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Teaching and safety



with all the paper work needed these days is there a pro forma test
for high school jewellery students to cover wh&s, oh&s etc.

When I was learning it was simple, this is sharp don’t cut your
self, this is hot, this is poison etc.

We were expected to have enough common sense to work it out from

When we were shown how to do something we were shown the safe way to
do it.

A few horror stories thrown in for good measure got us to pay
attention and work safely.

Like tie up long hair before you use a buff, don’t polish expandable
watch bands on a buff if you want to keep all your fingers.

We are moving up in metal thickness and hence a more powerful torch.
Always fun to light these up the first time.

Scares the heck out of them. But they get used to it.

What is the safest pickle alum or citric acid look good.

Building the students’ bench tomorrow it will be in a professional
wood working shop.

Just starting with a basic bench that the students will modify. Then
we will build a professional bench.

Have a shipping container of wood to play with. The wood working
teacher was worried about my students in the work shop. Guaranteed
him I hand pick who works in silver, it is a privilege not a right.
That rules out 90% of students. I only have 2 per class for 2 hours
in one stretch.

When we do bead jewellery every idiot and his dog is welcome. If
threading beads on tiger tail is a hazard we have an institution for
you LOL. Note some of these students can’t even crimp the ends of the
tiger tail.

I will train the silver smith students with the same care I used in
training my daughter.

Only problem is my budget is only $500, so that will go on
materials. I will use my old tools that I have upgraded from. The deal
is the students make 2 pieces the school gets one to sell the student
keeps the other. Of course the school gets the best quality piece,
keeps the little darlings focussed.

Today they made embossed rings, love hearts, so cute you want to
puke. A big hit with teenage girls.

My father (a production manager) always told me if you want
something done well and quickly get a woman to do the job. That is why
so many production lines have women on them, not sexist they simply do
a better job. Sorry guys. Yep the girls talk sht, aka gossip, but
they sure do a good job. This is why my first students are girls,
loud music talking sh
t but work precisely and carefully.

The aim of this is for the students, who have 3 more years of
schooling to leave with the skills to run their own business. They
can actually do jewellery for their final school exams. My kids will

The school will run a market stall once a month in the local

Any comments much appreciated.


Hi Richard,

Well sometimes it’s a sign of the times, and sometimes it’s due to a

With TAFE in Australia, OH&S has gone into over drive, and the event
that caused it was not jewellery related.

The problem stemmed from a tradegic incident that happened in a a
farriers course. A young girl was kicked in the head by a horse, and
was killed instantly. The horse was an ex-race horse, and the safety
checks just weren’t there. TAFE naturally went into over drive.

Casting was not performed at TAFE for some time because of this,
although they now have a nice Yasui, and I believe are happily
casting again :wink:

It’s not endemic just to schools, in recent history, people ignoring
council safety signs and diving into shallow rock pools. The council
losing the court case, and having to pay for the individuals

I agree with you the world is a softer place.

Kindest regards Charles


Always expect (even women) to not heed your safety instructions.
Stories are one thing, visual pictures of post disaster injuries are

I taught a beginning jewelry class. All Adults. When i did the
section on using a torch and soldering, two women listened
supposedly, and totally ignored everything I said about safety. We
were using butane torches since the shop didn’t have enough acetylene
torches nor were they equipped with hoses that were ancient and
cracked. The tanks were not secured either.

So I had them using small hand butane torches.

I demoed the proper way of loading the butane. They were to load it
with the torch held downward, and held low. This would allow any
escaping gas to fall naturally towards the floor. I imparted strongly
that when you ignite it, to point it at something on your bench like
a soldering block so you do not burn anything else. In fact I
repeated these items several times.

These were adults in the class, the youngest maybe in their 30’s.
The two women, were both in their 60’s. Both women had told me
separately that they were experienced, and thought I should just
allow them to jump ahead so they didn’t waste their time. NEVER
assume that a student knows in a jewelry class that uses noxious
chemicals, and fire that they know what they are doing without it
being demonstrated.

While I was helping one elderly gentleman with his torch, that
wouldn’t light, I saw sideways the disaster go into motion. Just as I
was about to say loudly (enough to wake the dead) “Stop” It happened.
These two ladies were next to each other in their stations. One
ignored loading the torch downward and doing it low. She was holding
the butane torch in the air about head level, and loding it upward.
She also was pointing it at the other lady next to her. Now the other
woman was trying to light her torch. She was ignoring the instruction
to point it at something on her table like the soldering block. She
was aiming at the other woman at head level. I know you can see this
coming. Suddenly there was a huge fireball. As quickly as it happened
it was out. The one lighting her torch freaked at dropped her torch,
and ran to me. The other one just stood still frozen in place. We
were all lucky that nothing happened other than a scary moment.

