Safety tips archive

6/01 Beware of shrapnel!

12/99 Auto Shutoff for Your Workbench

8/99 Do You Know What's in Your Patina?

4/99 Good Gear for Grinding

10/98 Mosaic Cutter Safety

7/98 Safe Disposal of Glass Scraps

4/98 Make Sure It's Off with Outlet Strips

12/97 Protect your feet and your floors

9/97 Watch for Falling Solder!

8/97 Hazards with Blades

7/97 Never Walk Away

6/97 Don't Do Stupid Stuff! (or...Take your time and pay attention to what you're doing.)

5/97 Breaking Glass

4/97 Be Careful About Glass Storage

3/97 Plan Ahead for safety

2/97 Breaking Score Lines Using the Table Edge

1/97 Quick Tips III

12/96 Handling Large Sheets of Glass

11/96 Avoid Cuts While Grinding

10/96 More Quick Tips

9/96 Quick Tips

8/96 Chemical Hazards

7/96 Dressing for Stained Glass

6/96 Eye Protection Basics

5/96 "Steel Wooling " solder lines

4/96 "Glass Cutting 101" (for Apartment Dwellers)

3/96 Lead Exposure During Soldering

2/96 Exposure to Glass Dust From Grinders

1/96 Skin Protection during Soldering

 12/96 Handling Large Sheets of Glass

There is no other part of stained glass work that poses the same risk of immediate, severe injury, as the handling of stock sheets of glass.

(A stock sheet is a full sheet as it comes from the manufacturer. Stock sheets vary in size but two typical sizes are 24" by 48", and 32" by 42".)

Handling stock sheets is different from smaller pieces due to the size and weight of the sheets. A sheet of glass handled carelessly can "shear" suddenly in your hands and result in unexpected movement of large pieces of glass as part of the sheet falls or each of your hands swings in a different direction holding a large part of what used to be your sheet.

Why does this happen?

  • Several things can contribute.
  • Some glasses are prone to having imperfections such as so called "stones" which are chunks of the sand or pigmenting oxides which did not melt into the batch properly. This creates a weak spot in the glass.
  • Cracks in the sheet from poor handling of the factory case. Any tiny crack provides a point from which the sheet will shear as soon as it is stressed in handling.
  • How flexible is the glass? A brittle glass may shear more readily. Since brittle glass will not bend to distribute the force of gravity when held horizontal, it concentrates the gravitational force right where you are holding it and the whole sheet can break suddenly across your fingers.

Just to clarify things a bit, think about how much force you apply to a piece of scored glass to break it. Compare that to the amount of strength it takes to lift a large sheet of glass and you can see that the weight of the glass applies more than enough bending force to open any score line or cause any flaw to run.

  • What to do?
  • Always look for stones and be careful not to handle a sheet in a way that causes a bending force to be applied across the stone.
  • When you first pick up a sheet of glass you can rap it with your knuckle to hear it "ring". If a sheet chatters, that is a sign that it is cracked! It is best to carefully induce the crack to finish it's work before you attempt to move the sheet onto a table.
  • Always transport glass in an upright position. Stacking sheet glass can cause dangerous cracks.
  • Never stand glass on a hard floor such as concrete. (This can start cracks.) Lay down a couple of wooden slats to rest your glass on.
  • Do not hold stock sheets directly over your feet. (Or raise them over your head for viewing.)
  • Hold stock sheets straight up and down with your hands near the top of the sheet so that if it shears it can't fall down onto your hands.
  • Always spread your fingers out as much as possible to distribute the forces on the sheet.
  • When placing stock sheets onto a table, lean the middle of the sheet across the edge of the table and pivot the sheet onto the table while supporting the top and bottom of the glass.
  • Avoid applying any uneven forces to a stock sheet of glass.

Safety Tips Index

  • 11/96 Avoid cuts while grindingOur thanks to Helene Theoret for our November safety tip!Helene has two suggestions to protect your fingers while grinding:
  • Wear rubber fingers, the kind available at office supply stores for handling money or papers. They have little rubber bumps or nipples all over the ends for traction so you can grip the glass securely while the rubber protects your fingers.
  • Special latex tape made for protection while handling sharp materials. You simply wrap the ends of your fingers in the latex protective tape and go to work.

Safety Tips Index

10/96 More Quick Tips

  • Avoid over oiling your glass cutters. Excess oil causes glass chips to stick to your fingers resulting in glass splinters.
  • Remember that lead is more dangerous to your children than it is to you. Keep children out of your work areas and never let them handle solder or lead came.

Safety Tips Index

  • 9/96 Quick TipsHere are a couple of quick pointers.
  • Many glass cutters (such as the old standard Fletcher cutters) have a built-in glass file on the side of the head. Use it to quickly scrape off any razor sharp flared edges after each piece you break so you won't get cut.
  • Beginners sometimes get cut when breaking glass with their bare hands. This happens when the glass breaks and their hands recoil causing the glass held in one hand to cut the other hand. To avoid this make sure the knuckles of both hands are pressed tightly together beneath the glass and part the glass by making a prying movement. (The knuckles prying against one another as your thumbs on the top of the glass turn outward away from one another.) This will make it impossible for your hands to recoil.

Safety Tips Index

8/96 Chemical Hazards

Stained glass workers routinely work with patinas, fluxes, cleaners, etching creams, glass stainer's colors and other chemicals. Often we take the safety of these products for granted. 

