A lathe is a powered tool that spins wood, metal or other material at an adjusted speed to allow for sanding, cutting, shaping, etc. Lathes can be used in woodworking, metalworking, glassblowing, and pottery forming. As with all powered equipment, lathe safety training and good work practices prevent serious caught/crush injuries and even death.

Wear the appropriate safety gear. Safety glasses and/or a face shield prevent flying debris from cutting your eye or face. Tie back your hair so it does not get entangled and pull you into the machine. Remove your jewelry. Wear close-fitting clothing with short sleeves and avoid gloves that could get pulled into the turning spindle.

Know the machine(s) you work with. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations on inspection, maintenance, and compatible parts and accessories. Operate the lathe with the guards in place so you don’t come into contact with power supplies and transmission parts. If you are using a semi-automatic or automatic lathe, ensure that there is a barrier guard in place before you power it on.

Flying debris from materials, the lathe, or your tools can be very dangerous. Before each job, check chucks for wear or damage. Tighten chucks and immediately remove the chuck key to proper storage after use. Check your cutting tools to ensure that they are sound. Don’t quench hot cutting tools in water; the temperature change can damage them. Remove all tools before you start the lathe and vacuum or brush away cutting debris after each job. Don’t use compressed air to clean debris because it can blow materials into your face and eyes at high speeds.

Adjust your tool and tool rest so they are slightly above and centered on the object, about 1/8 inch away. Hand tools need a comfortable handle with a good grip. Don’t use bare blades or tool tangs to cut materials because they can jam and get forced back into the flesh of your hand. Follow safe work practices for the speed and depth of the job. Ensure that the work piece is firmly set in the lathe before you start it up. Secure it in place and/or ensure a deep center hole properly supports the piece. Start the lathe slowly and adjust the speed to increase it gradually.

Avoid reaching over the spinning lathe; you could easily become entangled or lose your balance over the machine. Keep your fingers away from the moving parts and work piece. Don’t attempt to “catch” or “pick” spirals or pieces of the material away as it is spinning. To remove burrs from work piece ends, hold a file tool firmly at each end. If you work with paper or cloth, hold each end with a hand. Holding flexible materials with one hand can cause pinching if the paper or cloth gets entangled and twists around your flesh.

Always wait for the lathe to come to a complete stop before you measure or adjust the work piece. Allow machines to slow and stop on their own or with a brake, never stop them with your hand or a tool. Wait for the lathe to completely stop before you clean up debris and remove the object. Turn the machine off and disconnect power before you adjust or change accessories, clear jams, or do maintenance. Use lockout/tagout to prevent an accidental startup.