Woodturning Safety

Safe, effective use of a wood lathe requires study and knowledge of procedures for using this tool. Read, thoroughly understand, and follow the label warnings on the lathe and in the owner/operator’s manual. Safety guidelines from an experienced instructor, video, or book are a good source of important safety procedures. Please work safely.

AAW Safety Recommendations

  • Use a full face shield whenever the lathe is turned on.
  • Tie back long hair, do not wear gloves, and avoid loose clothing or objects that may catch on rotating parts or accessories.
  • Always check the speed of the lathe before turning it on. Use slower speeds for larger diameter or rough pieces, and higher speeds for smaller diameter and pieces that are balanced. Always start a piece at a slower speed until the work piece is balanced. If the lathe is shaking or vibrating, lower the speed.  If the work piece vibrates, always stop the machine to check the reason.
  • Check that all locking devices on the tailstock and tool rest assembly (rest and base) are tight before operating the lathe. 
  • Position the tool rest close to work, almost touching the wood. Check tool rest position often and as wood is removed, turn off the lathe and re-position the rest. 
  • Rotate your work piece by hand to make sure it clears the tool rest and bed before turning the lathe “on.” Be certain that the work piece turns freely and is firmly mounted. A handwheel on the outboard side of the headstock simplifies this process of spinning the lathe by hand before turning on the switch. 
  • Be aware of what the turners call the “red zone” or “firing zone.” This is the area directly behind and in front of the work piece - the areas most likely for a piece to travel as it comes off the lathe. A good safety habit is to step out of this zone when switching the lathe to the “on” position. When observing others turn stay out of the area.
  • Hold turning tools securely on the tool rest, holding the tool in a controlled and comfortable manner. Always contact the tool rest with the tool before contacting the wood.
  • It is safest to turn the lathe “off” before adjusting the tool rest or tool rest base (banjo).
  • Remove the tool rest before sanding or polishing operations.
  • Never leave the lathe running unattended. Turn the power off. Do not leave the lathe until it comes to a complete stop.


Safety Guidebook for Woodturners

Safe, effective use of a wood lathe requires study and knowledge of procedures. To avoid injury and make your turning experience as satisfying as possible, the AAW has prepared this complimentary booklet to help you understand and use safe practices.


Safety for Woodturners

A 64-page printed book. Build strong skills at the lathe while helping you learn best woodturning practices.

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