We refer to the art or process of fashioning wooden pieces or blocks into various forms and shapes using a lathe as woodturning. The lathe, the machine used in woodturning, helps us to produce just about any rounded piece of woodcraft like furniture legs, bowls, lamps, and even handles of tools. Woodturners who operate lathes, use their skills to produce these beautiful items.
Woodturning is an enjoyable hobby, but it can be dangerous. Woodturning lathes spin at very high speeds – up to 4,000 RPM. At such speeds, physical contact with the lathe could prove disastrous to you. Objects could get caught in the lathe. You could inhale dust and develop allergies. Falling tools and wood pieces can be hazardous unless you take adequate precautions.
- How Woodturning Can Be Dangerous
- Safe Practices for Using a Wood Lathe
- The Importance of Safety Equipment
- Keep a First-Aid Box Handy
Woodturning traces its origin to as early as 1300 B.C. The ancient Egyptians developed a lathe operated by two people, and they would use a rope to power it. The Romans refined the design by using a turning bow.
As the wood lathe became more developed, it became a favorite among hobbyists, machinists, and countless individuals in the woodworking world. Today, we use it to produce countless wooden items like tools, games, toys, and more.
How Woodturning Can Be Dangerous
Although it can be fun and even satisfying to use a wood lathe, there are some hazards involved if you don’t be careful. Here are some of the things that can go wrong if you don’t take adequate precautions:
The Danger of Dangling Objects
As the lathe has several moving parts, dangling objects can get entangled in them and cause a lot of damage. You could get your fingers, hair, jewelry, and clothing caught in the lathe’s moving parts.
Dust Inhalation and Allergies
Certain types of sawdust cause allergies in a lot of people. It is also harmful to you if it gets into your ears, nose, and throat. Continuous exposure to sawdust could affect your respiratory system causing you breathing problems.
When a lathe starts working, the entire machinery vibrates at high speed. Loose items or tools left on top of the lathe, can drop down to the floor. The sharp ends of these objects could cause grievous injuries.
Before starting the wood lathe, ensure that you have only the tools that you require at hand. Do not allow loose tools lying around the surface of the lathe.
Flying Pieces of Wood
Working with a power tool and dealing with spinning objects which could turn into ballistic missiles or explode into shrapnel, is very perilous. This may not happen often, but once is enough to receive a serious injury.
Safe Practices for Using a Wood Lathe
Don’t be put off by the dangers of woodturning mentioned above. It is very safe, provided you follow all the safety measures. Given below are some safety measures you need to follow:
On-the-job training or attending classes at a workshop will be very useful. It is important to understand how the machine works before you begin using it.
Check Your Machinery and Tools
You should check your workspace, machinery, and tools regularly. Be on the lookout for exposed wires, frayed cords, short circuits, and other issues.
Keep Your Workspace Clean
Keep your workspace as clean as possible. Keeping the tools in their designated places will ensure a safer working environment.
Use Dust Extractors
Dust extractors should be used often to remove the sawdust, thereby preventing breathing and lung issues. Secondly, a lathe kept free of sawdust is sure to work more efficiently.
Avoid Dangling Items and Flowing Clothes
Avoid wearing dangling necklaces and bracelets as they can get caught in the lathe. Wearing clothes that fit well and tying up long hair is advisable.
Wearing Protective Gear
Protective gear should be worn to protect the body from dust, wood chips, and splinters.
Check Your Lathe and Workpiece
Look for cracks or splits that could lead to the workpiece breaking while woodturning. Check all parts of the lathe before starting work. You also need to check the speed and direction. Starting at the lowest speed enables you to know whether you have mounted the workpiece properly or not.
Keep Your Tools Handy
Keep all the tools needed for the current project in the tool rest before starting the lathe. The tool rest should be easily reachable while operating the machine.
Safety of Fingers is Paramount
Since woodturning involves hands, you should make a conscious effort to keep your fingers away from the moving parts of the lathe.
Avoid Drugs, Alcohol, and Distractions
Sobriety while using a power tool is a very important rule to follow. While woodturning, the turner’s attention should only be on the workpiece. Distractions could spoil the work and could also lead to accidents.
The Importance of Safety Equipment
Safety equipment should be the top priority before taking up woodturning seriously. Here are some safety measures that you need to follow to avoid mishaps.
Wear Safety Goggles
Wearing good-quality goggles will protect your eyes from dust and flying woodchips while working.
Use a Face Shield
Superior-quality face shields provide sound protection to the eyes, nose, and mouth. You can replace them after cleaning.
The Importance of Respirators
Use respirators while woodturning to prevent fine dust particles from entering the respiratory system. The type of respirator depends on the “turning environment.” You can get a wide range of respirators in the commercial market to choose from – air scrubbers, filters, half-mast respirators, full-face respirators, and dust collectors – to name a few.
Wear Ear Plugs or Ear Muffs
Wearing ear plugs will prevent damage to your ears as working machinery can be very noisy. It will also prevent dust particles from getting into your ears.
Comfortable Shoes with a Good Grip
You can prevent accidental falls and unforeseen casualties by wearing shoes with a good grip.
Safety gloves and a Turning Smock (optional)
Gloves can protect the hands from flying woodchips and dust, though it is preferable to keep your working hand free from any sort of cover. A turning smock will help to keep your clothes clean.
Keep a First-Aid Box Handy
Despite being prepared with all the safety measures, accidents can happen. So, it is good to have a first-aid kit in the workshop. Equip your first-aid box with the items listed below:
Sterile Saline Solution
Sawdust getting into the eye while woodturning is a common occurrence and a hazard as well. To prevent serious damage to your eye, you need to deal with it immediately. A sterile saline solution can flush out all the dust and debris safely without causing any harm.
You can easily wash wounds clean with water, but some larger or deeper cuts can be difficult to wash and where only an antibiotic ointment will work. So, keep an antibiotic ointment in the first aid kit specifically for this purpose.
Band-Aids or Adhesive Bandages
You can use adhesive bandages to cover small cuts. Most stores provide these bandages and they come in all shapes and sizes. Stock up the first aid kit with a variety of adhesive bandages.
For longer cuts and gashes, you can use butterfly strips to close the wound, so that dust and debris don’t enter the wound.
Gauze Pads and Gauze Tape
For larger wounds, you can use gauze pads to cover the wound, and gauze tape to hold the pads in place.
Cyanoacrylate Adhesive (CA) Glue
You can stitch smaller cuts with CA glue. In case of minor, shallow cuts like paper cuts or knife cuts, you can apply it to both edges of the cut and gently bring them together to close the wound.
Sterile tweezers are very useful in a first-aid kit. We use sterile tweezers to remove splinters or other debris stuck in the wound before closing it.
A magnifying glass or a headset with built-in magnifiers will help locate and remove small splinters easily. Splinters left inside the wound can infect the wound, causing serious problems.
We use a tourniquet to stem blood flow to the affected area.
In the case of major cuts and wounds, the first thing to do is reduce bleeding by limiting blood flow to the affected area. You can easily use a tourniquet to apply pressure near the wound and restrict the blood flow.
This article will forewarn those interested in taking up woodturning as a hobby/profession about the dangers of woodturning. We hope you find it useful. Follow the safety measures mentioned above and enjoy creating unique things in your workshop. You need to experience the joy and satisfaction you get when making these things!!