger going through the bracelet
to grip it. In other words, he was doing all sorts of things the
wrong and dangerous way, though the gloves, at least, were not his
idea (and a practice to which I’d expressed safety concerns about,
though they told me that was the way they did it, and not to worry).
Anyway, you can guess what happened. Between the direction of buffing
and the small buff, the bracelet caught on the buff. And with his
finger though the bracelet, plus the glove to further trap things,
the buff and caught bracelet pulled off the glove. With his middle
finger, the entire thing, still inside. It was torn too badly for
the local emergency room docs to sew back on, so if this kid ever
again wants to flip someone the bird, he’s got only one hand with
which he can do it. The other one can only flip someone a gap.

Far less serious, but almost as dramatic looking, at least at first,
was a fellow student when I was in graduate school. She was buffing
(and struggling with) a triangle of titanium sheet metal about 3
inches on a side, trying to give it a perfect polish all over. Now,
she was holding it correctly and buffing it correctly and all, but in
trying to buff the edges, managed to stab one point of the triangle
far enough into the buff that it caught. In fact, it caught it well
enough that it stuck in the buff for a full 180 degrees rotation, at
which point it came free, and flung back at her. She came into the
main studio room with this triangle of titanium stabbed into her
sternum, sticking out between her breasts, wondering what to do
next. Pain, I think, perhaps had not quite set in yet, as she was
quite calm seeming, but didn’t know if it would be OK to just pull it
back out. She was actually quite lucky, I think. the sternum is
just below the skin, so it couldn’t go too far, or do too much
damage. A bit to one side, or higher or lower, and it could have
been really nasty.

Peter Rowe