Turning Clothing and Attire

What to wear when you’re turning? There are various things that are good to wear, and things that should be avoided. This article is an extension of the PPE as what you wear can have affect on woodturning safety.


You may well be standing in front of the lathe for many hours at a time, so it is worthwhile ensuring that what you choose to wear is comfortable and appropriate for the season. And comfy shoes is an absolute must! Let’s take a look from the feet up.

Shoes or Boots? Steel Caps or Not?

Toes are fairly fragile things, so it is best to keep them protected in the workshop with either a decent pair of decent leather safety shoes or a pair of leather boots – ideally with a steel toe-cap.
My personal preference is a hiking boot style with a steel toe cap. I find them much more comfortable than ‘normal’ work boots because the additional padding an a good firm, but flexible sole – perfect for hours behind the lathe.

My boots are from Blackrock Work Wear

A steel toe-cap gives the best protection for toes in case a blank drops on them, or a tool ends up dropping towards your foot point first. Good quality leather work footwear will also be a suitable choice. A boot affords ankle protection, too.

No matter how hot it is, you should always avoid wearing trainers or sandals, or even bare feet!


Generally, looser is better than tighter when it comes to leg-wear. Denim jeans are fine, but not your best pair as there is a good chance of spoiling them with finishing products!

Generic work trousers are ideal. They have plenty of pockets, a hard wearing and usually baggy enough to put a pair of long-johns on underneath in the winter!

Shorts are just OK but not really advised. Shorts that hang below the knees are more suitable than those of a 1980’s footballer, for example.

It is worth hunting for a pair of work trousers that have zips just below the knee allowing you to remove the lower part of the legs in hot weather.

Upper Body – Smock or Not

Smocks are garments worn by turners to protect their upper body – not from impacts of items rapidly leaving the lathe, but from shavings, dust, dyes and finishing products.

The have a high collar with a Velcro fastening to keep dust and shavings out at the neck, and are long enough to hang below the waist and prevent shavings and dust getting into trouser pockets.

Long sleeves protect the arms from shavings, finishes etc whilst the Velcro cuffs keep the fabric safely away from the spinning work.

There is often a pocket in the back of the smock, and one on the arm for pens and pencils.

A well fitting smock should be short enough in the arm that when the cuff is secured, there is no overly loose fabric around the wrist and forearm, and also be loose enough in the body to wear warm clothing (perhaps a fleece) in the colder months.

There are plenty of places to buy a smock in various styles. Some have short sleeves, some are made from a thick cotton whilst others are polyester. The one in the picture is from The Tool Post. The main UK manufacturer is Lovell Workwear.

Loose fitting items such as woolen jumpers or fleeces are not recommended because of loose fabric around the forearms. If they are worn, the sleeves should always be rolled up to prevent the sleeve dropping


As your hands a so close to the spinning chuck and work, gloves are not a good idea. Should a glove get caught in the piece, or the chuck, there is a very good chance it will drag your hand in – the result of which could be quite horrific – so gloves are almost universally discouraged.

One exception to this guidance is that when using chemicals on your work – oils, sealers, finishes and particularly dyes and stains, appropriate gloves should be worn. Nitrile gloves, such as those worn by tattoo artists are ideal as they contain no latex. Some gloves, however deteriorate when used with some solvents, like those found in some sealers. Extra care should be taken if wearing these gloves near a spinning work piece.

Head Wear and Hair

Some form of hat is a neat idea for keeping shavings and dust out of your hair in the workshop and a long fringe out of your eyes.

A good hat should fit comfortably and not disrupt the correct use of your face shield and dust masks..

Beanies in the winter are great as they can be easily worn beneath face shields

This beanie is from Hampshire Sheen, embroidered in the UK and shipped worldwide.

If you have long hair, it should always be tied back and made completely safe from accidentally falling forward towards the lathe whilst turning.

Watches, Bracelets and Rings

To be on the safe side, watches, bracelets and rings should be removed for the same reasons gloves are not recommended. Many turners keep a watch on, but in my workshop, all the above should be removed where possible. (Sometimes rings (particularly wedding rings) cannot be removed so have to remain on)

In my own workshop, students and visiting turners are required to remove these items if they are using a lathe – it is better to be safe than sorry!

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2 responses to “Turning Clothing and Attire”

  1. Phil Abraham avatar
    Phil Abraham

    One handy hint if you have a ring you cannot/ would prefer not to remove. Tape over it with surgical tape,( or a piece of gaffer for the masochistic) this significantly reduces the snag hazard … if the fingertip goes blue the tape’s too tight

    1. Martin Saban-Smith avatar
      Martin Saban-Smith

      That’s a very good idea!

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