I didn’t know at the time, that there was another younger lady in
the class that was suffering from post cancer treatments, and any
stress what so ever would physically make her violently ill. She just
disappeared from the class and never returned. From that point on, I
hovered over the two ladies. I heard from others that I was being
blamed for not teaching safety.

Moral of this story. Never assume. Hover until you know they can
handle it. Err on the side of safety. Do not be afraid to drop a
student that doesn’t listen to your safety instructions.



It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me just how insanely stupid students
can be sometimes. The kids I taught were in college so theoretically,
they should have been capable of of some critical thinking. But one
day, after spending over ten minutes explaining how dangerous the
buffing wheel is if you don’t follow proper safety guides, I realized
that the girl in front of me was listening to her iPod. I did
restrain myself from yelling at her just how brain-dead she clearly
was (which would also have used a certain amount of inappropriate
language to really drive the point home). I did call her out
immediately right in front of the rest of the class & told her to
shut it off. And then had to tell her that she still needed to take
the earbuds out of her ears, too. If I hadn’t been so completely
flabbergasted, I probably would have kicked her out, since she
clearly wasn’t paying attention to safety (or a lot of other things
as it turned out, given the projects she turned in, but that’s what
tends to happen in those cases)

The thing that was particularly insane about this is that the
university I was at had a photograph on the wall right above the
buffing machine of a former student who hadn’t bothered to tie her
hair back before using the machine & was consequently, missing a
large portion of her scalp. As Charles pointed out, nothing hits home
quite like a photograph. When I observed at a critique that very few
students were doing high polish finishes on their pieces, they told
me that between my warnings at the demo & the photo on the wall, they
were all too terrified to even turn the buffing wheel on, let alone
use it.

Artist, metalsmith, chaos magnet

Always expect (even women) to not heed your safety instructions.
Stories are one thing, visual pictures of post disaster injuries
are better.... 

Excellent advice!



Aggie, best safety instructions I ever got were being shown a photo
of someone who had been scalped by a polishing machine! That was
about 30 yrs ago and I’ve never forgotten it.

Always expect (even women) to not heed your safety instructions. 

Why “even women”? Aggie?

I’ve always found that people who think they know it all come from
both sexes. Why should women be considered exempt? Women can be
pretty damned stupid at times. And before anyone complains of
sexism, I’m female, and I have no faith in my own sex as being less
stupid than the guys :slight_smile:



Great points everyone. I’ll never forget what I was told about what
a slowmoving chuck on an industrial lathe can do to long hair or
clothing when I worked in a machine shop. The slow speed of the
chuck was misleading in regards to its potential for horror. Word of
mouth worked for me.

Thank you everyone for the good This message board is
awesome and appreciated.

Rick Powell


I’ve noticed that college students tend to leave their brains at the
door in any field. I find today’s students for the most part, are
contented to just make samples of what teacher demonstrated, and
don’t want to think much. It falls to me to provide design to them,
and I refused to cater to that, saying, I show you the techniques,
you do what you want todo. The majority of people tends to be
followers and they are prefectly content to do the same old design.
I’m pleased when I get a student that thinks outside the box for I
was that kind of student long ago. Themore dangerous a tool, the
more casual the student. There are times I refuse to show how to use
the buffing machine so that students just haveto shine up their
pieces with steel wool and a tumbler. I believe in giving students
enough rope to hang themselves, but will rescue them if they get
into trouble. So far, none of my students have lost their scalp, or
set themselves on fire (but I’ve burned my hair quite a few times),
or do something really, really stupid. I tend to watch them.
However, I’ve gotten badly burned by one student, and been driven
crazy by truly inane/stupid questions. The worst of it when when
students follow you around, asking endless questions, and not really
listening. That bugs me. Joy

Why "even women"? Aggie? 

I’ve always found that people who think they know it all come from
both sexes. Why should women be considered exempt? Women can be
pretty damned stupid at times. And before anyone complains of sexism,
I’m female, and I have no faith in my own sex as being less stupid
than the guys :slight_smile:

Janet maybe my attempt at putting humor in failed. I hope this does
not prompt a thread about sexism. Ignoring instructions is universal.
It knows no bounds of gender, age, intelligence level, ethniticity,
size, handicap, religion, city, county, state, country, continent, or
planet. (note to those who do not understand my brand of humor this
is being said tongue in cheek and not to further an attempt at making
into a sexism thread)


Brainless questions?

I had one fellow who never stopped asking me, idiotic questions
during my demo’. I asked him to ask me afterwards. He never listened.
So all of the students politely asked him to cease!

After the second day, he got the hint. I’m there to teach & do my
Q&A’s after each setting step. It’s amazing how the teachers ‘brain
shuts down’ if it’s stopped for a moment, while instructing.

