Safety in the Glass,  Enamel and Jewelry Studio.

July 06, 2020 1 Comment

Safety in the Glass,  Enamel and Jewelry Studio.

As an orthopedic surgeon I have spent many hours repairing people's bodies from accidents or injuries.  It always made me feel bad when the cause of the injury was related to careless accidents.  Such as drug use, alcohol use, sleep deprivation, or inappropriate safety.  Many of  these injuries could have been prevented if safety was the norm.  My motivation in writing this blog was to  collect a great deal of important info, and put in in one easy accessible place.  If one injury is prevented it was well worth the time and effort I put into writing this blog.  

​Please only you are responsible for your own safety and those around you.

Wear clothes that are made from cotton with closed toed leather shoes.  Wild long hair or loose clothing is a recipe for disaster.  Long pants are a must when welding or working with torches. Jeans work well..  Look at your aprons for loose pockets or ties, and beware if they are not cotton they may be flammable.  
​Take some time to keep you work are tidy and clean.  A messy studio can lead to injuries to yourself and those who follow behind you.
General shop safety starts with keeping your materials stored in the appropriate manner.  Flammables and combustibles may have to be stored in special containers.  Do an inventory of what you have in your shop and take time to read the MSDS sheets.  MSDS means Material Safety Data Sheet. They come from each manufacturer and  they must supply them for any material they produce including glass.  Just as important as it is to not mix glass with different COE's (coefficient of expansion) you must keep your leaded and unleaded enamels separate and clearly labeled.  For example here is what a MSDS sheet looks like for a rigidizer we commonly use to rigidize  kiln shelves before we fire them.
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As a physician it was always helpful to know what the patient was exposed to, especially with burns or eye injuries  The MSDS is essential for the physician to begin treatment. So to help yourself if you are injured in your studio, bring it with you and it my save your vision or your life.   So do yourself a favor and place the MSDS sheets in a folder in your studio, especially whenever a new material appears.  Then if you have a injury bring the folder with you to the ER.  The time you save the physician, may save your life.  Also if you are ever inspected by the EPA they demand them in your studio for many chemicals. 
Here are some safety guidelines for published from Rio Grande about enamels.

This is the particulate respirator I use. This mask works for most things in my studio.  Paper masks are ok but they don't last. This mask uses a P 100 cartridge that will work for most activities in your shop.  These is a specific list of what filter to use later in this blog.  Do not forget eye protection as well. 
If you are working with glass powders a great deal you may want to invest in a full face mask with a hepa power filter.  I use this in my studio as I have only 1 set of lungs.
Bullseye has a great reference sheet for Kiln Glass Safety in the Studio. click here and your will be redirected. The handout is included below.
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My next issue deals with your studio.  Many of the kilns and machines we use require specific wiring and ventilation.  Many kilns require a specific circuit breaker.  If you run a kiln that requires a 20 amp breaker on a 15 amp breaker it can trip the breaker and ruin your firing. It also may wear out your controller and elements. The image on the left is from a Kiln Frog email, and is a great article on electrical issues with your kilns.

Get a licensed electrician to set up your machines.  This could prevent a fire and will make your machines and kilns work much longer.

Use the appropriate extension cords. Paragon recommends at least a 12g 3 wire extension cord for the Caldera Kiln. Use the shortest cord that is possible from the wall to the kiln.

The above article was used with permission from Kiln Frog
You only have one set of lungs and breathing toxic materials is a game changer that may not be reversible. 
The same goes with ventilation and dust management.  Get a good hepa dust collection vacuum and use it.  Here is what I use, and it works fabulous.  When you take your glass out of the kiln off of a kiln shelf with kiln paper using a mask and vacuum is essential.  I recommend using a mask when sifting enamels, cutting kiln shelf materials and working with glass powers.  It is important that you clean up your debris with a hepa vacuum. I also  use a mask when working with a sandblaster or grinding metal.  When welding I use ventilation from outside or a special air handler designed for welding.
Working with hot glass requires special air ventilation system and eye wear to to keep your health.  Silicosis is a real disease with devastating consequences.

Click on the Link below to order
Hearing protection is essential
Here is what I use. I like the pink color as I can find them when I need them.  Some people use headphones  underneath them but i find this distracts me. The bluetooth headphones do not offer as good of ear protection if any.
To buy click here
Protection comes in 2 forms:
Glasses or full face shield. 
I wear glasses so I use a full face shield most of the time.  Wearing eye protection is essential when working around flying objects, sharp objects, or moving machinery,  I prefer a full face mask when working around machinery.  I is inexpensive but protects both my face and eyes. I love this shield below as you can change the shields easily when they scratch or get worn out and you can switch to  tinted face shields to work with kilns or torches. I keep 2 face shields in my studio as I have friends stop by and this protects them as well.
When you look directly into a kiln you should protect your eyes from uv radiation.  You should also have a way to wash out your eyes in case of contamination.  It is inexpensive to do these things and they can save your eyes.
Glass options 
For over the frame that block uv light if you wear glasses
Click on link to buy
The are great because they wrap around your head so if something comes from the side they help .  The frames come in many colors.
​Click on link below to buy
For working with a melting furnace to make jewelry or light torch work these are great.  If your using an oxy acetylene torch you should use at least a shade 5.  I use the shade 3 for my oxy propane torch.   If you are working with platinum you need at least a shade 7 as it is a much hotter flame. I would use the specific glasses made for platinum. If you are melting it you need a shade 10.  For soldering you can use a shade 5 or 7. 
​Click on link below to buy
Soldering and casting platinum requires special eye protection. You with have permanent damage to you eyes if ignored. 

