You need to practice these safety tips if you are going to prevent accidents in the work area. Don't forget, you'll be working with glass, a soldering iron and very hot solder, as well as various chemicals. They are all elements that can hurt you if you don't know how to handle them. I don't want to scare you, and there's absolutely no reason to panic. I'm going to show you ways that will help you prevent accidents, so please read on.
As with most hobbies, there are things that can harm you if you don't know how to use them correctly. Stained glass is no different. You will find 17 safety tips below. Follow them and stay safe.
I'm not guaranteeing that you won't ever have an accident by following these tips. However, they will make you aware of what can happen and help you be as prepared as possible to prevent accidents from happening.
1. Safety tip #1 is very important and one that people tend to forget about. It is pretty simple...Don't eat or smoke in your work area...ever. What ever is on your hands will be in your mouth or lungs if you don't follow this rule.
2. Don't work on the kitchen counter or dining room table. Set up in a separate work area.
3. After you've been cutting and/or grinding glass, wash your hair (or at least brush it well) before you prepare a meal or go to bed. Glass particles get in your hair and the last place you want them is in your food or in bed with you.
4. Wash your hands well if you leave your work area to fix lunch, change the baby, walk the dog, or whatever else you may have to do.
5.This safety tip is very important...don't let your small children or pets in your work area. There's too much they can get hurt on.
6. This is another very important safety tip. If you're pregnant or breast feeding, don't solder or work with any of the chemicals you'll be using in the final steps of finishing off your projects. You can cut glass and wrap the glass with copper foil, but don't proceed beyond that point.
7. Wear eye protection when you're cutting or grinding glass. Not reading glasses but proper eye protection. Goggles or safety glass are worth every cent you spend on them (and they're not all that expensive to begin with). Make sure you get the type that protect your eyes on all sides.
Two reasons not to wear reading glasses:
a. They don't protect your eyes in any direction except straight on.
b. They get scratched if a piece of glass flies into them.
8. Wear long sleeves, long pants and closed shoes when you're cutting glass or soldering. Actually, wear closed toe shoes all of the time, no matter what you're doing in your work area. When you're working with stained glass, safety is important, and what you wear will make the difference between being vulnerable to accidents or being as prepared as possible to prevent accidents.
I'll tell you a story about wearing sandals when you're soldering. This happened before I knew a lot about stained glass safety. I was teaching a class on soldering, and for footwear I had on stockings and sandals. Some hot solder dropped off my soldering iron and went through a decorative hole in my sandals, melted through the stockings and stuck firmly to the top of my foot. I tried not to let on that anything happened, but the expression on my face gave me away. That was one painful burn, and a very long hour and a half before I could go home and tend to my wound. So...wear closed shoes, please. Stuff can happen.
9. I have seen some pretty bad cuts when a person swings their arm and hits their hand on the corner of a piece of glass that was left sticking out over the edge of a work table. It can be prevented so easily by remembering to always make sure the glass is placed all the way back on the table.
No Don't leave glass sticking out over the edge of your work surface.
Yes Make sure the glass is pushed back so it is entirely on the table. Please adhere to this safety tip. It's more than a tip, it's a rule.
10. Have a small brush and dust pan near by. Use it to clean off your work surface frequently, especially when you're cutting glass. No matter how good you are at cutting glass, there will be tiny bits of glass that come off while you're cutting it. Most people have a tendency to brush off the work surface with their hand. You will only do it once, believe me. Those tiny bits of glass hurt and they're difficult to remove once they're embedded in your skin. To prevent this from happening, keep your work surface clean.
11. Have a container, on your work table, to put scraps of glass in. I use a plastic coffee can. It's one more way to keep your work surface clean.
12.This is an essential safety tip! You must have adequate ventilation when you are soldering. The optimum way is to have a good fume extractor. Save your money and buy one. Until you can buy one, here is a way to make a cheap but effective fume extractor.
These instructions came from Dennis Brady owner of DeBrady Glassworks in Victoria, BC:
"Buy a range hood for $19.95 from Home Depot. Attach a 16" deep shelf 30" above your work table and attach the range hood under that shelf (flush to the front of the shelf). Open the window and install a piece of plywood in the opening. Cut a hole in that plywood and run flexible ducting from the range hood to that hole. You can just vent direct to outdoors, or if you're environmentally concerned, install a small HEPA filter anywhere along the ducting. This installation will extract almost all the fumes."
Until you decide that stained glass something you really want to do, buy a cheap fume extractor like this one (you can always sell it on eBay when you're ready to upgrade). And...make sure you have one or two windows opened, at least a little bit, for cross ventilation.
13. Make sure you turn off your soldering iron when you're done with it. The easiest way to do this is to plug it in to a power strip that has a radio or a light (turned on) plugged in it as well. When the strip is turned off the radio or light will go off, assuring you that your soldering iron is off too. This safety tip could prevent you from having a fire start in your work area.
14. This is a safety tip that you don't want to learn the hard way! Don't brush away those tiny balls of solder that just dropped on the glass or your work bench. They're 700 degrees F and they stick to your skin like you wouldn't believe. There's no words to explain what hot solder feels like when it's adhered to your skin and burning you (well not words that I'd use here!). This stained glass safety rule (it's not a tip, it's a rule) is another reason to wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed toe shoes. You never know where that solder might land, especially once you get into making 3-D things like lamp shades, boxes, etc.
15 When you're holding a project in one hand so you can solder around the edges, make sure you are wearing protective gloves. A pair of cotton gardening gloves, with a cuff, will work just fine.
16. Don't work when you're tired. That's when you make mistakes and when most accidents happen.
17. Keep a supply of band-aids and burn cream in your work area. I'm sure you'll occasionally need one or the other...I know I still do (it's just part of working with stained glass).
Staying accident free is the goal here, so please follow these safety tips when you're working with glass.
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This page was last updated on October 12, 2012
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