Lathe Fundamentals 101: Lathe Safety

HERE IT IS EVERYONE! Lathe Fundamentals is officially underway, and I’m kicking it off with one of the most important topics, lathe safety! This series will span several years, and will be broken down into 100, 200, 300, and 400-level topics, each in a series. Please explore the navigation at the beginning and end of this article to learn more!

Lathes are dangerous machines, but you can do a lot to minimize risks if you follow some basic guidelines. I’ll go over these safety fundamentals in this video and article.


Summary of Lathe Safety

As covered in the video, the following are important fundamentals to follow when running a lathe:

  1. Dress for success:
    1. Safety glasses / eye protection
    2. No loose clothing, sleeves, ties, hair
    3. No watch or rings
  2. Know your lathe’s safety features
    1. Brake(s)
    2. Panic/off switch
    3. Control levers
  3. Keeping things in order
    1. Make sure tools are properly organized and secure (falling into spinning parts = bad)
  4. Chucks:
    1. NEVER leave a key in a chuck
    2. Make sure securely mounted to spindle
    3. Some chucks (threaded) can back off, be careful reversing spindle
    4. Spinning chuck jaws can harm you, can crash into compound or toolpost, break gears, etc
    5. Jaws/collets should be clamping work when lathe is running (else can fly out)
    6. Use collets when you can
  5. Chips are sharp and hot! Use pliers to remove chip bundles, stop machine and use brush, chip breakers are good
  6. Keep your hands out of danger: don’t touch spinning work, keep hands away from moving parts and pinch points, feed rods
  7. Sanding and filing: dangerous! Proceed at your own risk, use file handles always
  8. Use a stock tube or outboard spider to prevent whipping

Additional Safety Guidelines

Some of these guidelines may seem obvious, but are nonetheless good to remember/review/follow:

  1. Alcohol, drugs, and machinery don’t mix. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter drugs) don’t operate machinery
  2. Noise and music: Always make sure you can hear the machine running (you may need to stop it if something goes wrong)
  3. Keep bystanders a safe distance from machinery
  4. Power off the machine (flip breaker, unplug, etc) if you are servicing areas of the machine that represent hazards (gears, belts, etc)
  5. Don’t allow distractions to enable an accident. If you can’t focus on what the machine is doing, turn it off and come back later

Printable PDF Lathe Safety Sign For Your Shop

Click on the image below to download the printable PDF Lathe Safety Sign!


Safety is SUPER-IMPORTANT! It should be the first thing you think about, not an “after-thought”. I hope this article has been helpful, and I hope that you’ll follow these guidelines. Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment!


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