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  • Home machine shop fire safety

    Hello all,
    I'm looking to start a small machine shop in my basement, just for personal projects. (I'd like to eventually work my way up to making clock/watch parts.) I'm looking at getting a small Sherline lathe to start, and work primarily brass, aluminum, and non-stainless steel. What sort of fire risk is involved? Is this something that's not safe to do in my house? I have zero machining experience.

  • #2
    I would just watch out for oily rags and hot chips flying around, anything that causes sparks.

    JL...........

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    • #3
      Certain machines are a fire hazard, do not use such machines in your basement.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bented View Post
        Certain machines are a fire hazard, do not use such machines in your basement.
        Can you give more detail? I'm looking at a Sherline 4410.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by sphere1 View Post

          Can you give more detail? I'm looking at a Sherline 4410.
          Post # 2 has about got it covered --- also mount an extinguisher on or under your bench and your good to go,,, don't do anything too involved and then just leave the house immediately after --- it's just common sense stuff, like I don't use my cloths dryer when im away from home - only dry cloths when im home...

          too clarify Joe's post --- oily rags do not take chips to ignite - they can do it all on their own so watch out for spontaneous combustion...
          Last edited by A.K. Boomer; 03-16-2021, 05:58 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by A.K. Boomer View Post

            Post # 2 has about got it covered --- also mount an extinguisher on or under your bench and your good to go,,, don't do anything too involved and then just leave the house immediately after --- it's just common sense stuff, like I don't use my cloths dryer when im away from home - only dry cloths when im home...

            too clarify Joe's post --- only rags do not take chips to ignite - they can do it all on their own so watch out for spontaneous combustion...
            That's what I meant. I should have been a little more specific.

            JL.............

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            • #7
              With a lathe, I would say the fire hazard is pretty low.

              Grinders/sanders that produce sparks can be a problem but could also be safely used if done correctly.

              Ventilation should be considered if you are planning on cutting oil.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JoeLee View Post
                That's what I meant. I should have been a little more specific.

                JL.............
                I know and I meant to say "oily" but we both knew what we were talking about lol

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                • #9
                  There is little fire risk with a small machine like a Sherline or others of that general size. What to look out for, regardless of the size of the machines, would include:

                  1. Electrical wiring: All installed wiring should follow the NEC (National Electric Code) and any applicable local codes. If you are not familiar with these codes, any good electrician should be able to quickly determine if everything is up to code and safe.

                  In addition, the wiring of your machine(s) should be safe. No frayed or loose wires. No breaks in the insulation. Just the same, common sense things that apply to all electric appliances.

                  2. You said basement. While not a fire issue, good lighting is a necessity. And be sure it is properly installed so it is not a fire hazard.

                  3. Proper storage and use of flammable solvents and other items used in the shop.

                  That includes any oily rags which should be kept in air tight containers to prevent spontaneous combustion. Oily rags, when just tossed in a pile, have been known to spontaneously catch fire. This is due to the slow chemical reaction of the oil when exposed to air which produces heat. When the oil soaked rags are in a pile, enough air can get in to further this reaction but not enough to carry away the heat which is produced. So they eventually reach a high temperature and fire is the result. One rag, hanging exposed to the air is no risk. Neither is a stack of them in an air tight container. I keep several oily rags in an old coffee tin WITH A COVER on my bench and they do not heat up.

                  Also oil based paints should be properly stored.

                  4. If you use any, easily flammable materials in your projects, like wood or some plastics, the chips/sawdust should be cleaned up promptly as they could catch fire from any sparks or even heat generated (hot chips) by later machining of other materials. This is only a small risk with a small machine like a Sherline, but it is good to develop good habits.

                  5. If you have electronic equipment with air vents, then things like sawdust and metal particles (from grinding) can wind up inside such equipment and possibly catch fire either from a short circuit or overheating due to the insulative properties of that sawdust or other substance allowing excessive heat to build up. It is a good idea to disconnect such equipment and blow out the dust at some, regular interval. This will also prolong the life of the electrical equipment. This would be a greater concern with older, tube type electronic equipment but can also effect more modern items as well.

                  6. One more thing that came to mind after writing the above: DO NOT SUCK UP FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS WITH A SHOP VAC. The motors in most shop vacs are air cooled and some of them produce sparks. Shop vacs have been known to catch fire and even explode. When they say "wet or dry", they mean WATER for the "wet", not flammable liquids.

                  A small shop with Sherline sized machine(s) does not represent any great fire hazard. Specific equipment that would present such a hazard would include things like ovens, welding equipment, other heating devices, etc. Just use common sense and if you have any specific concerns, feel free to ask here or other appropriate places.
                  Last edited by Paul Alciatore; 03-16-2021, 06:18 PM.
                  Paul A.
                  SE Texas

                  And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                  You will find that it has discrete steps.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sphere1 View Post

                    Can you give more detail? I'm looking at a Sherline 4410.
                    Anything that generates a good deal heat when used such as pantograph/CNC oxy flame cutting, plasma cutting, welding, hard turning, grinding, abrasive cut off operations, heat treating ovens and quenching tanks, inductive part heating or any other operation that requires heat above which many consumer goods ignite.

