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Stress on my fingers

I am a fairly new, self-taught designer. I have only a dremel tool
to assist me with the polishing and grinding work, and I wind up
doing a lot of it by hand because of the intricate nature of most of
my designs.

My problem is stress on my fingers! During the first several months
of my work, I developed knots on the first joints of both index
fingers due to the pressure I was putting on them by holding my work
while I work. Now my thumbs are beginning to pop and hurt. I had no
arthritis that I know of before I started, but my hands are really
starting to be a concern. I have a bench pin, but I am awkward with
it and usually don’t use it much.

Is this a common problem? What am I doing wrong?


J.S. Ellington

Hi Janie, Besides that you may have been prone to arthritis before
you started with this work, I think that you have to find tools to
support you while working. There are many supporting tools on the
marked. You mentioned that you have a bench-pin. You should use this
very functional tool as a support to rest your work on or against
while working. This relief’s most of the stress in your hands. Also
it is very important to give your hands enough rest between the job.
What you also can try is to put a cooling anti-inflammation muscle
cream after work. this relief’s the inflammation in your muscles
directly after work. Take care, Jan-Peter

Janie (and anyone else who cares) I had the same problem early on,
so I did some experimenting and research and came up with a lot of
good ideas!

My favorite it to hold small items in a wooden or plastic ring vise,
they’re around $5-10 and last a while. I prefer wood but they do have
a tendency to break with too much tightening, the plastic ones are
good too, but I just don’t have one to use =)

Next up is masking tape, YMMV, but depending on the work and item, a
masking tape handle can be rigged up for a good secure hold. I do
this a LOT for buffing, since the piece will rip off the tape instead
of ripping out of my fingers (even with a good break-away grip)

For light duty jobs I’ve also had good success attaching my work to
a doping stick with the doping wax made for lapidary work. Basically
same idea as Jett-set but cheaper and messier.

Also, this last one may be hard to explain but… Use dowels with
concave depressions carved in the ends the press your work into the V
on your bench pin.

|                               |
|             /\                |
|           /O \               |
|         / |---| \           |
|       /   |     |  \         |
|     /     |     |    \       |
|   /       |     |      \     |
| /         |     |        \   |

… if that helps… then you can use your body or other hand to
hold the dowel in tight, and work the piece like that.

Anyways, those are a few ideas I’ve come up with and found to be
very useful. Good luck

-Doug Harroun
Albuquerque, NM

I have a bench pin, but I am awkward with it and usually don’t use
it much. You already know one answer don’t you? There are hand held
devices to hold what you’re work piece. The oldest and simplest one
is a wooden ring holder. This is two prices of wood that are hinged
in the middle. The metal goes in one end and a wedge is put into the
other. Check out a jewelry catalog such as Rio for pictures. It might
also benefit your hands if you put handles on your files. Marilyn Smith

Jane, first; are you doing this heavy dremel work right on a dust
collector exaust,you must have that first.

get rid of the dremel and get a foredom flexible shaft,( they can
sometimes found used in general merchandise want ads, or maybe ebay,
under tools, jeweler tools, etc. they have a few different models to
suit from high speed to high torque, depending on what you do , you
said intricate designs,wax? grinding silver?, grinding stone?, or
polishing things?

i would say use the bench pin, it helps you, make the necessary
grooves that you need in it to hold your work. Beats holding in the
air for rough grind work or delicate carving. Get a resting place for
your carving hand or arm.

can i see the work?

Perhaps you’re holding on too tight. The Dremel is a third class
tool. Meaning there are two better choice ahead of the Dremel.
Unfortunately, those other two are relatively expensive in
comparison. You also mentioned you don’t use your bench pin much.
Start using better work practices. The two in combo are not helping
your hands. For you and others when you can, buy better tools. The
best may last a lifetime and saves wear and tear on the body. They
will make your life as a jeweler so much easier.

