I can't stand turning!

Let’s sit down and think about this.

I can’t get to grips with these tools.


Physical issues need not limit your turning – Turning one of a pair of 15lb swinging clubs.
A perch seat provides support when necessary and enables you to stand when further reach or movement is required.
(This pose is a simulation to illustrate the seat/perch and in actual turning, the turner would be wearing a full faceshield.)
Sitting to turn may require some adjustments but need not limit your turning ambitions.
(This pose is a simulation. The AAW recommends that the turner always wear a full faceshield while turning at the lathe.)
Supporting your hand, holding the toolrest, and/or using a tool with a custom grip can improve control.
Chris Grace turning at home and making use of the swivel headstock to achieve a comfortable working position.
(This pose is a simulation. The AAW recommends that the turner always wear a full faceshield while turning at the lathe.)

Should I stand or sit?

I encounter many turners who are curious about how I turn because they are finding it difficult to stand for as long as they would like at their lathes.

Let’s be clear, we’re not talking primarily about turning from a wheelchair, or even necessarily a low seat, but rather about options for how to turn without standing all the time. I teach and demonstrate, and happen to use a wheelchair full time so anyone I meet who experiences difficulty standing is inevitably curious about how I approach the perceived problem.

In reality there are few insurmountable difficulties, so if you want to turn, there’s not much stopping you, though inevitably you might not be able to do everything exactly how you might have if you are standing and agile.

An obstacle is merely a challenge waiting to be overcome.

These pages aim to illustrate that there are often simple and effective adjustments you can make to enable you to either take up turning as a hobby, or continue turning irrespective of any physical challenges.

The first article I can’t stand turning! looks at the options available generally for turning when you can’t stand all the time at your lathe, including adaptations to equipment, techniques and tools.

In the article Let’s sit down and think about this, we consider further options for those who need a more stable lower seat. An office chair or wheelchair are just two of the available options.

In the third article I can’t get to grips with these tools, we consider some of the issues often associated with the above, such as reach, dexterity, grip, etc.

Even if your initial interest is only one of the above, there are tips and techniques in each that may be helpful to all, so reading each of them is potentially worthwhile.

We plan to include other resources here as they become available including videos showing how different people approach their turning, so check back periodically to see new content.

You can send any thoughts you would like to share via the AAW website to [email protected].

Please also contribute to the debate on how to overcome any issues you may have experienced, and share your knowledge so others have a good starting point and don’t all have to re-invent the wheel. The "Woodturning Health & Safety" section of the AAW Forum is a good place to ask questions and for ongoing discussions. (You will need to set up an account to access and participate in the AAW Forum, click here.) Hopefully we will be able to include some of the Forum discussions here.

About the Author

Chris Grace has used a wheelchair full time for a many years, and gained experience of other disabilities while head of diversity for a large government department in the UK before forming a hospitality consulting business. His analytical approach enables him to identify and quickly solve issues encountered by students, some of whom seek him out to help overcome difficulties due to their disabilities. Chris has turned professionally part time for a number of years, regularly demonstrating and teaching as well as writing for a number of magazines.

You can contact Chris at [email protected] or see his website www.NotJustRound.com.