Lathe Safety Series, Part 4 - General Safety
Wednesday , 17 December 2014 , 09 : 43 PM
Turning Tutorials - Lathe Safety Series, Part 4

Lathe Safety Series, Part 4 - General Safety

This month, we will be concluding our series concerning safety at the lathe. Our focus will be somewhat broadened this month, in order to cover any remaining items which may not have already been addressed.

Proper Attire -

Loosely fitted clothing, especially long-sleeved shirts or jackets, can potentially become wrapped up in a workpiece or the headstock of the lathe. Well-fitted shirts or jackets are necessary in order to avoid a potentially severe accident.

Avoid wearing jewelry. While small rings pose very little danger, large rings, watches, arm bands/bracelets and necklaces can be potentially quite dangerous. Be sure to remove all jewelry to prevent them from getting caught in your workpiece or the headstock of the lathe.

Make sure that shoes are properly tied before working at the lathe. Many an accident has been caused when a person was unaware of a loose shoelace, which caused them to trip and fall onto a moving lathe.

Long hair should be properly secured to prevent it from accidentally coming into contact with a spinning lathe or workpiece.

Lighting -

Fluorescent lighting can be dangerous at the lathe. Although not apparent, these lights flicker very rapidly, and at constant intervals. In certain cases, when the flicker of the light is synchronized with the rotating speed of the lathe, the lighting can cause the lathe to appear as if it is sitting still, even while rotating. For anyone who has used a timing light in doing work with motors, the effect is very much the same. If it all possible, use incandescent or LED lighting. If fluorescent lighting must be used, be aware of this potentially dangerous situation.

Organization -

Keep tools located near the tailstock of the lathe when possible. Having to reach for a tool near the headstock of the lathe puts you in harms way in the event that a piece breaks apart and comes off of the lathe. While this does not occur commonly, it can happen.

Keep the floor clear of clutter and debris. Either can potentially cause a person to trip and fall into a moving lathe.

Tool Handling -

Each tool has its own specific use, and can be potentially dangerous if used improperly. Educate yourself prior to using a new tool, and never use a tool for a job for which it is not intended.

Spindle roughing gouge - NEVER use this tool for bowls, platters or faceplate work. The tool is too large, and is not ground in a manner which allows for safe use on anything other than spindle work.

Bowl gouge - This tool can be difficult to master in the beginning. Remember to keep the bevel of the tool in contact with the wood's surface when being used. Attempting to use the tip of this tool without the support of its bevel, can lead to disastrous catches that can send the tool flying and/or break apart the workpiece, sending broken wood flying about.

Skew - The skew is another tool which can be difficult to master. Cutting at the improper height on the workpiece, cutting in the incorrect direction, or using the wrong point (long or short point) of the tool can cause catching. Be sure to learn proper cutting techniques before attempting to use this tool for the first time.

Scrapers- Scrapers are commonly used by all turners, and are especially popular amongst beginners. While relatively easy to use, they can also be dangerous. Most accidents occur when the tool handle is pulled down below horizontal, causing the cutting edge to catch and be thrown out of the user's hand.

Additionally, accidents can occur when working with bowls, platters and hollow forms, particularly when cutting towards the center. If the tool is allowed to cut past the center of the workpiece, into the portion of the wood which is spinning in an upward direction, the tool can easily be pulled out of a person's hands and sent flying into the air.

Lathe Operation -

Never touch a spinning workpiece. Be sure to turn off the lathe before handling any work.

Never adjust the tool rest with the lathe running. Turn off the lathe and allow it to come to a complete stop before making adjustments.

Keep the tool rest within about 1/8" of the workpiece The further the tool rest is from the wood, the more leverage is required to maintain control.


While this is not an all-inclusive list of every safety concern, it should cover most situations. Always be aware of your habits, and address issues promptly. Be sure to keep a first aid kit nearby, just in case an issue should ever arise. We wish you all the very best, and hope that we have been able to help keep you safe!

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