Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Shop injuries

Pain, you don’t know what pain is until you have a piece of metel in
the pupil of your eye!! It was the most excruciating thing I ever
felt. A small, almost microscopic piece of metal flew off a casting,
up under my glasses and imbedded in my eye. By the next day I
thought I was going to die. My eye…my whole head felt like it was
going to burst. My wife drove me to a Baltimore university where
they took a look at me and said, 'Oh, we can fix you right up!" And
they did,…put my chin on a magnifier, and with a pin device,
plucked the little sucker right out. I felt almost instant
relief…but it took a week for the headache to go away. Wear your
goggles!!! Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where
simple elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

I read my Orchid messages in the early morning before I go to work
as a bench jeweler. I, like many, many of you out there go to work
in a place that has no worker Comp. or any other kind of Insurance to
cover any potential injuries. Reading all of these blood loss messages
makes me feel like a fool for staying with it. I stay with it
because I love it, and I’m good at it. And as you all know, it’s a
major challenge to learn all of the things we have to know. I was
present when a co-worker broke her thumb completely backwards while
polishing a large figaro chain. She is mamed for life. All our
employer who had no insurance had to do, is go out of business and
open under another name. She is completely out of luck. I talked
with the Workers Comp. office and they tell me that the jewelry
industry is one of the worse offenders when it comes to taking care
of their employee’s. So please, lets not joke about our injuries.
This is not a laughing matter.


Michael, Karl and all, To quote Keanue Reeves, “whoa”. I have been
very lucky over the years, not to have sustained any major damage
during my years at the bench or teaching. I was in a bad fire which
prompted me to pursue metalsmithing, but that is another story.

I did witness one potential problem (kept my cool), and a student
that tried to burn my hand.

While teaching at an adult ed with 12 newbies and no TA, one of my
students managed to ignite a Prestolite torch with no tip. A 3 foot
flame shot out. She panicked and began waving it around, scaring the
other students to death. I quietly asked her to turn off the torch,
lay it down on the table step back. I was standing across the room
when it happened.

The other was when a student had just finished soldering their first
band ring and was holding it for me to see in their tweezers. Of
course I immediately held my hand out, where she promptly dropped
the ring in my hand. Oh…I see…we didn’t quench it yet. All
just part of the job.

Adult Ed, which can be a great place to take your first jewelry
class, is often one of the worst places to learn. The place I
taught was a multi-functional room for woodworking, jewelry, stained
glass and print making. Located in the basement, there was no
ventilation, and after three years of teaching there, I got tired of
pulling out slivers of glass in my hand, igniting errant sawdust and
breathing pickle and soldering fumes.

Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph: 781/891-3854
Fx: 781/891-3857
email: @Karen_Christians

My two personal favorites are when the saw blades break and go into
your finger and you have to pull them out against the teeth and when
you miss with the cup burs and you carve out little balls of flesh.
But then I thought those kinds of things were what made us jewelers
so other than an occasional shriek of pain who cares?

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers

Ah, the jewelers’ tattoo. In my case, it’s a set of parallel lines,
rather like a bar code, on my middle finger, where the saw blade has
slipped and silver dust has gotten in the wound. Really, it’s
amazing we don’t get injured more than we do. After all, everything
we work with is either hot or sharp, or both.

Janet Kofoed

I had a scalpel blade break while cutting a mold the broken end went
Into my thumb, hit a nerve and I had no feeling in the thumb for
about 5 months, Sure made cutting molds hard , I now use battery
charger clamps to hold them apart rather than prying them apart with
my left thumb and forefinger. Ken Ferrell

I used to cut a bunch of steel dies for use with the RT system. The
way the saw part works is quite stable when the sawblade is in place
but once the blade broke on the downstroke and let the frame with
about 2 inches of broken blade in the top part swing sideways
towards my hand holding down the steel die. Still on the
downstroke, the saw blade imbedded about a quarter of an inch into
the middle of my thumbnail. I tried to pull it out but it was stuck,
had to get out the pliers to pull it out. Hydrogen peroxide and
antibiotic ointment took care of it, although it did throb for a
while. Now whenever I use the RT system, I wear a rubber thumb

