This is ‘work’
August 18, 2014
And so I take the appropriate precautions, because I’d like to be around for a really long time to do this work. Inhaling polishing compounds and silver dust isn’t exactly conducive to robust health.
I wasn’t really trained to wear a respirator in the studio. My first teacher, the excellent Jesse Bert wasn’t a huge fan of polishing compounds when he taught me, so we never covered the subject. (He did, however, teach me how to properly light an oxy/acetylene torch without lighting things on fire or creating a ton of ash.) My next teacher, the brilliant Wendy Tonsits of Amalgam Arts Atlanta is big on safety — no open-toed shoes, hair tied back, safety glasses — but for whatever reason, masks weren’t something we ever discussed.
I think it might be a California thing. In this state, everything is covered in “might cause cancer” warnings, and there seems to be a law or regulation for pretty much everything. So I noticed that the jewelers at Scintillant were wearing masks, and thought, huh, I maybe should get some of those.
Then I forgot about it, until recently when I started doing tons of polishing again. I’d come home and notice that the whole front of my upper body was covered in rouge dust — and I’m talking down to the skin. I stained a couple of bras. I’d wash my face and the water would run red, even if my skin wasn’t visibly dirty. This stuff is very, very fine. NOT GOOD.
It made me wonder how much was getting into my lungs. Not even just rouge or tripoli — I use silicone-carbide wheels in the flex-shaft, and that also creates tons of dust. I’m lucky that it hasn’t triggered asthma or otherwise made me sick.
So I bought masks. Actually, even knowing what a mess I was making, Gavin had to yell at me before I bought masks. I don’t know what the hell my problem was. It’s not even like they’re expensive! I bought 3M 9211 Cool-Flow N95 Particulate Sanding Respirators, which are rated N95, which means that they filter 95% of airborne particulates. So, in theory, I’m inhaling 95% less garbage when I work.
I don’t like wearing the mask, hence my expression in the picture. It does horrifying things to my hair and fogs up my glasses if I don’t put it on exactly right. Plus, for all that it has that “cool valve,” it’s still a little stuffy in there.
But all of that is one hell of a lot better than ruining my lungs.