Wood turning is a wonderful activity. These rules and recommendations are designed to help you get the most out of your experience. As you turn, I’ll give you tips to achieve a good result and avoid problems. The sounds of the tool to the wood provide me with a good indication of whether your approach to the wood is good or problematic, so as you turn, I’ll be listening to the sounds you generate.


Woodworking tools can be dangerous if not used properly. Like other types of woodworking, wood turning is inherently dangerous. Failure to use tools and equipment properly or to follow recommended safety guidelines could result in serious injury. If you have any questions about how to use your lathe and tools properly and safely, please seek further instruction from an expert.

  1. Always wear an OSHA/ANSI-compliant full face shield while wood turning. Wood being turned rotates at high speeds and could cause serious injury if it comes off the lathe. Normal eyeglasses do not offer adequate protection.
  2. Wear appropriate hearing protection, especially during extended periods of turning.
  3. Wear dust masks when required.
  4. Do not wear gloves, loose clothing, rings or jewelry around the neck that can hang outside one’s clothing. Clothing should be comfortable but not so loose that it can catch on the machine or get entangled with any rotating parts or the wood being turned; shirts should be tucked in and long hair tied back. Wear short sleeves, or roll long sleeves up past the elbows.
  5. Wear protective footwear when required. Wear closed-toe shoes or boots in the workshop.
  6. Do not leave a running lathe unattended – leave only after the lathe has been turned off and it has come to a complete stop.
  7. Check your workpiece for any splits, cracks, inclusions or other defects that could compromise the integrity of the wood and possibly lead to the workpiece coming apart or coming off the lathe. Do not attempt to turn blanks that have significant defects.
  8. Make sure you understand operating instructions before attempting to use any tool or machine. Ask questions if you have any doubts about doing the work safely.
  9. Check that keys and adjusting wrenches are removed from the machine before turning on the power.
  10. Understand where the start and stop buttons are located on the equipment you are using.
  11. Ensure that all cutting tools and blades are clean, sharp, and in good working order so that they will cut freely, not forced.
  12. Turn the power off when discussing the work or equipment. Always keep your attention on the work. For example, if you must talk to another person, turn off the equipment first.
  13. Use good lighting so that the work piece, cutting blades, and machine controls can be seen clearly. Position or shade lighting sources so they do not shine in the operator’s eyes or cause any glare and reflections.
  14. Keep work area free of clutter, clean, well swept, and well lit.
  15. Do not attempt to operate a lathe without first obtaining proper training or developing proper knowledge about how it works and can be used safely.
  16. Prevent unexpected distractions. Keep children and pets away from the lathe area while you’re working, and make sure anyone entering area knows not to try to get your attention while the lathe is running.
  17. Do not use makeshift tools.
  18. To minimize the likelihood of dangerous catches, always bring the tool to the tool rest first, make sure you’ve got it anchored there and then apply it to the spinning workpiece.
  19. Use tools only as they are intended to be used. Unintended use could result in serious injury or death. NEVER USE A SPINDLE ROUGHING GOUGE ON A BOWL. Spindle roughing gouges are not constructed to handle the stresses involved in face turning and could break, potentially resulting in serious injury.
  20. Always keep fingers behind the tool rest when turning. Serious injury could result if your fingers get caught between the tool rest and your turning stock.
  21. Always move the banjo out of the way and remove the tool rest before sanding a workpiece on the lathe. If you don’t, you risk jamming your fingers or twisting your wrist.
  22. Never use cloth to apply finish or polish while a project is spinning on the lathe. The cloth could catch and pull your hand into the turning, potentially resulting in serious injury. Never wrap applicator material around your fingers. I use good quality paper-backed sand paper and paper towels to apply finish in my turning process, as the paper will tear rather than pull my fingers or hands into the workpiece.
  23. Before starting the lathe, always spin the workpiece by hand to make sure it clears the bed of the lathe, the tool rest and the tool rest holder (also called the banjo). Always check to make sure that all handles are locked tight.
  24. Select a speed that is appropriate for the job. Operate at speeds recommended by the manufacturer. Select a low speed and use a moderate cut depth to prevent splinters from flying out during roughing operations. The actual speed of the lathe depends on type of wood, diameter of stock, nature of work being done and type of tool used. When in doubt, reduce tool speed. Maintain a slow speed for larger-diameter turnings. Match the speed to the type of turning project.
  25. Always turn off the lathe and allow it to come to a full stop before adjusting the position of the tool rest or tool rest holder (banjo). Never adjust the tool rest while the lathe is running. Never stop a rotating workpiece with your hand.
  26. Before starting the lathe, make sure that the workpiece is mounted securely between the drive center of the headstock and the live center of the tailstock or is held securely with a four-jaw chuck. Even when the workpiece is secured in a chuck, use the tailstock whenever possible as an added measure of safety.
  27. Make sure that all guards, belt covers and other safety features are in place and secure before starting the lathe. Remove any loose items, tools or unnecessary workpieces from the work area before starting the machine.
  28. Continue to check the workpiece as you turn, stopping the lathe regularly to evaluate for defects revealed by the removal of material.
  29. Avoid awkward operations and hand positions where a sudden slip could cause your hand to move into the cutting tool or blade.
  30. Do not use compressed air to remove sawdust, turnings, etc. from machines or clothing.
  31. Never operate a lathe or any other power tool if you are ill, tired, distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.



  1. Wear a shirt with no pockets, as pockets will quickly fill with wood chips. Further, I tend to leave my shirt untucked, as it tends to prevent my pants pockets from filling with wood chips.
  2. We will be creating some dust! Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or dusty.
  3. Before the lathe is turned on, make sure that all clamps and fittings are secure and that the work piece is free to turn.
  4. Hold tools firmly with both hands and against the tool rest. Bend your knees slightly when you engage the wood. Use both hands to maintain complete control of your turning tools, with one hand forward to control the cutting edge and the other back, gripping the handle.
  5. Use only approved tools that are meant for lathe work.
  6. Use sharp, well-maintained chisels and gouges. If the tools require sharpening during your project, I will sharpen them for you.
  7. Adjust tool rests so that they are parallel and as close as possible to the stock. They should also be set high enough so that tools will cut into the wood slightly above the center of the work being turned.
  8. Remove the tool rest when sanding or polishing.
  9. Use appropriate tools to hold the sand paper whenever possible. Examples include a ‘nut cracker’ or the paper fixed to a piece of flat wood. If you must use your hands always hold the paper in a way that will not allow the paper to catch, pull or entangle around the stock.
  10. Turn off power before making any adjustments or changes to the set up.



  1. To make a face plate turning, the one hand steadies the tip of the chisel, which holds the edge against the tool rest while the other hand guides the tool. Keep the tip of the chisel held higher than the handle.
  2. Position the tool rest as close to the workpiece as you can, but make sure that it won’t contact any part of the workpiece during turning. Re-position the tool rest after removing material from your workpiece to maintain needed support for your tools.
  3. Keep your turning tools sharp. A keen cutting edge leaves a better surface and requires less pressure into the wood to cut, reducing the likelihood of a dangerous catch. Never force a dull tool.
  4. Maintain a balanced stance. Do not overreach or use excessive force to perform any machine operation. Bend your knees as you turn. A stiff stance makes turning more difficult.