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Wood Turning Safety Tips

The purpose of this page is not to cover all possible safety rules that will prevent accidents. Rather it has been created to remind members to think about safe practices whenever they are preparing to turn wood. There is an onus on all Bytown Wood turners to promote safety among its members and all bystanders. Turning can be fun and addicting. Make sure it is safe as well.

Before Turning

  1. Make sure you are physically and mentally alert to work safely.
    "If you are tired or impaired in any way,
    turn on your lathe another day."
  2. Inspect your lathe to ensure it is in good working order before turning.
  3. Clothing
    1. Avoid wearing neckties, jewellery and scarves or garments with excessively long or loose sleeves.
    2. Wear sensible footwear to avoid injury from sharp or heavy objects being dropped.
    3. Do not wear gloves as they may catch on the wood or chuck.
    4. Long hair should be tied back to avoid being caught in machinery.
  4. Safety equipment
    1. Eyes – Wear a full-face safety mask to help prevent wood from hitting your eyes and face.
    2. Breathing – Wear an adequate dust mask or respirator when sanding.
    3. Ears – When using chainsaws, grinders or other loud machinery, use the appropriate ear protection.
    4. Have a First Aid Kit readily available in case of injury.
  5. Work area
    1. Keep the floor of your work area tidy to minimize the risk of tripping or slipping.
    2. Set up electrical cords so they do not create a trip hazard.
    3. Use non-slip floor paint or a non-slip mat to reduce the chance of slipping on wood shavings or sawdust.
  6. Consider where to locate your lathe with respect to room entrances. Ask yourself:
    1. "Would someone entering your work area be safe if the equipment was running?"
    2. "Would the lathe turner be startled by someone entering the work area and result in injury?"
  7. Tools - Store tools and wood safely so it will not fall unexpectedly.
  8. Dust Protection
    1. Airborne wood dust can be a lung irritant and cause allergic reactions or even poisoning.
    2. Adequate breathing protection should be considered essential for all who are in the working area.
    3. If using disposable dust masks, make sure they are of sufficient quality to protect the user from airborne particles.
    4. A respirator will protect the user but not necessarily the environment you are working in.
    5. A dust extraction system will clean the room. Make sure its capacity is sufficient for the room and equipment being used.
  9. Fire Extinguisher - Make sure a fire extinguisher is functional and well located within the room.
  10. Sharp Tools
    1. Make sure turning tools are sharp, stored properly and not left lying around where they could injure someone.
    2. If you drop a tool, don't try to catch it. Resharpening is preferred over stitches.


  1. Turn a fresh piece of wood on the lathe by hand before turning on the lathe.
  2. Start the lathe on slow speed to ensure everything is OK before increasing the speed.
  3. Be aware of what turners call the "red zone" or "firing zone." This is the area directly behind and in front of the workpiece, the areas most likely for a piece to travel if it comes off the lathe.
  4. Make sure that there is at least 1.9 cm (¾") of tool rest beyond the end of the wood you are working on.
  5. Position the tool rest close enough to the workpiece to provide adequate support.
  6. Stop the lathe before adjusting the tool rest or banjo.
  7. Remove chuck keys, adjusting wrenches, and knockout bars. Make it a habit of checking for these before turning on the lathe.
  8. Remove the tool rest when sanding.
  9. Hold steel wool or finishing towels loosely in your hand so that if they do get caught they will release from from your hand without taking your fingers with them. There are safety cloths available which are made from unwoven paper.
  10. Never use cloth rags for polishing on the lathe because if they get caught they can pull your hand in.
  11. Make sure the wood is securely held for the task in hand.
  12. When using a faceplate, be certain the workpiece is solidly mounted with stout screws (#10 or #12 sheet metal screws as a minimum). Do not use dry wall or deck screws.
  13. If your lathe has forward and reverse, make sure the chuck, faceplate etc. is secured with a locking screw to prevent it from unscrewing if you use the lathe in reverse for sanding.
  14. Don't place tools on your lathe that might fall off and injure you. Keep them in a rack and use just the one in your hand.
  15. If you are turning pieces of wood with glued joints, ensure the joint is secure and use a lower lathe speed as a precaution.
  16. Periodically check your turning tools. Look at your handles and make sure they are in good shape. If you notice cracks, you may want to retire the chisel or replace the handle.
  17. Apply finishes safely. Read the directions on all finishing products. Understand the affects it can have on your skin, lungs or health. Wear nitrile gloves when applying CA or other finishes. Also don't forget to wear eye protection when applying a finish on a piece that is spinning.

Ending the Session:

  1. Turn off all equipment and unplug where necessary.
  2. Clean up shavings and dust within the work area to prevent tripping or slipping.
  3. Put away all sharp tools in a safe place.
  4. Dispose of anything that could be hazardous and/or cause fires.

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