Donna in VA

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 do inlay and intarsia on a water cooled, flat lap machine. I’ve
ground the ends of my fingers quite severely without realizing I was
being injured until I saw the brown streak on the lap. The water
softens the skin and cools so there is no sense of burning or
abrasion. I’ve tried the rubber finger protectors from Stuller but
found they are awkward for small pieces. The best thing I’ve found
for protect while still being able to grip the work is coating the
ends of my index finger and thumb with liquid bandage. I keep a
bottle by my lapidary machine as it needs to be reapplied often and
also handy for the occasional abrasion…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Having had my share of cuts, burns, and drill holes, I keep 2
unconventional first aide substances in my shop. The first I learned
from an old jeweler back in '74 or '75; turpentine. Like oil of
wintergreen it is used in liniments, and acts as a counter irritant.
When put on a cut where some flesh has been removed, as from a saw
blade or drill hole, it stops that throbbing pain that develops
later. There is no sting and it seems to act as a disinfectant as

The other magic elixir is DMSO for bruises and burns. This one I
learned from both my horse vet and my mom. Mom spilled boiling water
on her hand back in the 80’s, and as an experiment put DMSO on half
the burn, then iced both sides. The side without the DMSO blistered
and scarred, the side with DMSO did neither. You know how sometimes,
when you’re working in the sink, you brush against the nozzle of the
steamer you’ve just been using with the soft flesh on the underside
of your forearm? DMSO stops the burn from developing if you get it
on soon enough. My vet uses it for contusions on horses and I use it
when I pinch a bit of flesh in the plier jaws, or get my foot
stepped on. It stops bruises and blood blisters in their tracks. The
spirits of turpentine I used to get in the drug store, now the clerk
sends me to the paint department, telling me it’s the same stuff in
all the containers.

I get DMSO in roll-on containers from feed stores that sell
veterinary supplies. It is labelled as an industrial solvent.
Roll-on solvent? The trick to DMSO is that it will carry what is on
your skin into your bloodstream, so don’t put it on over bug

Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. This is not
medical advice. Do not try this at home. Do not play with sharp
toys. Stay in bed. Do not leave your room or run with scissors.

Spike Cornelius
Portland, Or.
RC ArtMetal

Ouch. I guess we all have horror stories so here’s mine. DON’T TRY
THIS IN YOUR WORKSHOP! Christmas eve many, many years ago. My last
custom order before I go away for the holiday. I am putting an
anti-oxidation mixture of boric acid and ethyl alcohol onto my piece
by dipping in the mixture and lighting it on fire with my torch to
evaporate the alcohol. The jar of alcohol mix is in my bench pan.
(what’s wrong with this picture?)While moving the piece away from the
torch, a lighted drop of the mix drips from the part and lands in the
jar of alcohol lighting it on fire. I quickly grabbed the lid and
tried to snuff out the flames. This jerky movement coupled with a
knee jerk reaction to jump back caused the alcohol mix to splash out
of the jar onto my hands. By the time I put my hands out there were
2nd degree burns all over them. Hands bandaged all over I returned
to the shop to finish the order.

Hello All: Another thing that I had forgotten about was this girl in
trade school who was learning bright cutting. She was pushing so hard
on her graver and had her face so close to her work that when she
slipped she punched herself so hard that she hit the floor. We
counted to 10 and named her fist the champ. Michael R. Mathews Sr.
Victoria,Texas USA

Speaking of a ‘jeweler’s spot’ and ‘tattoos’ – does anyone have a
dot on their right wrist of uncertain origin? What is this from?
I’ve heard many jewelers have it.

Other than certain brain damage from sniffing epoxy an acrylic fumes
(oh, and probably the time I was standing over a bath of
hydrochloric acid without a mask and suddenly didn’t know where I
was), I had eight stitches in my my finger. I was at school cutting
large block of hard wax with an Exacto knife when it slipped into
the knuckle of my left hand. It was midnight, and I was the only
person in the studio. I figured the guard at the desk would help me
out. He said, “well, I certainly wouldn’t go to the hospital – that
will cost you money.” I think I would have a pretty funny looking
finger if I had listened to him.


