Woodturning Safety

Safety cannot be over-emphasized. Turning tools may look crude or simple, but each is a finely honed knife, probably sharper than anything in your kitchen. Keep in mind that your lathe develops from 3/4 to 3 horsepower, and is turning the wood at a high rmp.

If you are not paying attention, several things can happen quite quickly: the wood is thrown from the lathe (sometimes right at you!), the wood shatters (can hit you!), the tool breaks (can hit you!) or is damaged, the tool rest breaks, or your body (fingers, hands) get between the wood and the tool rest or the tools (humans are fragile, and various parts can be easily broken, bruised or severed).

Additionally, keep in mind that wood dust is bad for you; some people are extremely allergic to some types of wood, and some wood dusts are naturally toxic.

NEVER turn when you are:

  • Fatigued
  • In a bad mood
  • On medication that impairs concentration or perception
  • Have used alcohol
  • Distracted or unable to focus


REMEMBER that you are holding an extremely sharp tool against a rapidly revolving piece of wood, attempting to adjust a cut of mere thousandths of an inch. The margin of error is quite small.

All turning tools, with the exception of scrapers, incorporate a BEVEL as a part of the cutting surface, and when properly used, this bevel provides the cleanest possible cut, with the utmost in control. Problems arise (almost instantly) when the bevel is not used. There are exceptions, but the turner has to be in conscious complete control when not using the bevel and anticipate how the tool is going to react on the wood.

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- Capt. Jack

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