Woodturning Safety 101

WARNING : Woodturning is a potentially dangerous activity. Improper use of tools and/or equipment, products or materials as well as not following recommended safety guidelines can result in serious injury or death. It is your responsibility to make sure you are properly educated in all aspects of woodturning and to follow safety guidelines and manufacturers recommendations regarding the proper use of product to ensure your safety. If you have questions regarding proper lathe operation, tool use or safety guidelines, please consult an expert.

Woodturning Safety Guidlines

  • Safe and effective use of a wood lathe requires study and knowledge of proper machine operation, tool use and correct woodturning techniques. It is your responsibility to read and follow all warning labels and owners/operators manuals supplied on or with machinery, chucks, woodturning tools and other products. It is your responsibility to become properly educated in all aspects of woodturning prior to turning wood.
  • Always wear a full-face shield at all times. Shop/Safety glasses alone are not sufficient protection from flying debris.
  • Exposure to woodturning dust can be harmful to your respiratory system. Always use a proper dust mask or air filtration helmet in addition to adequate ventilation.
  • Always wear adequate hearing protection. Long-term exposure to noise can damage hearing.
  • Do not wear loose clothing, gloves, jewelry or any objects that dangle as they may become entangled in the lathe. Always tie back long hair. Check your person and your surroundings for any other items that may be accidentally entangled with the wood lathe.
  • Check your owner/operators manual for proper speed recommendations. If you cannot find recommended speeds, please seek the advise of a professional prior to operating the lathe. Use slower speeds for larger diameter or out of balance work. NEVER start the lathe before checking to make sure the lathe speed setting is correct for the size of work to be turned. If excess vibration or shaking occurs, stop the wood lathe and determine the cause before proceeding.
  • Prior to starting the wood lathe, rotate the work piece by hand to make sure that it clears the tool rest support and lathe bed. Also, make certain that all clamping devices are locked and that the tailstock is properly seated against the work.
  • Be sure the work piece is securely mounted and is free of imperfections or substandard glue joints that may result in the work piece separating or flying apart.
  • Make certain that the belt guard and/or control and motor covers are in place. Check to make sure all tightening handles are properly tightened.
  • Make sure that the tool is resting on the tool rest before beginning the cut.
  • Always run the lathe at slow speeds while making roughing cuts and NEVER use a roughing gouge on a bowl.
  • Prior to running the lathe in reverse, make sure that necessary steps are taken to prevent the work piece and/or chuck from unscrewing itself from the wood lathe.
  • Always know your capabilities and work within your limits. Many techniques and procedures used by professional woodturners may be beyond your ability or skill level and can prove to be dangerous if attempted.
  • Utilize the tailstock whenever possible. This provides an added level of safety as it often times prevents the work from coming off the lathe during a mishap.
  • Always remove the tool rest before sanding and finishing. Failing to do so can result in serious injury to your hand and fingers.
  • Do not over-reach! Although many of today’s tools have long blades, this does not mean that they are designed to reach long distances over the rest. Overreaching can cause the blade and/or handle to break causing serious injury.
  • Keep your tools sharp and properly ground. Dull tools are dangerous as they require excessive pressure to make them cut. If you have difficulty in sharpening, seek the advice of an expert for proper training. Keep tools out of the reach of children.
  • Do not use tools for purposes for which they are not designed or intended for. Using a tool, chuck or lathe component for purposes other than what they were designed to do will likely result in an accident.
  • Properly dispose of finishing rags and unused finishes.
  • Do not leave finish containers open. Keep finishes away from open flame.
  • Keep your work area clean and free of clutter and debris.
  • Use caution when finishing with cloth rags, they may become entangled and cause injury.
  • Inspect your wood lathe and equipment frequently. Check power cords, connections and do not use extension cords for providing power to your wood lathe.
  • Stay alert, take frequent breaks and never operate the lathe or other shop equipment when under the influence of drugs, medication or alcohol.
  • Never leave the lathe running unattended. Be certain to turn off power to the lathe when not in use.
  • Use a well-balanced stance when turning while maintaining a firm, comfortable grip on the tool.
  • Use common sense, if you’re unsure, see the advice of an expert. Always take necessary safety precautions to prevent serious injury.

Safe turning practices are not limited to the recommendations listed above. It is your responsibility to become properly trained and educated prior to attempting woodturning.

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