I now, because of him, ask my students to write down a question &
refer to them once I give them a “demo, time-off!”. My direct
eye-contact is a signal to let them ask. But not blurt out a question
to me, this also interrupts the others as well.

This is teaching, can be a ‘science’ all by itself.

Gerry Lewy


Hi Gang,

This isn’t exactly apropos of teaching jewelry, but the adult-ed
class I do happens in the ‘art’ studio of the local college. Was
originally kitted out as a vo-tech wood/metals/model shop, circa
1978. Somehow or other, we ended up with a whole pile of late '70’s
vintage high school woodshop textbooks.

I’ve leafed through them on occasion. My personal favorite is the
one that starts out the chapter on the big power tools (Table saw,
jointer, etc) with a serious discussion of the construction and use
of tourniquets and pressure dressings. Not done for effect either.
“If you’re gonna use these tools, understand how to put on a
tourniquet one handed.” Does tend to focus the mind. (Or at least
the mind that survived his twenties.)

What’s interesting to me, in reading back over those things, is (A)
just what they were willing to do, and (B) what they expected kids
to do. There are some of those older techniques that I’d think two
or three times before I’d even consider. (and then only if I had
no other choice.) And they were expecting kids to do it,
more-or-less cold.

(Cove cuts, slewing sideways, with a radial-arm saw? Radial arm
rolled over 90d, with an overgrown flycutter sticking down out of it,
as a sort of improvised shaper? Yeah. Not this boy, thank you. I
like my fingers!) One of the books starts the chapter on wood
lathes with a reminder of why it’s important to always check the
speed setting of the lathe: two boys came into the shop at lunch to
do some finish turning on a large (3’ dia, IIRC) round tabletop.
Didn’t notice that the lathe had been set to high speed. Kicked it
on, tabletop exploded, one kid dead. And the whole episode is treated
in the most deadpan way imaginable. “You screw up, you die. So don’t
screw up.” Can you imagine the nationwide firestorm that would
occur if something like that happened today? The fear of any
injury, no matter how trivial, is behind the gutting of the ‘hands
on’ courses today.

It really was a different era.

As far as teaching metals, I’ve been lucky. Nobody’s ever been hurt
in one of my classes that a bandaid wouldn’t fix. (touches wood) I do
the usual buffer horror stories, and ‘pay attention to your fire,
damnit!’ speech. One thing that I have noticed to be helpful with
the torch, is to work on making sure they’re not afraid of it. The
people I’ve seen who were most dangerous, were the most afraid of
it. This isn’t to say casual, or lacking in respect, but if they’re
flinching every time they spark off, that’s a bigger problem. So
part of my talk is to let them know that there’s nothing they can do
accidentally that will cause the torches to explode. (Acetylene B’s,
and Nat. Gas/O2) And to make sure they know that the Acetylene B’s
are supposed to pop when you turn them off. (Nobody warned me the
first time I ever used one. With a giant tip. If you look carefully
at the ceiling of a certain room at Ohio State, you can probably
still see the fingernail marks where they had to pry me down.)

One other thing that I have noticed to be helpful: martial arts
training. Not at all for what you’d think though. While I might
occasionally ponder the educational uses of shoulder throws, the
useful part is that it encourages situational awareness, as well as
an awareness of the body in space and motion.

What I’ve found most useful is the ability to keep an ear out for
what’s going on behind me, or to be able to be aware of what most of
the kids are doing, even if I’m working with one of them in front of
me. For example, I can hear a mis-adjusted torch from a room away,
and the sound of ‘not-quite-right’ buffing will grab my attention
anywhere in the shop. Which usually gets me there before anything
dire occurs.

Equally, being able to pay attention to how the body should be
positioned, and how it should move to do whatever task, as opposed
to how the student is actually setting themselves up has been quite
useful. I’m always surprised at how little physicality most modern
’generic’Americans have. One of my favorite sayings with beginners
is to remind them that they’re more than just eyeballs with feet.
You have many senses. Use them all.

What I mean by that is they have very little awareness of their own
bodies. No understanding of how the body can move, or how it could
move, to do (whatever) better. No understanding of senses beyond
sight, and a limited appreciation for hearing. So they can’t hear
the metal saying “anneal me now!”, because they don’t understand
that their ears and fingers are just as capable and valid as their
eyes. The good news is that bodies are one-to-a-customer, and most
people seem to be capable of grasping the notions of the body as
more than a vehicle for the eyeballs, once you 'splain it to them.

For whatever that was worth,


The worst safety lesson I ever heard of was told to me by one of my
apprentices. She had taken a class in lost wax casting where the
students were not allowed to handle any of the investing materials.
They were told it was too dangerous. The graduate students did it for
them. The lesson was basically, “be afraid of this!” and no
instruction about how to handle the materials safely.