Avoid the temptation to gloss over the safety warnings on the labels. Some of these preparations contain lead or other heavy metals such as cadmium or even arsenic. Some can build up in the body with repeated careless use. Others contain acids, such as etching creams with hydrofluoric acid derivatives which can cause skin irritation or severe eye injury. (Straight hydrofluoric acid used in acid bath etching is outright scary.)

If you want the most complete information about the materials you are working with ask your supplier to see the MSDS (Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet) on them. (Federal law mandates that this information be available upon request.)

Safety Tips Index

7/96 Dressing For Stained Glass

Most of proper dress for stained glass is just common sense but just in case, here is a rundown of the basics and finer points.

Basic clothing, wear:

  • long pants
  • long sleeve shirt
  • close fitting closed toe shoes
  • long apron
  • eye protection

The fine points:

Leave the shirt outside the pants, (not tucked in). This will prevent glass chips from slipping into the waistband.

The longer the pants the better, to keep chips from falling into your shoes

A nice long apron of denim or another heavy material will protect you and your clothing from falling solder and glass chips. When you stand up after cutting glass you can gather the apron and shake the glass chips into the trash.)

Safety Tips Index

6/96 Eye Protection Basics

Your eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of your body so it is only common sense to take precautions when working with stained glass. (You haven't lived until you've had glass in your eye!)

Of course some types of eye protection are better than others, (safety glasses, goggles, etc.. Consult your eye care professional for advice), but the point I wanted to make here is that you need to be diligent about actually usingthe protection that you have, for all of the operations that put your sight at risk.

When cutting glass or grinding the need for protection is obvious to most of us, however a lot of newcomers to the craft do not realize that soldering also poses risks, (until the first time that the solder "pops" and spits hot solder and flux into their faces!)

Safety Tips Index

5/96 "Steel wooling" solder lines

Few things you can do will expose you to more lead than the practice of polishing or cleaning solder lines in a project with steel wool. If possible you should simply avoid the practice, but sometimes you can't.

For example, to produce an antique brass patina, the patina manufacturer recommends steel wool to prepare the metal, and indeed it IS necessary to get the right, "brushed" look.

You can minimize your risk by working with your piece submerged in water so the fine lead dust can't become airborne. Work in a utility sink or any large bucket or tub. Avoid working in a sink that is used for food preparation or personal hygiene. Be sure to wear rubber gloves.

When you are done clean the area carefully to ensure that no lead bearing liquid has splashed out. Discard the steel wool and any sponges used in the operation and cleanup.

Safety Tips Index

4/96 "Glass Cutting 101" (for Apartment Dwellers)

Many hobbyists do not have the luxury of a spacious well equipped studio for their stained glass work. (Twenty-five years ago when I was just starting out in glass, I was forced to work in my bedroom.) Here are my strategies for keeping glass chips off the floor.

  • Before you begin cutting:
  • open up a ¼" thick layer of the largest newspaper you can find in front of you, on the table.
  • get a tall kitchen garbage can and line it with a paper or plastic liner, preferably both.
  • get a soft table brush, (stiff bristles will tend to shoot chips around)
  • Procedure:
  • Place your glass in the middle of the newspaper during scoring, BUT DO NOT BREAK THE GLASS OVER THE PAPER.
  • If there are glass chips on the glass surface from scoring, before breaking the score line place the glass deep inside the garbage can and gently brush off the chips. Be careful not to bring chips out of the can on your brush.
  • Hold the glass deep inside the can during breaking so chips can't shoot out.
  • After every few lines you score carefully fold the first couple of sheets of newspaper into the center and place it deep into the can.

NOTE: If there are a lot of chips on the surface of your score lines or if you see chips jumping up from the line after you score, you are pressing too hard!

Safety Tips Index

3/96 Lead exposure during soldering.

Most lead exposure occurs due to carelessness. Lead can be transferred directly from the hands to the mouth if eating or smoking while soldering. Lead can also enter the body through mucus membranes in the nose or by rubbing your eyes with dirty hands.

While the temperatures in soldering are not high enough to actually vaporize lead into the atmosphere, be wary of using a flux that tends to sputter excessively. (Use of too much flux can also cause sputtering.) When solder sputters it shoots out tiny solder balls in a variety of sizes. The smallest of these are too fine to see and can be carried airborne where the may be inhaled or will settle on surfaces in your workshop.

Safety Tips Index

2/96 Grinder Dust

Perhaps the most overlooked safety concern for the stained glass worker is the presence of glass dust, especially the fine dust produced by glass grinders. Once introduced into your workshop, the finest of this dust will pass right through a standard vacuum cleaner bag which means the vacuum is merely launching it into the air for you to breathe.

The best remedy is prevention. Keep glass dust out of your environment by following these steps:

1) Set up an enclosure around your grinder area with walls that will keep dust bearing water from splashing out.

2) Never dry your ground pieces of glass in a towel unless you have washed them first. When your towel dries it will "shed" glass dust into the room. You can dry them with paper towels and place the towels into a disposal bag for direct disposal, (do not disturb them by transferring them from can to can.) We keep a bucket of water with a strainer in it right next to the grinder, each ground piece goes straight into the strainer.

3) Frequently clean your grinder and enclosure area. NEVER DRY BRUSH YOUR GRINDER AREA! Always wet down the glass dust and wipe it with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Remember: Once you breathe it in glass dust NEVER leaves your lungs.

Safety Tips Index

1/96 Skin Protection During Soldering

When soldering you can lessen the chance of skin irritation caused by exposure to flux by treating your skin with a commercial barrier cream before you work. You can find it in the automotive dept. of any department store. Better yet, I use A+D Ointment as a barrier cream. It conditions my skin as it protects.

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