I have had a few small injuries over 30 years because I am so
paranoid of what might happen. Most injuries occur when I am tired
and push myself too hard to go on obsessively, or when I am trying to
force something. I usually have a place for everything when I am
casting with goggles on, and I was lazy and put a flask to cool where
my flux usually is, Barely started to touch the flask and
fortunately really didn’t even get a burn, the message traveled
quickly to my brain that something was wrong. I was very lucky. And I
have cast 8 to 12 flasks every week for 12 years. I have been
"sandblasted" with a spray of moltent metal while casting when the
flask blew out. 250 grams of metal. No burns, more like abrasion. I
have learned over the years that when it crosses my mind what could
go wrong, about 1 or 2 seconds later, what I thought could happen
does. So now I change direction, pressure, ect. when body parts are
in the way. That is the warning, and I can pay attention, or pay the
price of ignoring the message. 12 years of mold cutting (over 2000)
with no glove, a few small cuts. Again due to fear and paranoia I am
so aware to keep body parts not in the direction of where I am
cutting. It is usually when I lose my grip on the mold and it closes
rapidly with a blade inside that is most dangerous and probable to
get cut. Surgical scalpel will always win. Saw blade through
fingernail, burns, bench fires, lapidary saw cuts, grind away finger
pads till they bleed on dia laps. Lost alot of tee shirts to sparex
splash even when I am most careful. Using tools is like a meditation,
requires constant focus and you will know by your injuries how well
you pay attention. My work will show those same results regardless of
whether I get injured or not. Skill, control, and awareness is it’s own reward.

Ok, I had to add one of my best injury stories. While working at my
first jewelry mfg. job I moved up quite rapidly. Within two and a
half years they offered to teach me setting. I was being taught in a
class by the top model maker with three new employees. we were about
a week into learning when the accident occurred. We had new
flexshafts and I was under my setting it up. the foot pedal rheostat
was acting up so I had directly plugged the motor cord into the
socket. Upon hearing it take off I stood up from under the bench.
Unfortunately I had removed the handpiece from the shaft also. As
you can probably guess, the spinning end caught on my cowlick and
began to wind back towards my neck. it stopped within a second, but
what a second. It really didn’t hurt, but the look of shock from the
other students and the teacher leaping from his bench did worry me.
Needless to say, instant half a mohawk, two inches wide and bare as
the proverbial bottom. Luckily it did grow back fine after a few
months, though its seems a bit curlier on that side.

Andy Goodell
Alison Gem Corp.

During my early days at school, before specialising in science
subjects, I had a couple of years doing a broader variety of stuff,
including woodwork. Now, the science stuff was great, and led on to
further studies and a fun career, and I’m grateful to my early
instructors and mentors. But there is one particular “life lesson"
that I brought away from school with me, and which has paid off
again and again. In the woodwork classes we were not only taught
how to use the individual tools safely, but we also had it drummed
into our heads that “You never use a sharp tool towards any part of
your body”. Obvious, of course, but by having it specifically
spelled out it became a rule to apply to all tools, not just those
in the wood shop. And that’s what I still do now, especially on
"awkward” jobs.

So Karl, you have my sympathy, and best wishes for a speedy recovery
and all that, and I hope that you will be able to change your work
methods a bit so that when disaster strikes again it won’t do any
harm. There’s a safe way to do every job, without exception. –

Kevin (NW England, UK)

Shop Injuries???

How many sawblades, broken drill bits, stone fragments and various
chemical exposures? Let alone what ever those that you come into
vaporous contact thru repair? Lets not talk shop injury, how about
shop lifetime?

Wasn’t it Newton that said for every reaction there is an opposite?
As I suffer from liver cancer and hands so painful it takes much of
the things I once called pleasure from my life! No longer can I give
a lasting caress as the pain in my hands results in my attention
being directed to that… here I am at 49 full of Ideas and life’s
ambitions only to have them stolen from me by my lack of knowledge
as to what these things could do to me! My drive is like being stuck
in the mud, No energy, The only positivity is basically self
generated and a stubborn will to survive… but what to do now?
Sometimes I feel like there is no use but then when I am put on a
pedestal and my ability speaks for itself it is about the only thing
that keeps me going… They means to this end is that you must!
research all avenues of anything that causes a reaction so you might
have a chance to become all you can be! Look Around you… How many
old jewelers do you see? Most are dead or gave it up before it got
them! Tiffany do his own work??? Nope, he hired people to kill them
selves for his glorification just like most great people 'NO"?

Ringman John Henry… ""they said I’d be dead by 2000…thank God
for herbal medicine!

Hello Orchidland,

Spike’s description of turpentine (Yup, my dad always used in his
wood shop) and DMSO, made me remember my favorite burn remedy - Aloe
vera. I keep a plant growing in my kitchen. If I get burned, I
snap off the tip of a stem (they don’t really have “leaves”) and
squeeze the juice onto the injury. Stops the pain and seems to aid
in healing without a scar.

