No matter how confident or experienced you are as a turner, safety in your workshop should always be front and centre in your mind – Not just for you, but for anyone in the workshop with you. Also remember, that the safety of your workshop is your responsibility.

Much has been written about turning workshop safety, and these guidelines will echo much of those other writer’s sentiments. So here we go:

You, Personally

  • Ware a full faceshield, preferably one made from polycarbonate. They cost about twice as much as the ‘standard’ ones, but worth every penny. The barest minimum should be a pair of safety glasses.
  • When sanding, wear a suitable PFF3 rated dust mask of half mask respirator.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back or put it in a bun and secure it well.
  • Avoid wearing gloves or having any loose clothing near your lathe work piece that may be caught by spinning lathe attachments or wood.
  • Some professional workshops extend these practices to include the removal of rings, bracelets and watches for an additional level of safety.
  • For PPE suggestions, Click HERE

Your Lathe – Before You Start to Cut

  • Ensure your piece is mounted securely on the lathe before starting it
  • All locks should be secure before starting the lathe. Get into the habit of double checking:
    • Spindle Lock
    • Tail Stock
    • Tool Rest
    • Banjo
  • Position the tool rest close to the work, but not so close that when you turn the piece by hand that it catches on the rest.

Your Spinning Lathe

  • Start the lathe at a slow speed and increase the speed appropriately.
    • Large or rough pieces should be turned at a slower speed
    • Spindles and smaller pieces can be turned at higher speeds
    • Do not increase the speed of the lathe until your piece is balanced
  • Should the lathe vibrate or shake with the piece rotating, slow the lathe down until the vibrations stops.
    • Stop the lathe to check both the lathe and the piece for possible reasons for the vibration and correct where required.
  • Comfortably but securely hold the tool and position it on the rest before starting to cut the wood.
  • When cutting the piece with the lathe spinning, stop the lathe regularly and move the rest closer as the piece gets smaller.
  • There is a ‘Firing Line’ in front of and behind the lathe, directly in line with the spinning work piece. This is where a piece is most likely to go should it leave the lathe.
    • Wherever possible, keep yourself and others away from this line whilst the lathe is running.
    • Starting the lathe from outside of this line in case anything untoward should happen to the piece or its mounting.
  • Keep the tool in contact with the rest until it is clear of the piece at the end of a cut.
  • When sanding and finishing, move the tool rest away from the work.
  • Stop the lathe before leaving it unattended.

Should you feel unsure, unsafe, or in any way uncertain of what you are doing, STOP and ask for advice from an experienced turner.

Enjoy Yourself!

There are many ‘rules’ and ‘guidelines’ for workshop safety and there will be other posts promoting good practice.

After a time, these practices become second nature, and almost a habit. But they must always be consciously checked every time you use the lathe.

Additional Notes From Phil

Keep your working environment clean. It is very easy to slip on shavings on a wooden floor – and this must never be overlooked when using any sort of flame to embellish wood.

An abundance of shavings is even a good place to find small rodents!

A pile of shavings beneath the lathe is also the best space to lose small items such as chuck faceplate screws. I nearly lost a chisel once – it fell into the shavings when I knocked of off the lathe – and when I picked up the large tray under the lathe to drop the shavings in my dustbin I only just saw it!

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2 responses to “Safety in Your Workshop”

  1. Pete Ravenscroft avatar
    Pete Ravenscroft

    One that I use most of the time, and try to use all of the time.

    Spend 20 minutes in the workshop after the Lathe etc. is turned off use this time to clean up, which reduces the shavings issues mentioned above, but more importantly it also gives time to be sure that no spark from sharpening, pyro work etc. is gently smouldering in the sawdust.

    One from a local club member on the same lines, don’t use the same belt sander to sand wood and sharpen tools! luckily he saw the smoke and got the sander out of the workshop in time.

  2. Brian Ousby avatar
    Brian Ousby

    I have gotten into the habit of. Cleaning up the shavings prior to sanding, yes it takes a little extra time p. But as a retired hobby turner I have time ?


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