LaymarCrafts Woodturning Safety


Safety is an issue which appears to be treated seriously and lightly in equal portions by Individuals, Books and Magazines with some of the Magazines being less discerning than others.

This is not intended to be a preaching session on the subject, as we all recognise it is an essential part of anything we do, just ask anyone who has through an accident lost a part or function of his or her body, they will soon convince you how important it is and what a wonderful thing Hindsight is!

Make your own Safety Signs

Some see Safety Regulations as the interference by others in something they do not understand, the sop called "Nanny State" this is not so, Regulations are there to Safeguard us all and apply to not only to the Big Companies but also to Us as individuals, nine times out of ten it is plain common sense and we just need to recognise the fact.

Safety is about safeguarding yourself and others against Injury, however severe, the Safety Regulations lay out the Guidelines you have to follow if you are not to be Prosecuted should an Injury occur to a third party due to the Guidelines not being in place and/or Adhered to.

The American Association of Woodturners also recognise the situation and have published their own contribution to the Safety Issue, they send , to all members, the most vivid Fluorescent Sticker possible (in fact so Fluorescent it bamboozled my Scanner) and with acknowledgement to them I reproduce it here:-


   Turning wood can be a SERIOUS health hazard!

      Unless of course you ...

  • Protect your face and eyes with a face shield.
  • Protect your respiratory system and ventilate your work space with a proper dust collection system.
  • Remove all moldy (Spalted) wood and shavings immediately.
  • Protect your skin from toxic materials and possible allergies to some woods.
  • Work sober, never under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

          This message is brought to you by

The Amercan Assosiation of Woodturners

We care about your continuing good health and all the turnings you have yet to make!


This Sticker is the short form Guidelines to that which appears in the AAW Resource Directory, again issued to all members Annually, which contains a list of 20 Lathe Safety Guidelines which I reproduce here in full:-

  1. Safe, effective use of the wood lathe requires study and knowledge of procedures for using this tool. Read and thoroughly understand the label warnings on the lathe and in the owners/operators manual.
  2. Always wear safety goggles or safety glasses that include side protectors and a full face shield when needed. Wood dust can be harmful to your respiratory system. Use a dust mask or helmet and proper ventilation (dust collection system) in dusty work conditions. Wear hearing protection during extended periods of operation.
  3. Tie back long hair, do not wear gloves, loose clothing, jewelry or any dangling objects that may catch in rotating parts or accessories.
  4. Check the owners/operators manual for proper speed recommendations. Use slower speeds for larger diameter or rough pieces and increased speed for smaller diameters and pieces that are balanced. If the lathe is shaking or vibrating, lower the speed. If the work piece vibrates, always stop the machine to check the reason.
  5. Make Certain that the belt guard or cover is in place. Check that all clamping devices (locks), such as on the tailstock and Toolrest are tight.
  6. Rotate your work piece by hand to make sure it clears the Toolrest and bed before turning the lathe "on". Be sure that the work piece turns freely and is firmly mounted. It is always safest to turn the lathe "off" before adjusting the tool rest.
  7. Exercise caution when using stock with cracks, splits, checks, bark, knots, irregular shapes or protrusions.
  8. Hold turning tools securely on the Toolrest and hold the tool in a controlled but comfortable manner. Always use a slower speed when starting until the work piece is balanced. This helps avoid the possibility of an unbalanced piece jumping out of the lathe and striking the operator.
  9. When running the lathe in reverse, it is possible for a chuck or faceplate to unscrew unless it is securely tightened on the lathe spindle.
  10. Know your capabilities and limits. An experienced Woodturner may be capable of techniques and procedures not recommended for beginning turners.
  11. When using a faceplate, be certain the work piece is solidly mounted. When turning between centers, be certain the work piece is secure.
  12. Always remove the Toolrest before sanding or polishing operations.
  13. Don't overreach, keep proper footing and balance at all times.
  14. Keep lathe in good repair. Check for damaged parts, alignment, binding of moving parts and other conditions that may effect its operation.  
  15. Keep tools sharp and clean for better and safer performance. Don't force a dull tool. Don't use a tool for a purpose not intended. Keep tools out of reach of children.
  16. Consider your work environment. Don't use lathe in damp or wet locations. Do not use in presence of flammable liquids or gases. Keep work area well lit.
  17. Stay alert. Watch what you are doing, use common sense. Don't operate tool when you are tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  18. Guard against electric shock. Inspect electric cords for damage. Avoid use of extension cords.
  19. Remove chuck keys and adjusting wrenches. Form a habit of checking for these before switching on the lathe.
  20. Never leave the lathe running unattended. Turn power off. Don't leave the lathe until it comes to a complete stop.

You have to admit this is all common sense, but how many of you flaunt these simple rules? I have and paid the price as a result, thankfully nothing permanent but painfully memorable and never flaunted again since.  Although these are targeted towards the Lathe many apply equally to the Drill Press and Bandsaw as well as many other Tools in and out of the Woodturners Workshop.

The Statutory Regulations that exist clearly apply to a situation where People are Employed to do a Job of Work, to protect the Worker from being asked to perform Un-Safe Tasks and therefore putting the onus on the Employer, the question is does this apply to the individual in his own Workshop? my understanding is, no it does not, [in the straight forward context of, if I disregarded the Safety Regulations and have an Accident], unless I sue myself, I have no recourse. 

But their content and advise is still applicable if you are a sensible and responsible person with regard for your own well being and the concerns of your Family.

However not all Countries are the same and we do have Countries where if you follow an idea or copy a suggestion given by a Third Party and it is clearly in breach of the Safety Regulations of that Country then I believe you can sue that Third Party for Damages in the event of an Accident.

This may well expose the information we are given in Magazines, Books and on Television as well as the numerous  Web Sites, this one included, on the WWW, some of which contain Articles that often Contravene Safety Regulations and surely therefore begs the question, if copied and an Accident should occur could the Publisher / Author / Producer / Webmaster  be sued for Damages? an interesting thought!

Magazines are the worst offenders, in particular those in the UK, compare what you see in American Magazines with those from the UK and you will be amazed at the different approaches towards Safety.

Eye Protectors and Masks every time or you just do not see the Head of the operator in US Magazines yet in the UK we get the excuse that you cannot see who the person is if he wears such gear, rubbish who wants to see the face anyway its the Operation he is carrying out we are surely interested in.

A recent series of letters in one UK Magazine is about the suggestion that when sanding you should wear Gloves to protect your hands , this is in direct contradiction to all Safety Guidelines (see guideline 3 above for example). As a side I do have to ask why do you need to protect your hands with Gloves when sanding? if it requires that amount of sanding then surely you have not Turned it very well in the first place and if it is because of the Heat then you are Sanding to aggressively.

You have to read the Editors response to the Readers Letter to clearly see that commercialism is foremost to Safety in the eyes of the Magazine in question, and to underline this they repeated the suggestion and this time showed a picture of the offending Gloves in Action one assumes the Hands inside are all their?

Articles around the use of Chainsaws are perhaps the Worst Offenders in respect of Safety in the wrong hands whilst  wearing the wrong clothes this Tool can be lethal, I know we do not take all the precautions we should but responsible Publications should reflect the Current Safety Regulations that apply to the Use of any Chainsaw in any Hands by any Person.

A quick Poll of 3 Magazines revealed these blatant disregard's for any Safety:-

[A] Drilling of Wood with a Drill Press with the piece of Wood only Hand held.

[B] Turner shown Turning a massive odd shaped Blank (in excess of 700mm ) without Eye Protector or Mask (appears 3 times across two issues).

[C] Shop Made Chucks with Metal Protrusions ( Jubilee Clips or Worse).

[D] Square Wood Blank held in the Left Hand whilst Drilling a Hole with a Hand Drill in the Right Hand. 

[E] And of course the Gloved Hands approach to Sanding. all this in just 3 issues of one UK Magazine.

I have used all the items that are covered in the Hints & Tips Section of this Site successfully, without any accidents, for a number of years and as far as I can ascertain they are Safe as I have designed them and used them. A number of the Articles are solutions born out of the three Accidents that I have had in my workshop, the worst resulted in 3 stitches to an Eye Lid, I was Lucky a millimeter the other way and I could have resulted in more serious Sight threatening damage.

Their are Practices I use in my Workshop that carry an element of risk but I take as much precaution as I can against the potential of having an Accident and therefore these practices remain for my knowledge only, they are not unique and many Turners do as I do but are, I'm sure, also aware of what it is they are doing, even if we are not in total control.

The Links Page of this Web Site also has Links to various Safety Orientated Sites they are worth reading and they can help you come to your own conclusions as to  what you will or will not do in your Workshop in the future.

Remember you can only be as good a Woodturner as you were when you had all your Faculties, do not let a stupid Accident deprive you of your Hobby and reject Publications that try to say otherwise, or as the AAW puts it "all the turnings you have yet to make" well done the AAW.

LaymarCrafts Woodturning is the Web Site of Richard & Sheila Stapley
All Content, Articles, Pictures & Diagrams as Presented are the Copyright of LaymarCrafts & Richard Stapley

The Script taken from the AAW Handbook and Safety Label remain the Copyright of the AAW

Last update 17 July 2007
All Rights Reserved

Web Site Design & Construction by Richard Stapley.