First of all exercise and stretch your hands before working. ALWAYS!
do this or your problem will worsen. This kind of injury is called
=A8repetitive strain injury=A8 of course. There=B4s a book I recomend =
it has helped me a lot it is called =A8conquering carpal tunnel
syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries=A8 by Sharon J. Buttler.
I wish I had found it before I got to the point I could not move my
hands and had to wear a cast for three weeks. Another thing I
recomend you get is a flex shaft it will help a lot. For example when
ploishing hold it on a bench vise, this way you will only hold the
piece you are polishing not the whole thing. stretch your hands every
once in a while lo release the strain on your tendons. If it hurts
too much use a muscle antiinflamatory gel, this has worket better for
me than capsules or other stuff.Please take care of your hands !
Julieta Odio - corporalia metalsmith - designer

Hi Janie, Several years ago I had a similar problem, I was holding
very tiny leaves I had cut out and filing, sanding the edges. My
thumb and index finger would cramp and I would have a problem
straightening out my fingers. My thumbs developed tendonites (sp?)
to the point that I thought I would have to give up jewelry making.
the Dr. recommended a wrist brace which I found too confining and
not very helpful. one day in Walmart I noticed the wrist bands made
for tennis players. they are made of a black foam material, wrap
around the wrist and the thumb. They close with a velcro fastener.
I think the black foam retains the body heat, anyway after wearing
these for a couple of weeks my thumbs were completely healed. I
don’t know if this would help your fingers or not, but you might try
some kind of finger wrap. I eventually solved the problem by
upping the price of the vine designs I was making to the point that
I don’t mind making one when I get an order.


Are you holding on to your work like it was a life jacket in the
middle of the ocean? It could be that you are holding the work too
tight or the tool or both.

When I first started in my mind I was unconsciously acting like all
the metals I worked with were hardened steel :smiley: Needless to say I
attached my work with a very heavy hand. In doing so a chain reaction
occurred as I also noticed the tension and stress increased in my
hands, arms, and shoulders.

It could be that simple. If that’s the case you could try to, when
you life the tool away from your piece, take note of any tension
breath and relax before take tool to metal.

Hmmm if you notice the pain after you finish then you may be so
focused that you aren’t aware of the pain while working. Been there
done that.

Have 3 cents, that’s 2 if I gave it all I’d have no “cents” at all.

Hope it helps,

Janie, You might try using a ring clamp, (can be used to hold other
than rings), or a hand vise to hold your work. Holding small parts
with your hand puts a lot of strain on the fingers. Holding your work
with some type of clamp should relieve some of the strain. I hope
that this helps. Joel

Joel Schwalb

Janie, Try to use ring clamps, hand vises, pin vises, Benchmate vises
or any other holding tools whenever possible. It’s much easier to
hold a larger tool than to clutch tiny pieces. Concentrate on not
hyperextending your thumb backwards. Try to keep your fingers and
thumb curved when holding items instead of flattening them out
whenever possible. You’ll reduce cramping and spasms. Take frequent
breaks and flex and shake your hands often. Drink a lot of water. Use
padded rests where possible to support elbows, heels of hands, etc.

Try not to grip too hard. Easy to say, but hard to do. Do not try
to push through the pain. The pain is an indicator telling you to
back off and rest. If you continue to push through, you might really
do yourself harm - nerve damage, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome,
osteoarthritis, other repetitive activity injuries, etc.

It’s very inconvenient and costly, but I limit the number of hours
on the bench because longterm health is much more important than
short term profit. I limit myself to no more than 50 hours a week and
never more than 10 hours in a day. If I work 10 hours one day, I try
to work shorter hours the next day. When I was younger, I used to
work 70 to 80-hour weeks, but I’m paying for it now with
osteoarthritis in my neck and shoulders and cramping in my left hand.

Treasure your health. Donna Shimazu

Hi Janie, I use a pair of vice grips for holding small pieces. I
ground down the serations on the vice grips and glued on rubber
strips with contact cement. The pressure used to hold the work can
be very easily controlled. I use the vice grips when I file, grind
and polish small pieces. A hardware store like Home Depot carry a
great selection of vice grips. Your Orchid Friend
Lee Epperson

This was the first time I had posted a question on Ganoksin. I was
amazed at the wonderful suggestions. Every reply I got was a big
help. I bought the book by Sharon Butler that Julieta Odio
recommended and I am very, very pleased with it. It is great for
other occupational problems (I am a pharmacist) and I think it will
save me some trips to the chiropractor.

Thanks everyone

Janie Sue Ellington (I go by Sue)