Tag: safety warning
Vacuum Attachment For Removing Dust From Small Parts
The new SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover looks like a simple vacuum attachment, but it is actually nothing less than a revolution in studio and workshop cleanup. With this simple tool, cleaning up a work surface covered in mosaic tile goes from 45 minutes of tedious sorting to a few minutes of casual effort. You can remove the glass dust from all your storage jars in a matter of a few seconds per jar –without sucking up and loosing any pieces.SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment has a replaceable fiberglass mesh screen that prevents you from sucking up small pieces of tile and other parts. SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment
I had to clean up a room full of Legos and kept putting it off because it would take hours and hours to wash all the cat hair and dust out of it. I created a small prototype that eventually became the SPARDUSTER™, and with that simple tool, I was able to clean all of those boxes and boxes of Legos in less than 30 minutes and did not suck up a single piece!Fits Most Vacuum Cleaners
This attachment works on household vacuum cleaners and shop vac with hoses 2 inches in diameter or less. The only restriction is that the attachment’s 1-inch diameter insert tube must be able to fit inside the hose.For Tiny Parts
The openings in the mesh screen are 2mm, and the mesh is double ply, so you can clean some very small parts with this.
You can also pick up spilled containers of beads and screws and similar items quickly with this attachments.Durable Construction / Replaceable Screen
These are made from heavy duty PVC plastic for long life. The fiberglass mesh screen is replaceable, and the unit ships with enough spare mesh to make 10 screens.Simple Cleaning
Pet hair and lint will accumulate on the screen. To clean it off, simply pull the attachment out of your vacuum hose and vacuum it off. You will be surprised how quickly the filth builds up. The good news is that this attachment will have you living and working a lot cleaner because it takes so much of the tedious labor out of cleaning up after a studio session.
I still can’t figure out how managed to work in my mosaic studio without it. This simple attachment makes clean up so much easier!
Cutting Pan For Mosaic Tile
Cutting glass tile with a mosaic glass cutter is a relatively quiet and gentle process because not much force is required to make the cut. However, glass is a brittle material, and cutting it with a compression tool causes pieces to snap off and bounce across the room. In addition to usable pieces of tile, tiny slivers of glass are also produced and traces of dust. While this waste isn’t produced in large quantities, it does need to be contained, especially when the work is being done at home, because the slivers are extremely sharp and dusts of all type should not be breathed (including generic materials like sand and sawdust).
Fortunately, the wastes from the cutting process can be contained easily using ordinary household items such as a shallow plastic tray or pan and a damp dish towel.Plastic dish pans and litter boxes make great cutting pans, especially those that are fairly shallow and wide. The sides do not have to be high at all to contain flying pieces of tile. An old dish towel can be dampened and placed on the bottom of the pan to help trap dust and slivers. A spray bottle filled with water should be used to mist the pan periodically. The tile and cutter are held down in the pan or just over it when the cut is made. Glass Slivers and Old Towels
Pricked fingertips are a common injury, especially when you attempt to pick up a freshly cut piece of tile with a sharp triangular point instead of using a pair of tweezers as recommended. While virtually every injury I had of this type over a 15+ year period was superficial, it can be annoying especially if you work with mosaic on a daily basis like I do for long periods.
But pricked fingertips aren’t the real problem, at least in my experience. The most common form of injury experienced when working with glass mosaic are cuts from tiny glass slivers that lie hidden on work surfaces until you run your hand over them or rest your forearm. Fortunately, cuts from stray slivers can be completely avoided by common sense practices such as cutting over a pan lined with an old hand towel or dish towel and using a vacuum to periodically clean up the surrounding worksurface.
The dish towel at the bottom of the cutting pan helps prevent cuts when you pick up pieces of tile because the slivers resting on the soft terry cloth material of the towel don’t have a hard surface to push them into your skin.
Make sure you don’t reuse the old dish towel for other purposes because slivers can become tangled or embedded in the fabric. Also make sure don’t shake it out in a way that creates dust of flings slivers around. I prefer to rinse mine out in a basin of water. If I do have to shake out crumbs, I do it by holding the towel INSIDE a large trash can. I also mist the towel thoroughly beforehand to make sure the shaking doesn’t make dust fly.Humidity and Dust
Dust can be controlled by humidity. While dry air allows tiny dust particles to become airborne more easily and stay in the air longer, moist air tends to make dust precipitate out of the air faster and helps keep dust stuck to surfaces. That is why factories often have misting sprinklers running in the ceilings, especially at times of the year when the AC or heat is running continuously.
