Art Glass Safety
SAFETY is the most important thing to remember in every step of the art glass process.
Safety in your art glass studio is the MOST IMPORTANT priority. We know how important safety can be – THROUGH FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE. If you can image this -- I was in the middle of an important project, heard a "crack" sound and looked down to see a saw blade going through my thumb. I was trying to finish a dichroic jewelry piece that was headed for a local gallery and I guess my mind was more on the "finished product". I was cutting a fused piece of art glass into a puzzle pendant when the saw blade broke and part of it went into my thumb. This experience disrupted three lives; my neighbor who took me to the hospital, my husband who came home from work to meet us at the hospital, and of course mine. I had to spend the day in the emergency room getting x-rays, shots of antibiotics, etc. It could have been much worse – the blade did not hit a bone and the doctor was able to pull it out with no problem (using Rex’s pliers). Accidents can happen even when you are observing all the safety guidelines, but there will be far fewer. No shortcut on time is worth getting hurt.
Whether you are just beginning the process by cutting the glass, gluing pieces on an angel pin, or making the final fire polishing in the kiln, SAFETY is always the most important aspect of jewelry making. In fact, safety must become a habit. Always ask the question “What could hurt me with this activity?” Then decide what you must do to keep the incident from happening.
Most people do not think of ventilation as an art glass studio safety issue. However, when you are working with powdered glass (from the grinding and cutting process as well as the frit type), a proper ventilation system is one of the most important things you should design in your workroom. Fumes, dust, and small particles of glass can be very harmful and the air needs to be vented away from your studio.
Even if your ventilation system is working well, you need to be aware of the dangers of silicosis. This is a lung disease caused by inhaling glass (silica dust). There is no cure – so prevention is MANDADORY!!!!! Wear your respirator any time you are working with kiln wash or sawing and grinding glass. This respirator should have a purple/pink cartridge made for filtering out these particles.
General Safety Precautions
Our purpose in making beautiful dichroic art glass jewelry is to have fun and to have a finished product. These can only happen when we put “SAFETY FIRST”.
Keep children and pets away from the art glass studio. Have a First Aid Kit in the Work Room. Make sure there are treatments for burns and cuts as well as bandages. Smoke, Fire, and Carbon Monoxide detectors should be placed in the workroom. The instruction manuals will tell you how many you will need for the size room you have. It will also explain where they should be placed. Long hair needs to be tied back. Jewelry should be removed. Never go barefoot in your work area. All counters, floors and work areas should be kept clean. Always wear gloves made of latex or rubber when you work with chemicals or when you are cutting or molding ceramic fiber products. Do not eat or drink in your glass studio. Wear a respirator (or at least a high quality dust mask) when grinding and sawing glass, when working with frit and kiln wash, or with any small particles of glass. Obtain Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) information on chemicals in your studio. This is available from the manufacturer and can probably be obtained online. Wear your protective glasses when grinding, cutting and sawing glass. These should have clear lenses and have side shields. (This is different from the glasses that you keep in the kiln area) Make sure that each time you climb, lift, reach, twist or turn that you think the activity through completely to eliminate risk of injury. Have a place for everything – especially the dangerous materials such as kiln wash, frit, cleaners, etc. – Always put them away when not in use.
Safety when using a kiln
Read the operating procedures and manuals for every piece of equipment that you have. It is very important that you know and that you follow all the suggestions and requirements that the manufacturer recommends. This is especially true when operating and preparing a kiln. Your art glass jewelry may make several trips to the kiln before it is completed. Remember safety at all times.Location of the kiln. Kiln should be in a well-ventilated room. The floor should be nonflammable and it should be at least 12 inches from any wall or flammable material – 36 inches is best. Always have a fire extinguisher (Rated “ABC” for all types of fires) nearby. Learn how to use it and inspect it regularly. Never use an extension power cord to plug in the kiln. Never let the kiln power cord come in contact with the kiln. Dedicated electrical circuit and a clearly labeled breaker. When the kiln is not being used, unplug the cord. Never put your hand in the kiln when it is in use. Have a licensed electrician check all the wiring in the workroom and rewire where necessary. Keep all protective wear near the kiln. Heat-resistant gloves, protective glasses (with side shields and infrared and ultraviolet light protection). Never look into the kiln without wearing your protective glasses. (#3 Welders) Be careful of loose clothing and jewelry when opening and closing the kiln. It is best to use a close fitting smock over your clothes and to take off jewelry. Never store combustible materials near the kiln.
Cutting, Grinding, and Sawing Glass
This step in making your art glass project could be repeated several times. You may cut, fire, saw, re-fire, grind, and re-fire with the finishing fire polish. Some pieces need up to 5 trips to the kiln with much cutting and grinding involved. Safety must be a priority.Again be careful of long hair, loose clothing and jewelry while operating drills, grinders and saws. Plan your steps and don’t take routine tasks for granted. Eye Goggles must be worn at ALL TIMES while cutting glass.
This is probably the most important thing we can say. Be careful – don’t forget that the blade that cuts glass may be small, but it is a BLADE. Follow all the manufacturers instructions in operating the saws and grinders. Proper lighting is important in all areas of your workroom.
You will have other tools that will become important additions to your work area. It is important to read and follow all manufacturers recommendations. If you have any questions about the tools in your studio, see the US Consumer Product Safety Commission site. Use common sense in everything you do.
We would love for you to take the time to look at a few examples of our art glass projects After you make sure your studio is SAFE -- have fun with all your glass cutting and fusing.
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