Before I get into what safety rules should be followed, please note my disclaimer.
When you begin lampworking, you need to take precautions. An open flame and glass can cause injuries; just ask anyone who has made glass beads! I can’t tell you the number of burns I have from flying glass pieces!
Once you’re aware of this, you can take the necessary safety step. Please be aware that your safety is ultimately your responsibility. The information I’m providing is just basic. Whole books have been written on lampworking safety. I encourage you to read and research what’s best for you.
Many reasons exist for eye shades when you make beads. The first and foremost is that glasses will protect your eyes from flying shards. Unfortunately, with lampworking, you need to purchase a specific type of eyewear. If you’re working with soda lime glass, then didymium glasses will suffice. This special type of lens protects your eyes from UV and IR rays. These rays are emitted when you work the glass. UV and IR rays can damage your eyes. Didymium glasses have the added benefit of filtering out the soda flare caused from glass rods in the flame. If you’re working with borosilicate glass, then you’ll need more protection than just didymium glasses. Specific lenses are available for boro work.
Because working with colored glass can give off irritants, you must have proper ventilation in your work area. At the very least, you should have an open window, which allows fresh air to come in. If possible, the air should come from behind you and pass across your work bench to take away the irritant gasses. If you decide to continue lampworking, then purchasing an exhaust hood is something to consider.
Besides ventilation, you should be careful not to breathe in tiny particles associated with enamels and bead release. When fuming or working with any type of metal, it’s best to have a mask on. This prevents any type of small particle getting into your lungs. Here’s a great article by Mike Aurelius. He’s an expert!
Burns and Cuts
If you work with glass for long enough, you will undoubtedly get burned and cut. I have stepped on stringers, grabbed a hot rod, and burned or cut almost every finger! But these can be prevented if you pay attention and use common sense. I use aloe Vera for all my burns, but I know some lampworkers use lavender essential oil. Make sure you have it near your work bench.
It goes without having to say, but I feel I must, that you need to read the instructions that come with your torch. Different torches have diverse ways of setting them up. Personally, my bobcat torch is attached to my work bench by a C-clamp. That way, if I move, the torch doesn’t also move.
The same should be noted for oxygen tanks. If you use tanked O2, then you need to use chains to prevent them from falling over. The pressure inside the tank, if punctured, will send it flying like a rocket. Remember the Apollo 13? We don’t want that to happen!
It probably goes without saying that if you sit for a long time in one position, your body is going to make sure you hurt! It’s always best to get up at least once an hour and to walk around, get the blood flowing to all parts of the body. There are two popular ergonomic tools which help the beadmaker. One is the Creation Station, which allows you to rest your arms or wrists while working. The second is a mandrel spinner, for those of you who have carpal tunnel issues; it spins the bead for you. You can speed up or slow down the speed of the spin at any time. Personally, I don’t use these tools, but I’ve heard wonderful things about them.
What do you think? Have you tried a safety tool that you love? Contact me and I’ll add it to the list; I’d love to hear from you.