You can do similarly by using a spray bottle to occasionally mist over your cutting area and keeping your dish towel moist inside your pan. The damp dish towel serves as a reservoir of moisture that keeps the air above it relatively humid. The humid air helps any trace amounts of dust created by cutting fall out of the air and onto the towel. The terry cloth fabric of the towel helps trap the dust once it settles.Cutting Pans And Stray Pieces
While the safety issues mentioned above are usually ignored as a nuisance, the problem of having to chase down a loose piece every time one shoots across the worktable and onto the floor is a lot harder to ignore. Stray pieces of tile are sometimes sharp, and they can scratch floors or cut bare feet if walked on. A cutting pan made from a shallow litter box (purchased new) or plastic tote can help contain these useful pieces in addition to any waste that is created. I keep my mosaic and glue right beside my cutting pan so that I can transfer the cut pieces directly to the mosaic -without having to get up every few minutes to find strays!
Small Glass Mosaic Instructions
These instructions explain how to set up and make a small mosaic from glass mosaic tile. I use our new hardwood mosaic coaster bases with 12mm Elementile recycled glass mosaic tile as an example, and I show how to set up your studio work space in ways that control dust and sharp splinters of glass. I grew up working in a dirt-floor welding shop and have spent a lifetime thinking about ways to minimize my exposure to potentially harmful substances, especially dusts, so don’t let my emphasis on safety alarm you.
These instructions were also written for someone trying to fit the glass as close together as I did in my mosaic crab shown below. If you leave an irregular grout gap of 1/16″ or less, you will have to cut a lot less and create fewer shards and dust. (You will also be able to use nearly every piece you cut and be able to use regular sanded grout to grout it.)Crab Mosaic Coaster. I used the glass mosaic tile upside down so that the embossed texture showed to make this crab. The edges of the coaster were smoothed with a marble file. Note that leaving a gap for grout instead of fitting the tile together this closely would have made the work infinitely easier. Fitting tile this closely takes more trial and error and you may end up cutting up over twice the amount of tile than you actually use. Most of these extra pieces could be eventually used on a future mosaic, but you can really take a lot of stress out of the process by leaving irregular gaps and not fitting each piece exactly. You can make the tile touch in places and still have an irregular gap. Mosaic Studio Set Up Whether you are painting, soldering, sewing, engraving or doing mosaic, your workspace tends to evolve into a U-shaped station where you can reach everything you need. Note the trays made from cardboard shallow boxes holding tile in recycled yogurt containers. Keeping your materials in shallow boxes and trays allows you to set up different activities and clean up quickly. One of the most important pieces of equipment isn’t shown: a HEPA-quality vacuum for cleaning up splinters of glass and any incidental dust. Your Vacuum Needs To Be A HEPA Vacuum
Your home vacuum should be HEPA quality, which means it removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter. I say this for all uses including cleaning your house and not just for mosaics or other crafts. If your vacuum isn’t HEPA, then it is blowing out a lot of dust that you are breathing. Vacuuming should make the air more healthy to breath, not expose you to lots of dust. Keep in mind that the silicon dust you track in as soil can be just as bad for your lungs as most of the materials used in arts and crafts.
When you cut up glass mosaic tile, there will definitely be small vicious splinters of glass that hide unseen on surfaces until you slide your hand across it and get a nasty cut before you even know what bit you. A vacuum and a counter brush are good ways to remove these from the work surface and the surrounding floor and to pick up any dust that is created by cutting.Cutting Towel and Spray Bottle An old dish towel or hand towel can be used to catch tiny splinters of glass created during cutting. Be careful shaking the tile out after use because you could flick sharp pieces of glass. We do this INSIDE a large garbage can and wear safety glasses when we work with mosaic. You should also mist your towel before shaking it to make sure you are not creating airborne dust.
