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Four Tips for Safe Woodturning

1. If you are not on your game, stop. Always with a project or three in progress, I venture down to the shop daily. But some days I'm just not on my game. Mostly I fear a design error or a tolerance overshoot, but also I may not feel the Karma is right. It's the same with riding my motorcycle. If it doesn't feel right and some minutes into it, things don't improve, I stop.

2. Keep your workpiece clear and visible. I use a pipe cleaner and an old toothbrush whenever I turn to keep tight spots and holes clear of shavings and dust build-up. But I wouldn't notice all that without good lighting. I use a magnetic-base lamp on an adjustable support so that I can yank it into place easily just over my workpiece. Remember, if you don't make it convenient and easy to use, you'll be reluctant to utilize it. Light it up!

3. Lean out of harms way. Whenever I initially start the lathe after beginning to work for the day, I step to the side or lean left of the headstock just to be sure everything is secure. This is particularly important when I have a piece held by the jaws of a chuck and I'm unable to bring the tailstock up because I'm working on the right end of the piece. Certainly you torque down the piece till everything feels right, but you never know. Additionally, when using the expanding jaw securement, we always temper hold-fast pressure with "Oh-I-hope-this-doesn't-split" caution. Moreover, although I'm sure your well-machined jaw chuck stays well maintained, if it were to send one of its pieces airborne, it could be catastrophic. Not likely, but catastrophic none the less.

4. I have a beautifully-machined jaw chuck that I always use first. But because it is so precisely machined, it has sharp jaw teeth edges. When I accidentally graze and touch the jaw with my finger it is substantially avulsed. (In other words, cut!) So I've taken to putting a band-aid on the applicable finger. Two actually, one over the top and another around the end of the finger to hold the first one in place. I have some other surgical wrap that works great, but I'm an RN and don't figure the average Joe has access to it. AND I've discovered an unintended benefit. I work small and when sanding such items, I get some heat generation that transfers through the sandpaper to my finger. Thus periodically I have to stop and wait 30 seconds for it to cool. With the band-aid in place I can sand a bit longer without the discomfort, yet not long enough to threaten the integrity of the workpiece from overheating.

Scott Roberts
Dawsonville, Georgia

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