My story: During his younger years as a pilot in the AF, my husband
was attending a Friday happy hour. He - being inebriated - showed
everyone how he could put out the burning candle in a glass globe by
placing his hand on the globe’s opening and cutting off the oxygen.
Duh. He had a huge blister on the palm of his hand that would
prevent him from flying. His commander would be livid.

When we got home, I split an Aloe stem and placed it on blister,
then bandaged it in place. Long story short. By Monday, the
blister was healed enough that he could wear his flight gloves and
use his hand without pain.

Wonder what else in the manner of home remedies will surface from
this group?

Judy in Kansas, where today it’s almost like summer again, but
tomorrow is a different season.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

A similar thing happened to me, although with less serious results.
I lost my grip on a ring I was sanding with a flexshaft and it was
tossed into the floor. I took my foot off the pedal and immediately
bent down to pick the ring up…at which point my long hair (which
was not tied back) caught in the still-spinning end of the handpiece.
Because the thing wasn’t spinning very fast anymore, it didn’t rip
the lock of my hair out…but in about one second’s time it wound it
up into a giant dreadlock! It stuck straight out sideways from my
head and looked VERY funny, and my teacher didn’t know whether to be
horrified or to laugh. My main concern was that I had a business trip
the next day, and I didn’t want to have to go to the meeting with a
dreadlock…I joked with my teacher that I’d have to use the
flexshaft to dread up the rest of my hair, just to make it look
intentional! I did end up being able to get the tangle out that
night, though, after a lot of patient effort. Needless to say, I have
NEVER gone to the studio without putting my hair up since then…

After 30 years at the bench the injuries are too numerous to
mention. Last year I went to a palm reader that a friend of mine was
hosting a party for. He took one look at my hands and said " what
did you do fall into a meat grinder?" enough said. Well here a a
couple of the best stories.

Broken saw blade: everyone has stuck a broken blade in their hand or
fingers, ever sat on one? When I was first in the business I used a
cloth covered chair. A broken blade managed to fall on the chair
seat at a vertical angle. I sat down (flopped down) in the chair and
the blade inserted itself a inch or so into my derri�re, teeth
pointed back. Going in wasn’t too bad pulling it out with a set of
hemostats combined with the bleeding was a site NOT to behold.

Wire work: I was pinning the hinges on a heavy gold Rolex band with
a 12 inch piece of wire I had just pulled to size. Nice tight fit
and workhardened. The point still on the wire from pulling the draw.
I was having trouble getting the wire through the hinge joint and
all of a sudden it went through. The hinge and my index finger,
pinning me to the heavy gold watch band. I couldn’t let go of the
wire or the weight of the watch band would pull on it. I had to have
my apprentice come over and cut me free, snickering the whole time.
Very embarrassing and semi-painfull.

Eye damage: Again when I was just starting out (I have learned a lot
since then) I was trying to pick a piece of solder off a joint where
I had stick fed more than I needed. I got the solder off by heating
it to just molten and then picking it off with the solder pick. It
popped off and into the center of my left eye. I immediately lost
60% of my vision and my heart almost stopped. I of course went to
the doctor and he treated it so it wouldn’t get infected and made
sure there was no debris in my eye. Oh yes, he also gave me a very
cool eye patch to wear for 48 hours and reassured me that it would
heal and my vision would return to normal. What he didn’t tell me
was haw painful it would be when the scab of the burn peeled up 24
hours later. I blinked my eye and proceeded to leave huge gouges in
the wooden walls. Still there today but now covered with sheet rock.

All painful and necessary lessons, well learned. Frank Goss Now
where do you suppose this burn came from???

 Hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment took care of it,
although it did throb for a while. 

This is absolutely the best advice (aside from an ER trip). Though I
will say I’ve heard that Hydrogen Peroxide can actually slow the
healing process, but it’s certainly better than nothing at all.
Letting the wound bleed a little will help to clean out any
contaminants as well. Another good product for cleaning wounds is
Betadine. It’s an iodine solution, but unlike iodine it doesn’t
sting. Keeping a topical antibiotic on the wound will keep it from
getting infected. As someone who has had a pointy-bit accident once
nearly every year since I was 14 (I figure it’s my yearly safety
reminder :)) I can definitely attest to the effectiveness of these
products. I think I’m caught up on my next two yearly lessons,
having just gotten over a chisel slipping point first into my left
hand and just the other day getting my right hand sliced while
moving an old trunk. No stiches on either, though.