These are special glass for working with hot glass or lampworking:  
They reduce the sodium flare and UV light from soft glass torch applications. If you work with  soft glass or hard glass (borosilicate) torch applications you need a green clip on filter as well see below.   
​to buy click on link

Full face shield options
Click on the link below to order
You can replace the clear shield easily if damaged or to dirty. Link below is the replacement shield.
​Click on it to buy .
Click on the link below to order
Here is the info on which color shade you need when using welding or  gas/electric cutting equipment.

The thing I like about this face shield is that you can get various visors that protect your entire face in the appropriate color for other tasks in the studio. Sparks fly to other parts of your face so a full face shield is my go to protection when using machinery and torches.  These are not designed for welding.
Click on the link below to order
Uvex Bionic Face Shield with Clear Polycarbonate Visor (S8500)
Click on the link below to order
Click on the link below to order
These are great Glass  to wear when looking into the kiln.  if you don't protect your eyes you may get cataracts and retinal damage.  Neith one is necessary if you protect your eyes. 
These glasses filter  the infrared and ultraviolet light and reduces glare from the kiln.  They make  pyrometric cones easier to see if you are doing any type of ceramics as well.
Click on the link below to order
For doing hot glass you need a special lens. A Polycarbonate Lens for the Lampworkers and Hot Glass Workers that does it all in one pair of glasses.  This lens filters out the sodium flare and also offers both excellent UV and IR protection. Phillips BoroView 3 & 5 lenses are designed to meet the need for the extra UV and IR protection needed when working on borosilicate glass.
Click on the link below to order
Always have a good first aid kit in your studio and I recommend a way to way wash your eye's out. I found this eye wash kit and it would be a welcome addition to your studio.  The key is having one around when you need it. The cost is minimal.
For welding I like an auto darkening helmet.  Here is what I use.  It is auto darkening and you can adjust the shade color  and the sensitivity  AND a big plus is there are no batteries to replace.  I also use a thyroid shield If I am welding as there is radiation from the process that can affect your thyroid. 
click on link below to order
This is the helmet I use.
Click on the link below to order
Click on the link below to order

So my extinguisher is rated for all types of fire. (a b and c)  Always have a full fire extinguisher in your studio.   I like this one as it has a hose so it easy to direct. Check your gauge regularly.   
There must be a reason I wrote this blog and mine was on empty...The arrow need to be in the green zone.    Time to buy a new one.

Special Vapor Full Face Mask
And finally when I am working with vapors/ paints or patinas I wear a full face mask with the appropriate vapor cartridge. For the majority of things the p100 cartridge works perfect. But look up what you need on the links below.
Click on the link below to order
Click on the link below to order
I always wanted to know when to change a vapor cartridge and which one to use.  Here is a great resource that answers all those questions.
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Gas Cylinders require care and need to be strapped to a fixture or wall

Turn the oxygen value on all the way to prevent leaking but leave the propane or acetylene valve cracked only so you can shut it off in case of a leak.

and a good course



Never wear gloves around machines that spin, such as a jewelry lathe/ polishing wheel, grinder or a metal lathe or milling machine.  They can get caught up in the machine and pull you in. The same goes for loose clothes, long hair and jewelry. Using finger protectors designed for this is fine. 
Many other suppliers carry these.
Remember the safe areas on a polishing wheel so you don't have you work flying back at you.
The larger the wheel you use the faster the wheel speed is on your work.
THis is my polishing station with a hepa vacuum ventilation.
Worth every penny! I added better lighting. 

Give yourself permission to use a slower speed. Especially when learning.

Unstitched finishing wheels tend to grab you work, Be very careful.
Always wear face and eye protection. You only have one set of eyes . 
Keep all the safety shields in place. Always use a vacuum on a polishing wheel to keep the metal and polish out of your lungs. A good light is essential.
I label each wheel with the type of polish I am using and the metal I use it for.
Never work tired or when taking sedating meds, alcohol.  Most injuries occur when you are tired or trying to meet a deadline. 
If you see someone not paying heed ask them to stop and take a few minutes to refocus. Injuries can only be prevented by you.
Be aware of how you are standing so you are not tripping over boxes or cords.
Change you hepa and dust filters regularly. 

I wear gloves only when  I cut and handle glass or I am welding.  There are many great ones available on most glass working websites.  The most important thing to remember is glass splinters do not fester and come to the surface like wood splinters ,so the best way to prevent cuts and splinters is to wear gloves and clean up after you make a  mess.
Gloves that sit on the table .... make very poor paperweights.
Clicklink  below to buy (2 pairs)
For general use glove I like a padded glove as it cushions my hands some.  Having had carpal tunnel surgery myselfI I pay close attention to repetitive use injuries. 
Click link below to buy
For Mig welding I use the following which is a heaver glove. For tig welding  I use the lighter glove as it is easier to hold the tig rod.
​Click on link below to buy
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Below are the guidelines for Burn treatment  from the American Burn Association.  Read them as you might be surprised they recommend not to put ice on a burn.  It is a good idea to keep a copy handy in your studio.
I am asked frequently about home remedies.  For first degree burns this may be an option but for more serious burns see a physician immediately.  Especially if it is a chemical or electrical burn.   

Jan Harrell my enameling instructor swears by  using soy sauce which is a salt solution.  She buys this big container costco and keeps it in the studio.  

Only you  are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those working around you. Please feel free to pass this around to your fellow artists.
I would love your feedback. Leave me a comment and I will get back to you. Thank you. To subscribe click on details link at the bottom of this page and a subscription form is available.

1 Response

Jenny Weddle
Jenny Weddle

May 13, 2023

Thank you for all the time and effort to bring so much information to anyone interested. I have a new bead making setup in my craft room and have not used it yet. I feel confident in my setup, but have not understood how to set my kiln up. I will call Paragon tomorrow and have them help me with my digital dial.
Thanks so much!

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