Niello is a specialty of mine so I’ll try to give you some guidance.
Ventalation, as long as I'm working next to an open window, is
there any major concern? [snip] Equipment wise, I have a Paragon
enamelers kiln and a Smith Little Torch, are there any other major
tools I will require?
Niello is nothing to mess around with. Open window ventilation is not
an option. It’s not enough to hope that by working near a window that
you will dilute the fumes sufficiently, you want to completely
eliminate the fumes from your space. Vent fumes away from you
directly to the outside or else do the heating outdoors. I never use
a kiln. I rarely use anything more than my Little torch and a solder
pik. Spend your money on ventilation. In regards to risk to the
maker, which is more dangerous, niello or epoxy resin?> Niello does
contain lead, and though it’s bound up as lead sulphide the surface
area of powdered substances are such that they are more dangerous to
use. Wear latex gloves when applying and filing and avoid grinding at
all. Overheating is a major cause of mechanical problems when using
niello and is also a health threat, so avoid overheating. Keep a
clean shop. Sweep (floor and bench) before you start work with niello
and mop when your finished. Use something disposable to mop with so
you can toss it in with your floor sweeps and reclaim any precious
metals. As far as I know when resins are cured they no longer pose a
threat to your work. Not so with niello which can contaminate other
metals and ruin your work, so all tools used for niello should be
kept separate from other tools and be dedicated to niello work.
In regards to the risk to the wearer, are either of these materials
Again, I can’t speak for resins, and the literature I’ve read on
niello isn’t clear, but I’d say that the risk that niello poses to
the adult wearer is limited. The number one person at risk for
adverse health affects from niello is the person making it. Number
two, the person applying and using it.
Lastly would be the wearer. Consider this; niello is still sold and
used in Europe and EU members have banned nickel for use in jewelry,
it would seem to follow that niello is less dangerous to health than
nickel, though I suppose one could argue that the use of nickel is
far more widespread than niello and therefore hasn’t been deemed a
problem as such. If you have any concerns, design the work so that
there is limited skin to niello exposure (no niello on the inside of
rings or bracelets or on the underside of pendants and limited use of
niello on the sides of rings). Where do I get powdered lead and
I’m not sure why you would want powdered lead, unless you meant
powdered niello. You can get niello from Fischer in Germany
(Pforzheim) and last I heard Allcraft was going to start selling it.
I make my own. Keep in mind that powdered niello has a limited shelf
life. So don’t order a bunch thinking you’re saving money on
shipping expense if you don’t plan on using it all within about a
year. Could you go into more detail as to why you need carbon rods.
If you’re going to use them to spread the niello around, just use a
solder pick dedicated for that purpose. One with a wooden handle
won’t get hot, especially if you’re using a kiln. Good luck…do some
more research as to how to best use niello in your own space. It’s a
wonderful material, but there are reasons why few people work with
niello that don’t have anything to do with the danger of it.
see my niello work in the Ganoksin gallery