If they had been told that there are plenty of casting shops that
will do this for you, I could see a valid lesson being taught. But
instead the students were instilled with fear of the process. I am
not sure what the course was supposed to accomplish. The students
neither had the on how to safely do the process
themselves or knowledge that casting services are easily outsourced.

Stephen Walker

Why "even women"? Aggie? 
OK - so my attempt at some humour failed too! 

That’s the trouble with the printed word: you can’t see facial
expressions or hear tones of voice - my bad - sorry :slight_smile:




the basic message is we have to keep a very close eye on our
students in case the “elephant in the room” stamps out what few brain
cells they have/use.

Still I find it rewarding when a student finishes a project. There
is nothing like the feeling I get when a student can not believe that
they actually did it.

As we say in teaching my students are “a bit special” aka life is
very hard for them and they are not normal in any way. You truly do
not want the details of these kids lives.

It is also great when that barge into the principals office and say
"Look what I have done you old f*ck!" This is them being friendly.

He of course is always amazed at what has been achieved. No big deal
it is a piece of metal and not that hard to do. Except if you knew
their lives.

As a teacher I applaud all others who teach, it is not as easy as
some would think.

This I think is the great beauty of Orchid, no matter how much we
know we can always learn more. Also the off line emails are great. We
are so lucky to have this forum. I am always telling newbies to join.
Those that do but lurk not post always tell me how great it is.

more power to you all!


Like your approach Richard. Getting ready to set up a program in
Panama similar…

Panama Bay Jewelers

visual pictures of post disaster injuries 

Is there some kind of. pps presentation about it? Do’s and dont’s?

From Campo Formoso, Bahia, Brasil :o)

visual pictures of post disaster injuries 
Is there some kind of. pps presentation about it? Do's and dont's? 

See the book Jewelry Workshop Safety by Charles Lewton Brain.

I disagree with the suggestion here to post pictures of disasters.

You want pictures of the GOOD behavior.

Pictures of people wearing safety googles, wearing a dust mask, and
that’s laminated and up next to the polishing motor, for example.

I recently visited an electronics lab and they have a picture
labeled “normal state” that shows the proper way the room should be
set up, how it should be restored after use. That’s what you want.

I think it’s okay to tell the horror stories, and maybe even type
them up and post them in the studio, but the visuals should
reinforce the good behavior. Photos, (they can even be slightly
campy or fun, the teacher and students in them), are effective, you
can’t not process the They’re quick, engaging.

Also, studies have shown that eyes make people do the right thing.
Even a drawing of eyes in a workplace shared kitchen made people do
the right thing - whether that was chipping in for the bagels or
washing their own dishes.

So if your classroom safety signs include eyes, students may feel
that they’re being watched and will do the right thing.

And I’d suggest a big gumball machine that dispenses ear plugs and
having hair ties available.



Where I once worked in a busy jewellery shop, a young girl with
lo-ong flowing hair was doing her assembly work. Can you now guess
what happened? Yupp! did! All of her long flowing hair got
wrapped up in her handle!!! Screams ensued! The outcome was we all
had to use shears and cut off her hair that got entwined in her
handle. I think it tore some of her scalp as well. an ugly thing to
see. I’ll never forget that scene till this day!!.:>(

Gerry Lewy



When I was looking to purchase my first face shield many years ago,
I went to the local hardware store. I asked a sales clerk where I
might find them in the store, and why I needed one (I was about to
do some etching). He proudly rolled up his sleeves to show me the
many acid burn scars he had acquired form years of working at G. E.,
and then told me HE hadn’t used a face shield ever (and his damaged
facial skin was the evidence), so why should I need one!!! Macho at
its worst. I definitely bought my face shield.

This conversation about tasting cyanide is absolutely absurd, don’t
you think? There are so many ways that unsafe procedures can hurt us
in our studios (and life in general. crossing the street on a red
light, for example). What are we, adolescents challenging the world,
doing dangerous things just to rebel? And, yes, I began smoking in
my youth for that reason (damn).

I agree with Elaine that it’s best to encourage safe practices by
illustrating safe practices as opposed to the horror stories.
positive training instead of instilling terror in the hearts of
students. Good idea. However, in addition to pictures, anecdotal
references to what can happen if [whatever], are useful tools in
safety training.

And tasting cyanide. well, it may not be the first time you do this
that kills you, but exposure to dangerous crap has a cumulative
effect. Think, my starting smoking at 16 years of age and how I was
told that it would take ten years off my life. that each cigarette
was a nail in my coffin. True stuff. exposure to stuff that’s bad
for us adds up. Who wants to play Russian Roulette really?

I’d much rather be tasting hazelnut gelato, and have decades left in
my life to make all the jewels I want to make,

Linda Kaye-Moses