Using safe practices while working on a woodturning lathe, tool sharpening system, band saw, or drill press in your shop cannot be overemphasized. Every year we hear of members of our woodturning community that has had a terrible accident. People have cut off fingers on the band saw that they have been working around for years. All it takes is a small distraction, a careless move, or unnecessary shortcuts, and your life can be changed forever.
People who thought they could just hold that piece of wood on the drill press instead of getting a clamp have had fingers, wrists, arms, and ribs broken.
Sam Angelo, the Wyoming Woodturner, has worked around table saws most of his life, and yet in the flash of an eye, he sawed three of his fingers off.
We have had many turners over the last few years that made trips to the emergency room due to a moment’s carelessness and at least one I knew personally that lost her life to a block of wood that flew off of the lathe.
Here are a few things we all should make a habit of:
1. Always Wear a Full Face Shield that has a visor made of impact-resistant material. That will not be the cheapest one you can buy at Harbor Freight.
2. If you have a variable speed lathe, always turn it off using the speed control dial. This will prevent you from accidentally starting the lathe at high speed.
3. Turn the lathe off BEFORE you move the tool rest. Make this a habit hitting a piece of wood on the tool rest could damage your headstock bearings or motor besides putting a gouge in your tool rest.
4. Keep your tools sharp. Dull tools not only do not cut well, but can cause accidents.
5. Use a good dust mask at a minimum especially when sanding and a good dust collection system if you have one. Run a test in your shop,. Turn off the lights and shine a flashlight beam across the shop. If you see a lot of dust particles floating in the light, they are being breathed into your lungs. You only get one set of lungs, and you can ask any number of turners if the inconvenience of buying and wearing dust masks was worth getting COPD and relying on an oxygen tank to live. Suffocation is not a great way to die.
6. Read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for all of the chemicals you use and follow their recommendations for safe handling and storage to the letter.
7. Do not use cloth rags around your lathe. The chuck or the wood can snag it and seriously injure your hand. Use paper towels only.
8. As more and more women take up turning and many men have gone to longer hair, please tie your hair up. If your hair becomes tangled in the lathe, you will literally be scalped in the blink of an eye.
9. Be very careful about wearing gloves around your lathe. I know that when you are turning dry wood, the shavings are very hot and can burn your hand. If you need a glove, make sure it is tight and has the finger tips cut off as this is the most likely grab point. Make sure that you keep that gloved hand well behind the tool rest at away from the chuck at all times.
10. Make sure that you do not leave the key standing in your chuck when you remove your turning. If you turn that lathe back on with the key in the chuck, it will become a missile headed straight for you.
11. Always remove your watches and rings or other jewelry before you turn. Catching your wedding ring on the chuck or wood is a very painful experience and doesn’t do your ring much good either.
Here is a link to the AAW article on Lathe Safety – www.woodturner.org/resources/safety.htm
Please read it and remember one careless moment can not only change your life but the lives of the people you love.