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General rules of thumb for lathe safety

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  • General rules of thumb for lathe safety

    Hello all,
    I did a search here for 'lathe safety' and it comes up with far too many results to filter through.
    As I play around with my lathe trying to get a clue, I find myself wondering if some things I try are just a bad idea...
    As an example, I was thinking of taking a file to the edge of some steel I was turning tonight and wasn't sure if that was a recommended practice or not. Either way the file worked great to turn the razors edge off the end of the cylinder but you get the idea.
    Can someone point me to a list of general rules of thumb for newbies when operating a lathe? Or perhaps create one here?

  • #2
    Towards creating a list...anything that can be caught by spinning "stuff" will be, so...usual, no neck wear ("classic" photos do show ties, in the colder climes I could envision a scarf), no long loose sleeves; I wear almost no "jewelry" as it is but any rings or watches come off when using machinery.
    Careful when reaching, you can easily think you are nowhere near a very sharp edge or something turning (gears to work pieces) or a pinch point, you know where your hands are but your torso has to lean across something.
    Bit of a personal preference but I tend to face shields as opposed to safety glasses, in fact, often both.
    Heat: I was surprised at first how hot materials can get from a short time of turning. Work piece can still look "normal" but blue chips just came off it...
    Swarf: can be everything from soft and crumbly to razor sharp and nearly unbreakable...don't trust it...a hook on occasion, a brush and gloves nearly all the time; be aware of longer pieces wanting to wrap around anything or get thrown off when unexpected, "bird's nest" too.

    Sounds a bit stupid but pay attention generally to what you are doing...what I mean is, I for one, can get so focused on the exact task, I miss seeing what is going one only a few inches away...I have come close a couple of times trying to see details I was turning, while things were still moving [sometimes I have to tell myself out loud to slow get going in that groove of things working well...I tend to work faster and faster]
    Last edited by RussZHC; 11-16-2012, 09:49 PM.


    • #3
      #1 Do not take your hand off the chuck key unless it is to leave it in it's storage spot.



      • #4
        Stay away from the whizzy-roundy bits. That includes lead screws & feed shafts.

        Filing in a lathe is ok but FFS do it left handed!


        • #5
          Originally posted by becksmachine View Post
          #1 Do not take your hand off the chuck key unless it is to leave it in it's storage spot.

          Amen to that!

          BTW, when using a file at any time make sure it has a handle on the tang. This is especially true when using one on the lathe as if the file hangs up, the tang can pierce ones hand before you know it.


          • #6
            First shop rule:
            Never leave chuck key in the chuck.*** NEVER****
            Do not walk away from a running lathe as bad things happen when you are not watching.
            Even if you tightened everthing before you start your lathe {You did take the key out,didn't You}check again.
            If someone comes into the shop stop what your doing and back your tool bit off the work or tell them to wait till your done.
            Biggest cause of injury in the shop is distractions.
            If you use a file make sure it has handel on the tang.

            till you get hang of it file on the bottom of the spining pice so if it grabs at least it will fly away from you.
            I am sure you will get a lot more of these rules ,just take your time and think about what you are doing cause these things can and will KILL you
            ************Just Saying ***************Gator******************


            • #7
              if you have long hair gather it up under a cap or other wise restrain it so as not to get it caught in the spindle or anything else that rotates.



              • #8
                There really is no list that you have to consciously think of.

                It should be intuitive/"second nature" - and common sense.

                Visit a commercial shop operating under OHS - or visit a OHS site.


                Last edited by oldtiffie; 11-17-2012, 12:37 AM.


                • #9
                  Google Southbend's "how to run a Lathe" Read it thoroughly. There is a gold mine of how to in that book, including safety rules and procedures.

                  If you can't find Southbend's book, google Hercus or Sheldon they put out relatively generic manuals too, just not as popular.
                  Design to 0.0001", measure to 1/32", cut with an axe, grind to fit


                  • #10
                    the most dangerous thing you do with any machines is to turn them ON , they are reasonably safe before you do that

                    In other words Think of the repercussions before you act



                    • #11
                      Make it a habit to turn the machine on TWICE. Once while standing back away from the chuck as far as possible in case your piece comes out, and again to actually begin cutting. In between, take a moment to look for problems.

                      When youre cutting, dont allow your body to get in line with the chuck if at all possible. Remain offset in case something comes loose while cutting.

                      Keep your tools in front of the lathe. Collet racks and chucks can stay across the lathe from you, but you dont want to be reaching across a machine while its on.

                      No gloves while the machine is on.

                      Always have an escape route large enough that you can RUN down, preferably away from the headstock.

                      Safety glasses are a minimum at all times. That one STUPID moment of lapsed judgement can blind you permanently, and it will change your life forever. I leave a pair of safety glasses sitting in various spots around the shop/on various machines so theyre never more than an arms reach away, having been close to losing vision in one eye completely last year, so now there is no excuse about how inconvenient it is to put them on.
                      "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."


                      • #12
                        Until recently I usually wore a leather apron. I was using my lathe and single point threading something when I feel my body being pulled down towards the cross slide handle. I hit the E-stop and then got myself free from the apron that the bottom had wrapped around the lead screw! I have a moderately sized lathe with 14hp and it was having no problems pulling me down. My apron was winching me into the cross slide. Be very careful of loose clothing.
                        Location: The Black Forest in Germany

                        How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!


                        • #13
                          SPEED KILLS...........on the highway, cutting down trees, in the bedroom, on the farm, on the drill press, milling machine, lathe, you get the idea, I hope. One needs to provide enough time to finish the job safely.


                          • #14
                            I second the NO gloves. I saw a guy get a pretty good gash in his forearm from the jaws in the chuck on his left arm while reaching for his right hand, which had the fingers of his glove wound up. I've seen people do things that should be the "no brainer" type. If I'm turning anything over say, 6" long, I use a center or rest. Saw a guy throw a 5" piece of pipe out of a 14" lathe once because he wasn't using a center. