Consumables in Gold Testing Kits

Q: I got a gold testing kit, but I used up all the little tubes of gel it came with. Can this magic goop be purchased in bulk so I can do away with those nasty tubes? What is your solution?

Respirators for Soldering Fumes

Q: Are those paper masks from 3M good protection from soldering fumes, or do I need a cartridge respirator?

Exchanging Compressed Gas Tanks

Q: What should I look for when picking up a tank of compressed gas?

Drilling Wet with a Flexible Shaft Tool

Q: I’ve purchased a Foredom flexshaft, and I want to drill some holes in glass, which I’ve seen done using a shallow pan of water to contain the glass and cool it. Is this dangerous for the tool, and would I run the risk of electrocuting myself?

Transporting Acetylene Tanks

Q: I’ve got a tank of acetylene that hasn’t been used in a long time. I think it’s about half full, and I don’t plan to use it. But I’ve heard scary stories about people blowing themselves up by transporting acetylene in their cars. How can I trade it in safely?

Prioritizing Studio Safety Hazards

Q: I’m trying to prioritize the safety hazards of my jewelry studio. What’s more dangerous, being near electromagnetic fields from electrical lines, vacuuming up spilled jewelry investment, or exposure to the germs that lurk in my studio’s bathroom?

Polishing with Gloves On—Just Don’t Do It.

Q: I like using these tight white gloves with a thin grip coating when I’m polishing. I like them better than using those thick, bulky rubber covers on individual fingers, but I’ve been told they aren’t as safe—what’s the problem?

Jewelry Metals and Allergies

Q: My wife seems to be allergic to every metal, so she has trouble wearing rings. What can we remake her wedding band from that won’t cause a reaction?

Inhaling Polishing Compounds

Q: I’ve been polishing with tripoli and rouge, using a paper dust mask, but I’ve noticed that some of the compounds are still ending up in my nose. Is this a problem and if so, what should I do about it?

Building Your Own Dust Collector

Q: I’m looking to build a dust collector for my polishing wheels and wondering if anyone has any suggestions or specs for something fairly simple.

Fuel Gases and their Environmental Effects

Q: I just found a butane torch that advertised itself as being “ozone friendly”. Does that mean it’s better for the environment than other butane torches, or better than any other fuel gasses, like propane?

Explosion and Fire Hazards of Polishing Dust

Q: I just heard about a dust explosion in a sugar factory that killed a lot of people. Is there anything similar to worry about in the dusts we jewelers generate?

Environmental Concerns for Jewelers

Q: Do we jewelers really need to feel guilty about our environmental effects? I haven’t done the math, but I doubt that a jeweler’s use of fuel gases amounts to as much in a year as an SUV uses in a week.

Contact Dermatitis from Aluminum?

Q: Is aluminum a metal to be avoided in jewelry? I noticed what seems to be contact dermatitis where I accidentally rubbed against some.

Can Titanium Rings be Cut Off in an Emergency?

Q: Is a titanium ring so hard to cut off that a doctor would have to amputate a finger if the ring was stuck on it?

Glasses for Platinum Soldering

Q: I’ve just started working with platinum, and I know I need some extra eye protection from the hotter torch temperatures involved. Are those blue cobalt safety glasses the best ones to use?

Cast Marble

Q: How does one go about making sculpture in “cast marble” or “bonded marble?”

Alternative Casting Materials

Q: I would like to cast something into molds (besides plaster of Paris) that would end up looking like white marble. Should I use polyester resin or what?

Clay Dust

Q: My studio is piled with scraps of dry pottery clay, and it seems really dusty in there. Is this going to give me lung cancer? What can I do about it?

Clays for Sculpture

Q: I want to try doing sculpture. What kind of clay should I use?

Foundry Practice

Q: I read that metal can be melted in a homemade charcoal-fired furnace, using an old cast-iron pot for a crucible. Is this a good idea? I want to pour about 20 lbs. of brass.

Making Paint

Q: I want to make my own paints from dirt, rocks, vegetables, spices, etc. I have seen paint make from colored dirt by adding a little white glue and some water. Is this going to work with everything?

Mosaic-surfaced Stepping Stones

Q: I want to make some concrete stepping stones with a mosaic surface. What kind of mold, concrete/aggregate mix, and setting technique should I use?

Patination for Steel

Q: Does anyone have any recommendations for steel patination?

Is Carving Soapstone Dangerous?

Q: I’ve heard that some soapstones contain asbestos, and should be avoided by carvers. Then I heard that the soapstone itself was toxic, because it contains talc. Is this true?

Turning Copper Green

Q: How can I turn copper and brass items green?

Foundations for Sculpture

Q: I’ve made some large sculptures, and I want to site them outdoors. Do I need to make a foundation for each one? That seems like it would be astronomically expensive. Do I have to bury part of the piece in the concrete while it’s wet?


Q: Where can I find information on life-casting? What are the best materials to use? What about plaster bandages, do they work?

Molding My Own Face

Q: I want to make a mold of my face, but I don’t know how. Do you use plaster?

Stone Carving

Q: I am interested in carving a piece of stone and was wondering if it can be done without a lot of fancy equipment.

Stone Cutting

Q: I have a large piece of black slate, ½ inch thick, that I’d like to use for a table top. What is the best way to cut, polish, and seal it.?

Can You Get Mercury Out of Gold?

Q: My 22 karat gold wedding ring became discolored after coming into contact with mercury from a broken thermometer. Is it destroyed, or can it be fixed?

The Rubber FAQ—Flexible Mold Materials Compared

Christopher Pardell explains why silicone rubber comes closest to the ideal, and where other types fall short. This article compares the following materials: latex, gelatins, alginates, urethanes, neoprene, vinyls, polysulfides, and silicones.

The PVC FAQ—Using Hot Melt Vinyls

Evan Hughes, with a somewhat contrary view, explains how this material can be an economical substitute for expensive rubber compounds in some applications. This article covers the following topics: using hot-melt vinyl for making flexible molds, melting it, the electric pot, pouring, hazards, and limitations.

The Plaster FAQ—Working With Plaster

Christopher Pardell gives detailed instructions on how to mix and use this versatile material, with advice on plaster mold-making, casting, and direct tooling. The article covers the following topics: plaster defined, its qualities, various uses, flexible molds, different types, modifications, investment, storage, hazards, water bubbles, air bubbles, tooling, mixing containers, mixers, industrial techniques, mixing by hand, influencing set time, reinforcements, use in sculpture, mold casings, fractioning the batch, cautionary notes, waste molds, separating sections, using shellac, adding on, fixing holes, slosh-casting, handling large molds, tempering and drying, tools, and last tips.

The Latex and Urethane FAQ—Casting Positive Forms in Latex and Urethane

Christopher Pardell goes over the steps taken by FX artists to create flexible objects which can be painted. This article covers the following topics: uses of rubber parts, plaster molds, thin latex castings, painting latex, foam latex, latex and urethane foam, self-skinning urethane foam, painting urethane rubber, urethane’s characteristics, and safety notes.