Wood Lathe Safety Tips



The wood lathe is a powerful woodworking tool, and one that requires users to adhere to all safety procedures for injury-free operation. If you're not operating a wood lathe safely, it's not a question of if you'll have an accident, but when.
Start with Safety Glasses
At the bare minimum, you must wear safety glasses to protect your eyes when working with a wood lathe or any woodworking tool. Wood chips have a tendency to fly around unpredictably, so eye protection is vital. For an extra layer of protection, don't stop at safety glasses; wear a face shield to protect your exposed skin from flying wood shards. You can get a face shield from any shop that sells wood lathe supplies. You may find that you have more fun using your lathe with a face shield, since you won't be swatting sawdust and chips away from your nose and mouth.

No Loose Clothing
Don't wear loose clothing or jewelry when working on a wood lathe. These items can catch on woodworking tools and cause serious injury.

Wear a Dust Mask
During operations that generate a lot of dust or wood particles, such as sanding, wear a dust mask to protect your respiratory system. For added protection, consider a respirator.

Check Your Lathe
Before you turn your wood lathe on, you should examine it thoroughly to be sure all equipment is in good working order. Are all clamps secure? Is the wood lathe chuck properly seated? Consult your owner's manual for a list of safety checks to perform before using your lathe.

Be Selective with Stock
The wood you choose can make a big difference in your safety. Avoid using stock with knots or obvious defects. Knots in the wood can jar your woodworking tools and potentially cause damage to the piece or to you as you work with the wood. Certain types of wood, particularly black walnut and mahogany, will dull blades on cutting tools quickly. Be sure to keep your blades sharp so that you're not forcing tools into the wood; this can cause serious injury if the lathe jams.

Rotate the wood by hand before you turn on the wood lathe to be sure it moves freely. If the stock is catching on the tool rest or isn't turning properly, don't engage the lathe until you've corrected the problem.
Adjust the Tool Rest
Make sure the tool rest is in the proper position before engaging the lathe. The tool rest should be approximately 1/8 inch from the piece of wood that you're working. If the tool rest is too close, it can cause the stock to hang up; too far, and the tool can get ripped out of your hand and damage you or your shop.

Check Your Speed
Lathe speed is dictated by the size of your stock and what you're doing with it. Larger stock should rotate more slowly, while smaller stock can rotate faster. Select the proper speed before turning on your lathe, and don't adjust the speed after the lathe is engaged.

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