Strange safety lesson

G’day people,

Among other roles I have played in my interesting life, I have been
a school shop teacher from kindergarten right up to university.
Here’s something I saw recently. I just have to share the story
because it is so strange and crazy - not specifically a jewelry
thing but that’s not the point of the story. Weirdest safety lesson
I’ve ever seen.

I was looking at some woodworking instructional videos and happened
upon one dealing with turning objects on a lathe. The first step in
the process is usually taking the square or lumpy piece of stock and
"roughing it down" to a circular shape before working it to its
desired final shape. I won’t go into all the details as they are
irrelevant to most jewellers.

There are basically two categories of turning tools, gouges and
scrapers and the object of this particular lesson was to show why
one should NEVER, EVER use a gouge for this particular operation.
Aside from being likely to damage the material, it is also very
dangerous to the worker. The instructor was quite articulate.
Without turning on the lathe, he rotated the workpiece by hand in
ultra slow motion, held a gouge to the work, explained the dynamics
of the way the workpiece would be damaged and showed how the shape
of the gouge in contact with the spinning work caused it to grab and
twist out of control inevitably. I was impressed by his clarity and
the way he broke down the motions and forces at play into
step-by-step bits so a beginner would come away with a clear
understanding rather than just a rule to memorize. All the way
through the demo the instructor repeated how extremely dangerous it
was to use a gouge in that manner. “Don’t try this at home” etc etc.
I lost count of the number of times he made this point.

Having made the lesson clear as clear could be, he then proceeded to
a real-life, real-time demonstration of what he had just been
discussing. With a good size square blank of wood mounted in the
lathe he turned on the machine and set about roughing it down - with

As they say on Facebook, “WTF”??? I watched in horror.

In less time than it takes to tell, after a very few seconds of
trying to control the bucking, chattering tool, there was a great
BANG. A jagged chunk of the workpiece went flying out of the
picture, the gouge spun and twisted in some elaborate pirouette,
much to fast to see, and the next thing that appeared on the screen
was the man’s hand, gashed quite deeply across the back of hand and
thumb, bleeding profusely while he held a rag to it, trying to
staunch the flow, and, without a trace of embarrassment in his
voice, he continued explaining that’s why you should never use a
gouge for this job etc etc and then he excused himself so he could
get some proper bandages or stitches. End of story. His injury,
although fairly spectacular, was not nearly as bad as it might have
been. He got off easy, in my opinion.

But I ask you… ?

If teaching a class in gun safety - would you tell your students
that it is dangerous to point a loaded gun at your own head, and
then demonstrate the truth of that lesson? If teaching driving,
would you tell your students how dangerous it is to drive drunk and
then prove it by downing 4 or 5 boilermakers before going out for a

I just needed to get this idiotic story out of my head.

Thanks for listening,
Marty in Victoria, another day safely survived

I lost count of the number of times he made this point. 


I don’t claim to be an expert woodturner but for all the roughing
down I ever did on the wood lathe I used a roughing gouge. Never had
any problems. Maybe I was just lucky that I didn’t get hurt while
using the right tool for the job.

Scrapers are for finish work.


Oh my god, why would he do that? I saw a kid in shop class in high
school try to stop a spinning cutter in a Mill with his finger with a
very similar result.

Maybe I was just lucky that I didn't get hurt while using theright
tool for the job. 

Yep, if you’re going to take a class or try to learn from somebody
make sure they know what they are doing first. I was in a school a
year or so ago and this guy was sitting at a lathe with ahuge square
mounted on it, trying to scrape it round - like an 18" square. Hours
and hours of work just to knock the corners off.

Then, on the other hand, I remember many years ago just happening on
a TV thing that had a master turner demonstrating. Nobody said he
was a master you could just tell he knew just exactly everything,
like he was a turner in a factory for years. He’d get a gouge on a
table leg and just push and twist andthere was a free-floating ring
in one of the ogees. Ba-ding bap, done. Choose your mentors


NEVER, EVER use a gouge for (roughing) 

Are you sure you don’t have this backward? I was taught to use a
gouge, and everyone I’ve ever watched used a gouge for roughing.
That’s probably why they call it a “roughing gouge.”

As for the “bucking, chattering tool”, didn’t his lathe have a tool

Al Balmer

Been since high school (50th reunion this year), but that is how
remember it too! I was afraid to say anything, way too many holes in
my memory! Thomas III

Are you sure you don't have this backward? I was taught to use a
gouge, and everyone I've ever watched used a gouge for roughing.
That's probably why they call it a "roughing gouge." As for the
"bucking, chattering tool", didn't his lathe have a tool rest? 

I’m reporting what he said, not what I personally think is the right
way. 's funny, whenever there is some kind of hard rule laid down I
probably forget it within 5 minutes - UNLESS I actually understand
WHY it works and HOW it works. That way I can actually see what I
need to do. For example “Always pour acid into water, not water into
acid” That’s something I don’t keep memorized as a “rule”, but since
I understand the why of it I can re-generate the correct way to do
it every time. I haven’t bothered to remember the site where I found
that odd turning lesson. I just remember my astonishment that he had
constructed this odd procedure which I could SEE was all wrong. He
had had evolved this utterly reasonable-sounding, articulate
explanation which mostly consisted of admonitions about what’s wrong
and never a moment spent on showing it done right and then the grand
finale - the actual live, real-time, right before your very eyes,
industrial accident. Craziest thing I’ve ever seen.

Yes he had a tool rest - didn’t matter. It couldn’t help because he
was bound and determined to make sure he was showing the world how
to do everything wrong.


Choose your mentors carefully. 

How true John.

Youtube has many great jewellery videos, but sadly there are too
many self professed “masters” who are just morons.

Saw one the other day where a lady demonstrated a flexi. Bent it way
past 90 degrees and turned it on. Had she read the manual? NO.

Also in another video a bezel cup was soldered to a ring. The
professor his apron said so melted solder on the bezel cap and the
put the ring in a third hand and put the bezel cup on top of the ring
and heated till it soldered. Of course it moved around and he used a
pick to put it back in place.

Then demonstrated how NOT to use a bezel rocker.

I teach teenagers to make these rings. Use solder paste, easy
solder, put on filed flat part of ring shank place shank on bezel cup
and solder. No drama, no movement. Just a quick easy solder.

If you are going to spend money on a class look at the teachers
work, under a loupe.

I have seen gem setting teachers whose work is so bad, bezels not
down, claws not rounded and down etc. and they want $300 of your
hard earned for a weekend course. They make a few grand and you learn
to make sh*t.

Newbies check the Orchid archives first or the likes of the Society
of American Silversmiths. Jeffery and others have put together a great
resource and it is free. And if you still need answers just post


whenever there is some kind of hard rule laid down I probably
forget it within 5 minutes - UNLESS I actually understand WHY it
works and HOW it works. 

Me, too. I never try to memorize anything I can reconstruct or
figure out. If you truly understand something, there’s no need to

Al Balmer

Aren’t you merely memorizing through your hands and puzzling
abilities? The next time you come across a situation like that, won’t
you have the first time stored in your memory banks to access? As
people progress up, sideways and around a learning curve, those
memories are invaluable.