The dangers of opal cutting


Justin explains the dangers of opal cutting and his change from sandpaper to the Nova wheel; why change? What difference does it make? And how did it help that annoying cough he used to get?!

In this video, Justin dives in on the strengths and weaknesses of these opal cutting methods and why the Nova wheel is the best way to go.

The Sandpaper Wheel

The sandpaper wheel needs to be changed every two weeks or it cracks and wears thin, this caused Justin to have to painstakingly pick off the flakes with tweezers! Justin would have to wear down the 360 grit sandpaper with a large piece of opal before he could start using it or the surface would be too rough to use on other opal pieces.

The biggest reason Justin changed from sandpaper to the Nova wheel was dust! The sandpaper wheel is dry and has no way of capturing the silica dust; even wearing a mask wouldn’t protect Justin from breathing in the dust that left him with a persistent cough.

Long term, high volume exposure to silica dust is one of the dangers of opal cutting and can lead to silicosis; a lung disease that can be very harmful to human health. The average opal cutter (Justin included!) would not reach this level of exposure but this is one factor Justin considered when he made the change. You can read more about silicosis in this brief review of silicosis in the United States, or in this article on the diseases resurgence.

The Nova Wheel

The Nova wheel is a wet based wheel that captures most of the silica dust making it a much safer option for opal cutting. Justin explains that the Nova wheel is a soft wheel impregnated with diamonds and lasts years before it needs to be replaced, unlike the sandpaper wheel that needs changing every couple of weeks.

We hope that you enjoy Justin’s video on the dangers of opal cutting and hope it can help you in understanding why he does opal cutting the way he does.

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