Wood Turning Safety
In my former workplace prior to retirement safety was paramount. We invested heavily in training and proper protective equipment but in personal workshops those initiatives are quite often lacking. Other than the lathe there are many other tools and processes in the wood shop that can and will hurt you, some of them immediately or at best can have side affects over prolonged exposure. My safety training in my wood shop has mostly come from forty five years of working with tools and a great deal from reading to learn the correct use of the tools I own and other harmful things like solvents and finishes. There certainly is a mass of information out there about exposure to things like dust and chemical exposure so there is no excuse for not protecting yourself or using those things with care. The focus of this article is on the tools I have invested in for safety in my shop.
When turning boxes or just general wood work a table saw is the most useful tool and unless you are a purist you will have one. More than twenty years ago I did nick a finger with mine. I began to read about Saw Stop a number of years ago and was so impressed with the products capability I made the decision to replace my cabinet saw with one. In short it stops immediately if contact is made with flesh. This saw is not cheap but nor is losing a finger (and mighty painful). There is a picture of mine attached and by the way it is accurate and a joy to use as well.
Dust control is a particularly difficult problem in wood shops. In particular sanding bowls on the lathe generates a great deal of dust, I have addressed this in three ways. I have a dust collector piped to all fixed power tools in the shop. Each is controlled by a gate (mine are manual) which is opened when the machine is running. This system picks up the larger dust and sawdust. I then have a air cleaning unit hung from the ceiling. When running it pulls the air through a series of filters to remove fine airborne dust. I find both helpful but I still wear a dust shield. I use one made by Trend which is battery powered filtering out the last particles.
In my opinion this is a no brainier. Probably after the beginning of the industrial era guards were added to machines. They got better and better and are a standard for woodworking machines to keep your fingers and whole hands out of the whirling blades. All my power tools are guarded including my Saw Stop table saw even with its capability not to cut a finger. The lesson is don’t remove the guards!
This subject is a difficult one for me. There are many things totally in your control while turning such as loose clothing but having a chunk of wood let go and do harm can happen. Good practices such as using the tail stock at all times when practical help but there is that inevitable moment. Good manufacturers are now supplying guards for this problem but that is a fairly new development. My lathe does not have one so right now my face shield is my defense. There is an excellent article on this subject in the June 2014 American Wood-turner titled Safety maters: From the eye of a survivor. It is worth a read.
Jigs are great time savers and perfect for accuracy but they are also excellent for safety. There are whole books on the subject of building them and virtually no woodworking magazine will not have an example in any edition. The work for keeping fingers safe.
Theses subjects are just a few of the wood turning safety items that will keep your personal shop safe.