Woodturning is a very fascinating craft. It is amazing to see how using the basic techniques of woodturning, one can transform a piece of stock into things like table legs, bed posts, wooden bowls, wooden pens, etc. In this article, we will help you to understand the basics safety precautions that one should adhere to while woodturning.

While there is nothing better than learning under the watchful eyes of an experienced woodturner, the following article will at least help you to grasp the techniques better and avoid any obvious pitfalls. The scope of this article is not large enough to cover every aspect of woodturning, so will try to stick to the very basics to start with.

Woodturning Art
Example of Woodturning Art

Practicing this craft is the only way to learn the craft. However, one needs to ensure that one needs to practice the right way. The basics of woodturning comprises of four major parts namely choosing the right tools, using properly sharpened tools, the right posture while working and using the right technique to turn wood.

On top of all these, one must give safety measures its due consideration while turning wood. While unsafe practices might not affect the quality of the turned object, but it may have fatal consequences for the wood turner’s career.

By following the measures listed below, you can cultivate safe woodturning skills.

Always use sharp tools for turning wood

Any aspiring woodturner should know how to properly turn wood. Sharpened tools like gouges, skew chisels, parting tools, scrapers, etc., will do a better job while turning than those with a blunt edge. In fact, blunt tools can be quite dangerous. While sharpening a tool, you must ensure that the tool’s bevel is maintained.

Turning the stock at appropriate speeds is a must

When turning a stock, the basic rule that one should follow is – the wider the diameter of the stock, the lower the speed needs to be. If the work piece has a longer length as compared to its diameter, then it is likely to whirl if the lathe speed is too high. Turning the wood at an appropriate speed is very important.

Most wood lathes today come with a variable speed feature; so depending on the model they can turn between 500 PM to up to 4000 RPM. For example, if you want to turn a stock that is about 3” in thickness, you use a speed of 1600 RPM to 2000 RPM, but for stocks thicker than this one should ideally be turned an half the speed.

If you are turning a stock that is out of balance, turn at a low speed till the stock is evened out. Another important thing to keep in mind is that one should never turn a wood that seems non-homogenous – meaning if one part or other of the wood doesn’t have the same characteristics it can react strangely while turning.

Know the correct way of holding the tool

It is of prime importance to keep your hands safe while turning wood. The hand that controls the tool should be in a safe position and the fingers should not by any chance come in between the stock and the cutting tool. Typically, the forefinger should be positioned under the tool, resting against the side of the tool rest. The left hand thumb will be on the top of the tool to make it steady.

The turning tool should always rest on the tool rest

Whichever tool is being used for turning the stock – be it a gouge, chisel, scraper, etc., its other end should always rest on the tool rest. Also, the tool should never be lifted off the tool rest as long it is in contact with the stock. Doing freehand turning can be a dangerous and hence is a strict no-no.

The tool should ideally be about a quarter-inch away from the stock and it should always touch the tool rest before it comes in contact with the wood. The distance between the point where the tool touches the root rest and the point where it touches the wood should be short, as shorter distance will ensure more support to the tool.

Use the Bevel

Another important precaution one should remember without fail while woodturning is to keep the bevel in contact with the stock at all times while cutting. This will give support to the tool and will also help the turner in controlling the depth of the cut.

In case, the tool flings off at any point of time while woodturning, it would not take off too much if this rule is adhered to. Hence, it will keep the woodturner relatively safe. However, when using a scraper, you have to do exactly the opposite.

Always Cut With the Grain

This is the cardinal rule of woodturning – always work with the grain. Many woodturners refer to it as cutting downhill.

Remove the Waste

Remove the waste from a stock uniformly. Never try to remove the waste from one part completely before moving to one. For example, when turning off a corner, you should ideally start removing wood from that corner and gradually move across the stock such that a desired shape is reached. Make the process of transformation gradual.

Nothing can substitute practice

Turning is a skill that needs time and practice to be honed. When you watch an experienced woodturner, it may look easy, but when you take it up yourself you will know the difficulties. However, as long as you stick to the basic rules mentioned above, it will pave way for a safe woodturning experience.

Keep your grip on the tool firm and well in control, turn at the right speed and take care not to choke the tool. Once, you have spent some time turning on the lathe you will find the confidence and it will eventually become easier. Practice the right way and have patience when turning, you will find yourself rewarded with improved turning skills in the long run.

Great video which explains woodturning in good detail