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A Few Woodturning Safety Tips

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by Phil Colson

This month's tip is about safety. Recently there have been some tragic deaths reported in the woodturning community. One turner caught her hair in a lathe and another turner was fatally injured when a bowl exploded. There is always the possibility that an accident may happen, but here are some simple steps you can take to help prevent such a devastating accident from occurring.

Don't wear loose clothing and if you have long hair, put it up. This problem seems like a no-brainer, but it does happen. Wearing a turner smock is a good way to avoid the loose clothing problem. It will keep you cleaner and restrict loose clothing from getting caught in the lathe. Another potential safety issue is using cloth to apply finish. Turners will often wrap a piece of cloth around their fingers to finish a piece. The cloth can get caught by the lathe, causing a serious injury to your fingers and hands. And if that wasn't bad enough, you won't be able to turn for a while. Really bad!

The other tragedy has to do with making that final cut on the inside of a bowl, particularly at the rim. You simply cannot return to the rim once you have established the thickness for the bowl. After you have removed the fiber from the inside of the bowl and then stopped the lathe to check your cuts, you might find some tool marks. The temptation is to clean up those marks by making another cut, or the final cut. This is where the trouble starts. The bowl may seem to be rotating clean and true, but it is not. Once the wood fiber has been removed from the inside of the bowl, tension has also been released from the adjoining fiber.

Here is a way to demonstrate this. While the bowl is spinning, use a pencil and slowly move its point towards the rim (inside or out) until the point just starts to touch, and then stop the lathe. You will most likely find that the pencil mark is not continuous on the rim. That is because the bowl's rim is no longer completely round because of the tension released in the wood. As a result, when you next try to make a cut, the tool may bounce on the rim and cause the bowl to explode. Tragedy for the bowl and possibly you! DON'T MAKE THAT FINAL CUT.

In the words of the old TV program Hill Street Blues, let's be careful out there!

Phil can be reached directly via email at woodturnerphil@gmail.com .

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