In addition to a vacuum, you should use an old dish towel or hand towel to contain any dust and splinters created by cutting tile. You can put the towel in a shallow box or dishpan to catch any pieces that fly off when nipped by the mosaic glass cutter. The towel and tile can be misted with a spray bottle to prevent the formation of airborne dust, but don’t be excessive. You still need to keep the moisture away from the vacuum to prevent the risk of electric shock, and moisture can cause wood backers to warp, especially thin wood such as the mosaic coaster bases.Using Marble Files Without Creating Dust Marble files are great for shaping individual tiles and smoothing the edges of finished mosaics, but they should be used in an intelligent way that doesn’t expose you to glass dust. We do this by keeping the file in a 2-gallon plastic bucket and misting with water from a spray bottle. Sure the file will rust over time, even if you rinse and dry it each night, but marble files can be replaced while new lungs are hard to get. You already breath enough silicon from pulverized sand every day merely by living on planet Earth. Don’t add to the burden through your hobbies.
Mostly you can get the pieces you need by nipping, but sometimes there are random slivers left at the edge of a cut, and the edges of the finished mosaic on a round coaster base usually requires smoothing. Now any blockhead can just grab the file and go at it, but I LIVE in my studio, so I use common sense practices such as wet sanding and wet filing to make sure I don’t create airborne dust. Use your marble file in a 2-gallon plastic bucket and mist with a spray bottle to contain the dust at the source.Mounting Tile With Glue Tweezers and glue. Working with pieces of tile this small is difficult without the use of a pair of tweezers. A self-closing pair of tweezers with a needle point is shown, but these can sometime cause a tile to shoot out, and I prefer regular tweezers with a wide tip.
We use the Weldbond brand of white PVA adhesive because it is the best PVA we have used and doesn’t get as brittle in cold temperatures as some of the other brands we have tried over the years. It also seems to be very water resistant when fully cured. (Note that water resistant does not mean water proof, and we use thinset mortar on all wet mosaics and outdoor mosaics.) The white disk in the photograph is a top from a plastic yogurt container. We use these to hold a small blob of glue and dip the bottom of the tile into the glue using a pair of tweezers.
If you are fitting the tile tightly together, make sure you start at the center of the mosaic and work outwards. Otherwise, you can warp thin wood backers by squeezing tile into tight places.Drawing Mosaic Patterns On Your Backer
Draw the cartoon (outline) of your mosaic directly on the coaster base or whatever small mosaic backer you choose. You should start with pencil and then darken the principal lines with a fine-point marker such as a Sharpie. Your pattern should look like a picture from a coloring book: just the main lines and the outline of the figures.
You can also find a pattern on paper and transfer the pattern to the backer using graphite tracing paper (carbon paper). First, print the pattern as the same size as the backer by resizing the pattern using a photo-editing program. Then tape the pattern to the backer with carbon paper in between the pattern and the backer. Then trace over the pattern firmly with a ballpoint pen.
If you cannot print the pattern the same size as the backer, you can use these instructions for enlarging and transferring a mosaic pattern.Grouting The Mosaic
Most mosaic art is made with a grout gap of roughly 1/32 inch to 1/16 inch and is grouted with sanded grout. If your mosaic is made with fitted tile such as mosaic crab coaster above, you should use nonsanded grout or leave the mosaic ungrouted. Note that leaving a mosaic ungrouted is not practical for wet mosaics and outdoor mosaics or even mosaic counter tops. Those mosaics need grout to seal out water.
You should mix your grout according to manufacturer instructions, which usually specify roughly 1/4 pound of water per every 1 pound of sanded grout, and mix it thoroughly to make sure all the powder is thoroughly wetted. The grout is applied by smearing the wet grout across the face of the mosaic, and you should make several passes from different directions to make sure the wet grout is being forced to the bottoms of the gaps and not just superficially covering the tops. A gloved hand is good for this work, but be aware that sharp edges of cut tile pieces can sometimes cut through a glove. That is why the grouting gloves we sell are thicker than most dish washing gloves. You can cut a plastic lid in half to make a great disposable grout spreader.
Make sure you don’t allow the grout to dry out as it as curing. Concrete hardens by BINDING water not by drying. If you have to, cover the mosaic in plastic wrap or use a humidifier. Both are recommended if you are in a dry climate or the heater or AC are running excessively.
