Like any technical occupation jewellery making has its risks and hazards. According to this list jewellery makers are susceptible to such health complaints as neck, shoulder, arm, hand and back complaints. As well as psychic complaints such as burnout and even PTSS.
Jewellery making health and safety issues are important not only for professionals but even for those who engage in jewellery making hobby.
A couple of weeks ago I started to feel weird sensations in my left hand and arm, such as tingling and numbness. These sensations got worse after working with rotatory tools such as flex shaft tool and even a dremel.
On the internet I have found the information on hand-arm vibration syndrome, also known as HAVS. It is a condition which occurs following prolonged use of hand held vibrating power tools. I was mainly interested in the ways to mitigate this harmful effect. There are not many. The main advice is: reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go,
Then I started to analyze my own symptoms: which hand, what makes them worse etc. I discovered that my LEFT hand holding the pieces suffers more than my RIGHT tool-holding hand. So the problem is probably not vibration only, but the repetetive movements and the strain from clamping. The left hand is always passively holding (and clamping) while the right hand is performing various operations.
Operations with vibration include for instance drilling and polishing. The duration of drilling is limited. On the other hand polishing is the most repetitive (and tedious) operation. Would it be the best not to use the left hand at all when polishing? Just by clamping the piece in the vice (vise). The problem is that once the piece is clamped it remains in one position and you have to reposition it every time you want to process the other side of the piece. It is not very fleixible.
Though I read that anti-vibration gloves generally provide negligible attenuation of vibration, I experimented with a glove too. It does not feel very comfortable. However using a traditional wooden ring clamp with wedge reduces the sense of vibration in the hand significantly. What helps even more is a rubber block. Rubber dampens vibration quite well. An additional advantage is that when a piece lies firmly on the block the polishing process is more efficient.
And – last but not least – exercise! These simple exercises help to relax the hands after work with vibratory tool.
Straighten both wrists and relax fingers. (B)
Exercise 2. Do the same with tight fists.
Exercise 3. Then shake your hands as if trying to shake off water droplets.