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