Glendale Woodturners Guild - Est. 1993
Glendale Woodturners Guild - Est. 1993

Lathe Safety

Lathes are great to work with, you can create so many things, table legs, baseball bats, staircase rungs, just to name a few. But it can be a dangerous tool if you are inexperienced, not trained properly, or careless. You can be hurt severely or even killed. Proper safety training is very important.  The wood rotates between the headstock and tailstock to permit carving. Rotating speeds range from 200 to 4,000 rpm.

 

The following are some safety guidelines for safe operations of wood lathes:

  • Have a fire extinguisher available.  After you've applied and then wiped off excess oil, the finish's mineral spirits vehicle evaporates rapidly and more or less harmlessly. As the oil resins cure, however, they absorb oxygen, releasing heat as a waste product. On a workpiece, that heat simply dissipates into the air, but if you wad up a used application rag so that it insulates itself, sufficient heat can build up to cause the rag to burst into flames. Oily rags must carefully be hung or spread out flat to dry, or they must be completely immersed in a water-filled bucket. Once they're dry there is no further spontaneous combustion hazard. Please take this warning note seriously. If you let the press of work or an untimely phone call or visitor distract you from handling application rags as recommended, you might well start a fire.  Wood, shavings, dust, steel wool, and many finishing products are famable.  Store used finishing rages in a metal container with a lid and dispose of properly to prevent spontainious combustion fires. 
  • Operators should carefully inspect all parts of the lathe for defects before beginning operations. Strictly adhere to the rules for correct handling of woodturning tools and hand position on the lathe’s tool rest. Make sure to follow the guidelines on turning speeds, especially for roughing operations.
  • Select stock carefully and inspect it closely before undertaking a project. Avoid using wood with knots or splits.
  • Be sure to allow laminated, or glued-up, blanks to dry thoroughly before turning.
  • Make certain that the work is secure before you start turning operations. Frequently check the secureness as you continue working on the wood. Position the tool rest no more than 1/8 of an inch from the stock. After adjusting the chuck, remove the chuck wrench immediately. Make sure all the guards are in place around the rotating heads of the lathe before operations begin.
  • Before turning on the power to the lathe, rotate the stock by hand to be sure that it clears the tool rest. Never adjust the position of the tool rest while the lathe is running. Always remove the toolsets from the lathe’s bed when sanding.
  • Keep the woodturning tools (roughing-out gouge, round-nose scraper, square-nose scraper, skew chisel, spindle gouge, bowl gouge, parting tool, spiral tool), sharp. A dull chisel requires that you apply excessive feed pressure. Set up the sharpening grinder where you can reach it without moving away from the lathe. Grip the tool being used firmly. Hold the tool’s handle in your right hand and support the tool’s leading end with your left hand. Prop the tool on the tips of your fingers and grasp the side or top of the blade with your thumb. The index finger should rest comfortably along the ledge of the toolrest.
  • NEVER use a spindle rouging gouge on end grain (i.e. bowls). 
  • When performing a cut parallel to the work, move both your hands and the tool together, using the index finger of your left hand as a depth gauge. Always be sure to feed a woodturning tool slowly and steadily. Never jam the tool’s blade or otherwise force it into the work.
  • Do not move the tool with your arm. Shift your weight back and forth and arch and straighten your back. Using your legs and back to move the tool allows long, flowing, and uninterrupted cuts. Make contact with the work cautiously, and then slowly progress more aggressively. Avoid the extremes of overdoing an operation and just rubbing against the stock. Keep the woodturning tools beside or behind you so there is no need to reach over the lathe to get them.
  • Never use your fingers to check the work for roundness while the lathe is running, especially during roughing operations. Stop the lathe to check the progress, or rest the blade of the tool lightly against the work as it turns.
  • Do not use a dead center on the tailstock. A dead center, which does not turn, creates friction and may burn the work, damaging the product and creating potential hazards.
  • Provide plenty of lighting for your work. Poor lighting and shadows can increase fatigue.
  • Never leave the lathe running unattended. Keep the lathe unplugged when not in use and before making adjustments.
  • Clean up wood shavings and sawdust often. Sawdust can create a fire hazard and an explosive atmosphere.
  • Store a standard, well equipped first-aid kit in the shop where it is easily accessible.
  • Never wear loose clothing or jewelry.
  • Keep long sleeves rolled up and long hair tied back.
  • Wear a dust mask when performing sanding operations.
  • Always wear safety goggles or a face shield.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots with non-slip soles.
  • Wear ear plugs or ear muffs for hearing protection.
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