Make sure you use a damp (but not dripping) sponge or rag to remove excess grout from the face of the mosaic, but be careful not to pull the grout out from the gaps between the tile. After grout has hardened, you can buff the face of the mosaic with wet and dry rags to remove any remaining haze.
Dispose of your wet grout in the trash and not sinks or drains. Grout is concrete and can harden underwater, and even the loose sand can be a problem is pipes.
Outdoor mosaics and architectural mosaics (such as counter tops and backsplashes) need to be sealed with a tile and grout sealer such as the TileLab brand from Home Depot, but small art mosaics don’t really require it unless you expect it to be subjected to splashes and stains.
Additional tips about grouting can be found on the mosaic grout page and our page for how to avoid grouting problems.Sealing Sides and Backs Of Wooden Backers
I like to seal the side edges and backs of wooden backers with a clear polyurethane (sometimes with varnish, sometimes without) or with acrylic artists paint such as umber or burnt umber.
This keeps the plywood from delaminating and solid wood (such as the coaster bases) from cracking or warping. This is particularly important for coasters subject to spills and condensation from glasses.
Penny Mosaic Warning
We regularly see questionable information online concerning how to mosaic and how to do other art and craft projects. Mostly this information is questionable because it was written without regard to durability or how the project could have been used as an opportunity to make real art (personal, unique) instead of making clones of something already mass produced. Sometimes we even see instructions that are potentially dangerous or even likely to be dangerous. The recent fad of tiling floors with copper pennies may be an example of this, at least in certain situations.
In micro amounts, copper is a nutrient and is found in all plant and animal life. On the other hand, excessive exposure to copper can be toxic, particularly if a person has a genetic predisposition to a condition called Wilson’s Disease, in which the liver is unable to remove excess copper from the body.
Sure we all handle copper pennies every day, but this is different from lining a living space with them, especially on a floor where foot traffic will abrade the pennies and household cleaners will accelerate the forming of copper oxides and other toxic compounds.
Different websites mention coating the pennies with urethanes and other sealers prior to use. That is probably good in theory, but I’m not confident that the thin layer of sealant will isolate the copper for very long under normal use conditions. Keep in mind that copper is fairly soft and fairly reactive. What is acceptable for a wall or a mosaic sculpture is often inadequate for a floor.
How To Cut Marble Small
Recently a customer emailed me asking how to cut a piece of marble mosaic tile into very small pieces. He reported that he could easily cut the marble tile into thirds by making straight cuts, but when he attempted smaller pieces or diagonal cuts, the marble would crumble or break into jagged pieces
The customer verified that he had the correct tool for cutting extremely hard tile, which is a compound nipper, but the problem is in the stone (and the technique to a certain extent) and not the tool. This article explains how to make cuts that take into account natural breaking points in the stone and how to use a marble file to file down extra small pieces instead of cutting.Homogeneous And Thinly Layered Stone Types Cut Better
Whether or not a piece of stone tile can be easily cut into small pieces depends on the type of stone. Some varieties can be cut into thin sections while other varieties are likely to crumble or break irregularly when cut to any size. This is due to the internal structure of the stone. If a stone is homogeneous or composed of many thin layers, then it probably can be cut into thin pieces without breaking randomly. But other types of stone have veins and globs and swirls, and these types are likely to break along these natural internal structures instead of the intended line between the blades.
Note that some types of stone have natural swirls of color that do NOT act as natural fault planes, so you can’t always assume a stone will be difficult to cut reliably merely from variegated color.Take Veins, Globs, Swirls And Layers into Account
With practice and experience, you can learn to look at the veins, globs, swirls and layers in the stone and make your cuts in places where the stone is likely to break naturally. Just as an experienced carpenter knows to avoid diving fasteners into knots in wood, an experienced mosaicist knows to make cuts along natural boundaries. Even then, there are still some varieties of stone where scrap has to be generated to get small pieces by cutting. However, there is a way to make small pieces from difficult stone typesFile Instead Of Cutting
For problematic varieties of stone, you can use the fine side of a marble file to file a piece down to size instead of cutting it. Of course, you may need to make an initial cut with a tile nipper to get the stone to a manageable starting point before using the file. In fact, you may discover a lot of useful starting pieces in the “useless scrap” created by previous cuts.
