Safer Studio Alternatives for the Jeweler

Our Friends at the Society of American Silversmiths compiled a list of safer alternatives for a jeweler’s studio. We will continue to update the list as new methods are added.

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3M Radial Bristle Discs

Small-but-sturdy “bristle discs” are new abrasive products from 3M. 3M radial bristle discs, in 1-inch diameter, stacked together on a mandrel using a 1/8-inch screw, can tackle tough metal deburring, cleaning, and finishing requirements in the hardest-to-reach places.

Radial bristle discs are designed with abrasive-filled bristles that apply a continuous fresh supply of mineral ““ without damaging the underlying surfaces. Tough but flexible, these discs conform to the contours of the work piece where intricate designs, tubes or corners make finishing, cleaning and deburring difficult.

They’re also safe for the user, as they eliminate the dangers of flying metal wires posed by wire brushes and also can replace chemical use in some applications. In addition, their unique, patented design resists gumming and loading, so bristle discs work fast on soft or hard metals to produce a consistent, uniform finish. One-inch 3M radial bristle discs are suitable replacements for hand files, wire brushes, hand scrapers, and traditional grinding discs used for sanding, surface preparation, and coatings removal.

The one-inch 3M radial bristle discs are available in four grades: 36, 50, 80, and 120. Additional members of the small 3M radial bristle disc family include a 9/16-inch, as well as 3/4-inch size. These smaller discs fit mandrels with a 1/16-inch screw and are available in finer grades (120, 220, 400, 6 micron and 1 micron) and pumice for finishing and polishing applications. The 3/4-inch size also comes in grade 80. All grades are color-coded for easy identification.

Larger sizes up to 4.5″ are also available. You may find that Scotch-Brite wheels can accomplish the same tasks when using abrasives of these larger diameters.

These discs are worth a try. Most jewelry supply companies now carry a wide array of sizes and grits. Though their lifespan is shorter than traditional bristle wheels, they certainly have many applications including surface preparation for soldering and brazing without the need to remove buffing compounds. They are also excellent for removing corrosion.
Best deal on the internet: Santa Fe Jewelers Supply

Acid Neutralizer/Abrasive (Non-Toxic, All-Natural)

Baking Soda
Less irritating than household cleansers, can be used with the scratch brush,
and to neutralize pickle.
Hardware stores, supermarkets, drug stores

Buffing Compounds (Less-Toxic)

Finishing: C”“3568 Alumina Compound
Use on non-ferrous metals and plastics””color is not as dark as red rouge, but safer.

Cut-Down: 303 Alumina Compound
Cuts like bobbing compound, but is much drier. 
JacksonLea, 1705 Conover Boulevard East, Conover, NC 28613, 800/438-6880, Jewelry supply houses

Contact Cement (Non-Toxic, Non-Flammable)

Elmer’s Saf-T Contact Cement
Water-based and very effective.
Borden, Inc., Columbus, OH 43215, hardware stores

Degreaser (Non-Toxic)

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure Castile Soap
6 tbs. in a 6-quart crock pot””used warm, nice minty smell.
Dr. Bronner’s, Inc., Escondido, CA 92033, health food stores

Firescale Preventive (Less-Toxic)

Dr. Frank’s Fabulous Flux
Contains boric acid””sprayed on warmed objects, removed with warm water, compatible with Superior #6 Brazing Flux.
Paul H. Gesswein & Co., PO Box 3998, Bridegport, CT 06605, 800/243-4466

Fluxes (Less-Toxic, Chloride-Free)

Liquid Super-Safe Soft Soldering Flux
Used with solders that melt up to 450° F””organic.

Gel Super-Safe Soft Soldering Flux
Used with lo-flow solders””organic.

Superior #6 Brazing Flux
Active to 1,600° F””organic, removed with warm water, compatible with Dr. Frank’s Fabulous Flux.
Distributor for Superior FluxH & N Electronics, 10937 Rome Beauty Dr., California City, CA 93505, 760/373-8033

Lacquer Stripper (Less-Toxic)

Ready Strip
A non-flammable, biodegradable, non-combustible remover that won’t harm silver. Contains no methylene chloride! It’s heavy-based so it can be painted on the object without running, then washed off.
Back to Nature Products, Englishtown, NJ 07726, 732/792-2001, hardware stores

Lubricant (Non-Toxic, All-Natural)

Mineral Oil
Use this for drilling, machining, and as a wood preservative, especially cutting boards.
Hardware stores, super markets, drug stores

Pickle (Less-Toxic)

Citric Acid
Slowly add 1 cup per 10 quarts of water. I use the mixture cold. If used warm in a crock pot, ventilation is advised. Neutralized with baking soda. Remember, this is an acid!
Preferable: Reconstituted Lemon Juice (use full-strength).
BulkFoods.com, 3040 Hill Ave., Toledo, OH 43607-2931, 888/285-5266

Respirators (Half-Face)

Chemical Respirator: 3M’s #6006 Cartridges
Protects against fluorides, chlorides, gases, ammonia.

Toxic Dust Respirator: 3M’s #2047 Cartridges
Use when polishing & grinding””very light-weight with a thin chracoal insert for nuisance smells. Always mark your respirator with the date the cartridges were installed.
3M Occupational Health & Environmental Safety Division, 3M Center Bldg., 275-6W-01, PO Box 3325, St. Paul, MN 55133, 800/243-4630, Safety supply houses

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