Safety Tips to Increase the Safety of your Turning
Wood turning involves spinning wood and sharp tools. Spinning wood can lead to dangers and injury. But observing some simple rules can help you avoid common injuries associated with wood turning.
I wanted to introduce this blog with an exciting do what I say not what I did story! Yes, I’ve had bowls fly off of the lathe and hit my face shield, but no bumps on the head. I’ve had bowls chip, crack and disintegrate on the lathe but no cut fingers or injuries to my hands. So for me safety has been a mental attitude as well as a physical concern. I have walked away from the lathe when tired or unable to focus. Wood turning is fun but not to the point of risking injury.
Consider the safety tips below and enjoy your turning.
The speed at which you run your lathe has an impact on your personal safety and enjoyment of wood turning. The general rule is to start out slow, especially if the wood is out of round and unbalanced on the lathe. Once the wood is trued and round you can increase your speed. If you have waves or bumps on your wood try adjusting the lathe speed up or down a bit. I use a faster speed at the end when I am sanding and finishing the project.
I know how lovely a variable speed lathe is. Changing the speed is easy. My mini-lathe has belts. While it doesn’t take long to change the belt. (Pulley Tip) I have a tendency to not change the speed as much. However to make sure I’m not going too fast I tend to use the bottom three speeds on the mini-lathe. One turner I know, with a pulley system, keeps all his turning at the middle speed.
Safety Tips #1: Safe speed for turning a bowl.
How can you determine the right speed for turning a bowl?
The formula is (diameter of bowl in inches) * (RPM of the lathe) = 5000
Or you can divide 5000 by the diameter and get the speed of the lathe! A later video suggests 6000 for the initial speed and 9000 as the factor for final finishing.
Safety Tips #2: Eye Protection
Eye protection is crucial. This video shows you two types, goggles and a face shield.
He also mentions not wearing loose clothing which is a really good idea. You should also check the integrity of the wood you are putting on the lathe. If there is a crack or soft spot in the wood it could disintegrate as you attempt to turn it. I tried to turn a bowl out of some very punky wood and it flew off the lathe several times. Good thing that punky wood is soft wood.
Safety Tips #3: Personal Condition
One factor that has an impact on turning safely is your physical and emotional condition.
Don’t turn when you are tired or you have consumed alcohol or drugs. Be alert and aware of the dangers inherent in wood turning and other wood working activities. Richard Raffan said that all of his major injuries occurred at the end of the day when he was tired and not paying enough attention to his work.
Here’s another initial safety video with a few more tips. Sounds like he is reading the script and the background music might put you to sleep.
I would slightly disagree with the suggestion that you do not try advanced techniques. You should develop your skills, carefully expand your repertoire of techniques, and gently increase the difficulty of your turnings. For more difficult cuts move the tool across the rest and the work as if you were making the cut but angle the tool to miss the work. Get used to the movement that you want to achieve first then bring the tool to the work. You could also slow down the lathe speed as well.
3 General Safety Rules
Keith Rowley from England attributes most accidents at the lathe to three things.
1. Ignorance of correct techniques
2. Taking unnecessary risks even when experienced
3. Tiredness or lack of concentration.
Keeping these three things in mind will greatly increase the safety of your wood turning.
Additional safety tips
– don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry that can get caught on the wood
– turn rough / out of balance wood by hand before turning on the lathe
– start the lathe on slow speed and then increase the speed
– always stand to one side and out of the “firing line” when starting the machine
– make sure that there is at least 3/4″ of tool rest beyond the end of the wood you are working on
– when learning to turn, stop the lathe before adjusting the tool rest (see #2 above)
– minimize the downward leverage on the tools by keeping the tool rest as close as possible to the work piece
– remove the tool rest when sanding
– do not wrap steel wool or finishing cloths around your fingers, instead hold them loosely in your hand so that if they do get caught they are released from your hand without taking your fingers with it.
– wear a dust mask or respirator when turning
– keep a fire extinguisher in the workshop
– don’t smoke or allow others to smoke in the shop
Basic Lathe Maintenance
In addition to turning safely, basic lathe maintenance will allow you to enjoy many hours turning at your lathe.
Basically a clean and oiled lathe will run easier with less vibration which will improve your turnings! Looks like I have a little bit of work to do out in the shop.
Most wood turning books will have sections on safety with similar safety tips. The following two are quite helpful and straight forward in their presentation.
Turning Wood W/Richard Raffan
Woodturning: A Foundation Course (New Edition)
Stay safe and enjoy your turning. What have you been working on? Please leave a comment.