Once you get accustomed to using a marble file, you may start to think of rough cuts as just an initial step followed by shaping with a marble file. For really small pieces, you can completely alter the shape of the tesserae with just a few strokes because all of the abrasion is focused on such a small surface area. You should hold the file still and rub the stone on the motionless file for greater control.
Tip: Wear gloves for this task because it is difficult to slide the tiny pieces up and down the file without scratching up your fingertips. If gloves make your hands too clumsy, then use a shop rag over your fingertip instead. As always, use mist from a spray bottle to control dust and wear a dust mask if needed.
Of course, this isn’t a scalable solution, meaning you wouldn’t want to have to do this for very many tesserae, but it is useful for making a limited number of small pieces for fine details in a mosaic mainly made from larger pieces.Plan Mosaic Designs Starting At The Smallest Detail
Sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is prevention. It doesn’t make sense to start with a mosaic pattern that has details smaller than the smallest piece of tile you can cut, but many novices make this error, which often results in a key focal point of the mosaic being more crudely executed than the background. Instead of assuming that you can always just cut the tile smaller to make the smallest detail of a mosaic, do the exact opposite: Before you begin executing the mosaic, take the smallest detail of your design and try cutting and arranging a few tiles to make that detail. If the tile is too difficult to cut that small, or if it is too tedious to arrange properly, then consider making the mosaic larger (or simplifying the smaller details of the design).
The size of a mosaic (or a painting) is ultimately determined by the size of the smallest detail that can be rendered. The principle seems obvious in hindsight, but in practice it catches many people by surprise. Why? Because they can visualize the smallest detail easily but do not realize that their powers of execution are much more limited.
Take the stress out of your mosaic project by playing with tile before you begin. Cut a little bit of it up and play around making patterns, and then decide how detailed your design should be and how large it should be. If your total area is already fixed (due to the size of an existing surface to be tiled), then try cropping or simplifying your design.
Assessing Glass Mosaic Tile Health and Safety Concerns
Recently a customer emailed me asking if there was an ASTM-D4236 certification for one of our glass mosaic tile lines. ASTM-D4236 is the labeling and precautionary standards for chronic health hazards in art materials.
There isn’t an ASTM-D4236 certification for any of our products to my knowledge. They are manufactured as building materials and not as art supplies, and (more importantly) the materials are fairly inert.
The metal oxide pigments used to color glass mosaic tile are fired into the glass itself and not freely available. Otherwise the tile could not be used in pools and baths or even in walls. As with any source of mineral dust, you shouldn’t pulverize the tile and breath it, but in that case the risk would probably be as much from the silicone dioxide (sand/glass) as it would be with the metal oxide pigments.
In terms of safety and chemical health risks, I am much more concerned with my painting studio than my mosaic studio. Artist-grade professional paints contain toxic metal pigments which are freely available and not fired into glass, and any dust from drying paint specks is likely to be much more friable (and therefore air born) than dust created by cutting tile.Practical Safety Tips
If you are concerned about minimizing potential risks, then follow these safety practices:Rinse mosaic materials prior to use to remove any dust generated by shipping. Use a HEPA shop vacuum to pick up any dust generated by cutting, which you really need to do anyway because there isn’t much if any true dust, but there are a lot of tiny slivers that will cut your hands and forearms as soon as you rub or rest them on work surfaces. Mix grout and thinset outdoors and wear a dust mask. Mixing up these concrete products is much more likely to expose you to silica dust than working with tile.
Lastly, consider that fact that people work for decades in extremely dusty construction sites and mines where their daily exposure is possibly higher than what a lifetime of mosaic work is likely to expose you to. A few simple precautions and adequate cleaning reduce this exposure even further.
Architectural Mosaic Safety Issues
An architectural mosaic can cut someone if sharp edges are left exposed or crush someone if it’s not mounted securely. Even a small mosaic plaque is significantly heavier than a painting or photograph of the same size and should not be hung with light gauge wire or fasteners.Preventing Cuts Would You Glue Razor Blades To Your Shower Wall?
Broken glass can be sharper than any razor blade. Don’t cement razor sharp daggers to walls, floors or anywhere else. Use a marble file or grozing pliers to knock off any razor edges.Use Smaller Grout Gaps To Reduce Cuts
Tighter (smaller) grout gaps helps reduce the potential for cuts. It’s intrinsically more difficult to cut yourself the closer the pieces are together because the closer they are, they less flesh that can be pressed between them.