                    Machining magnesium using water based coolants is not a good idea either.

                    Also failure to remove chips from previous lathe work can be problematic, I once had a lathe fire after leaving POM chips in the pan then dropping very hot steel chips on top of them.

                    As a humorous side note, in the 90's I had an ancient 24 X 100 lathe, made a 3" X 40" stainless tubing part for a local boat owner, in typical hobbyist fashion he wanted a #10 finish on it. Bolted a 90 degree hand grinder to the tool post with a 5" cotton polishing wheel on it, charged the part with polishing compound, turned the grinder on, started the lathe spindle and feed and let it eat then walked away.
                    Needless to say the heat caused by the polishing made the wheel catch fire after 10 minutes or so, it was awsome to behold, a flaming fabric polishing wheel on fire.
                    Last edited by Bented; 03-16-2021, 07:07 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I see you're new here. Welcome to the forum. Ask many questions. We're all here to share knowledge and experiences. Members here are eager to share.

                      There are many here with small basement shops that are very safe. If you're not doing any grinding beyond sharpening tool bits then your biggest fire danger is probably going to be oil soaked rags. If you're cleaning something and generate some oily rags it's best to dispose of them in a metal container outside the house. I think the worst offender for spontaneous combustion might be linseed oil soaked rags. Do a google search for more details on that one. If the shop has good ventilation and you have a few fire extinguishers on hand, and at least one smoke detector you should be fine. Be sure to have a way to remove and clean the smoke detector, as there's probable going to be a few times when you accidentally set it off when getting a little too aggressive with the machine and make a little smoke. Ask me how I know...

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                      • #12
                        the oily rag thing is for oils that polymerize, e.g. linseed etc....not oily rags from mineral oil, eg. motor, hydraulic oil etc.\

                        don't worry about the guys talking about hot dangerous flying chips, bad idea to store your gas cans behind your pacemaker, but a hot chip problem isn't going to happen with a light table top lathe.

                        I can't see any fire risk with a Sherline unless you are machining an ignitable metal, e.g. magnesium, but that's unlikely. Steel, brass, AL, bronze, cast iron and so on won't present a fire hazard. I guess there is technically some danger with metal powders, e.g. aluminum, but we make chips not power.
                        Last edited by Mcgyver; 03-16-2021, 08:06 PM.
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                        • #13
                          My shop is in my 22 ft X 32 ft detached garage. It's wood framed and it's where I keep my Barracuda, my Harley as well as doing all of my welding, plasma cutting, lathe and mill work. In one corner of the garage is a 10 ft X 12 ft Reloading room where I reload all of my ammunition and normally store over 60 lbs of powder. I keep two 5 lbs and one 10 lbs extinguishers(all A,B,C) in the building. My 7" X 27" mill & 9" X 19" lathe are small and I don't see them as much of a fire source. My main concern is welding & cutting. When I have any to do, the vehicles are moved out and after I'm done I do a two to three hour "fire watch". Most of that time is when I do my clean up. The cars stay out and the garage door stays open so I can make sure there is nothing smoldering before the vehicles go in and the door closed. Oily or solvent soaked rags ignite easily with welding sparks so I usually throw then in a bucket of water for disposal later. As long as your electrical is all good you should ready to go.

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                          • #14
                            Don't machine niobium or titanium in your residence. The chips can ignite under the right (wrong) circumstances. Most other materials offer minimal risk of fire.

                            (Didn't Rudy Kouhoupt have a Unimat set up in a closet or something?)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mcgyver View Post
                              the oily rag thing is for oils that polymerize, e.g. linseed etc....not oily rags from mineral oil, eg. motor, hydraulic oil etc.\

                              don't worry about the guys talking about hot dangerous flying chips, bad idea to store your gas cans behind your pacemaker, but a hot chip problem isn't going to happen with a light table top lathe.

                              I can't see any fire risk with a Sherline unless you are machining an ignitable metal, e.g. magnesium, but that's unlikely. Steel, brass, AL, bronze, cast iron and so on won't present a fire hazard. I guess there is technically some danger with metal powders, e.g. aluminum, but we make chips not power.
                              Thank God someone has some sensible advice and not this fear of everything culture of sissys we have sprouted.
                              Just use your head and don't listen to the sideline comment gallery who only watch real work being done.
                              Yeah, don't go licking electrical outlets. Well DuuuuHHH ! ! !

                              -Doozer
                              DZER

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