However, there must be a grout gap large enough to get some grout into during the process of rubbing the wet grout into the cracks. Grout (and thus a gap big enough to be able to press wet concrete into) is needed to seal out water. That is one of the big ironies of mosaic: You can make your mosaic significantly more vulnerable to water damage by mounting the tiles so closely that they touch. Wet concrete might find it difficult to fit into a hairline crack, but water won’t have any problem.Grout Cannot Hide SIns (Forever)
Grout erodes over time, particularly in locations with lots of water and traffic, such as the bathroom floor and shower stall. When the grout erodes, it re-exposes the sharp edges. Don’t use grout to hide safety problems.Repair Damaged Mosaics
Repair damaged mosaics by prying off broken tiles or smoothing with a marble file.Mount Mosaics Securely
The most secure mounting for a mosaic mural is a stone, concrete or masonry wall. However it is possible to mount a mosaic mural on a wood-framed wall provided you review the wall with a carpenter to make sure it’s structure can support the weight.
Smaller mosaics may be mounted using multistranded stainless-steel picture wire with construction-sized wood screws, but install a redundant wire as a back up. Use multiple fasteners in the wood and stagger their locations so as not to split the wood.
Larger murals should use steel mounting clamps or mounting trays. The fasteners should be of structural size and not finishing or cabinet nails. Put fasteners in studs and review your mounting scheme with your carpenter when you review the wall with them. Weights of large murals can be calculated from area multiplied by unit weight, which can be summed from component materials if not actually weighed on a scale.
Make sure you have a carpenter look at the wall to see if it can bear the load.
How To Store And Reuse Dust Masks
Mixing up grout and thinset require that mosaic artists wear dust masks on an occasional basis.
I wear an N95 particulate mask, which is the same one I wear for sawing wood with power tools and many other shop and studio tasks that involve non-oily dust. An N-95 captures 95% of the particles of a certain diameter. Controlling the amount of dust you create is also essential for minimizing exposure, but that would be true even if the masks were rated 100%. No mask can protect you once you take it off.An ordinary resealable plastic bag is excellent for storing dust masks. If It’s Done, Can It
The vacuum-and-bag method below is how I store and reuse dust masks used occasionally for lighter duties.
Of course you might not want to try to do this with a mask you wore on a twelve-hour shift in hot sweaty weather or if the amount of dust you were in was so extreme it affected visibility.Vacuum And Store In A Plastic Bag
The mask should be disposed if it is saturated with dust or body salts or if it is mechanically worn out (torn, worn thin, creased severely).
Vacuum your mask (without damaging it or feeding it to the pig) and store it in a plastic bag.The Important Tip
The important tip is how to vacuum it without ruining it or sucking it up in the vacuum. Remember, the pig will snatch up and eat anything, especially if you taunt him with a snack right in front of his suck hole, and his innards were made for contaminating dust masks. Always make sure the elastic band of the mask is twisted around your wrist.
You can also destroy your mask in a less obvious way.
You could create invisible rips and pinhole tears in the mask if you let the vacuum hose get stuck on it. Letting the hose get stuck on the mask also increases the risk of it getting sucked up.
Use brush fitting not bare nozzle. This helps prevent the mask from sealing or sticking to the hose.Vacuum The Outside First
You also don’t want to suck dirt into the cup of the mask or deeper into the fibers of the mask. Vacuum the outside of the mask first. Then vacuum inside.Don’t Make A Dust Inhalation Device
A dirty mask is a dust inhalation device, even if all the dust is on the outside of the mask. The act of handing it and putting it on can be enough to clog your sinuses if the mask is dirty enough.
This includes dust from storage as much as it does from previous wearings.
Keep your mask in a plastic bag to prevent dust from settling on it. The plastic bag can be a reused bag (shopping, bread, ziplock).Don’t Swap Germs Until The Studio Christmas Party
Label bags with a black permanent marker to avoid exchanging germs with coworkers. I’ve found that some people are blind to most forms of labels on personal safety equipment. Capitalized initials in block letters seem to be the most effective, but razor wire probably wouldn’t stop some people from wearing your stuff.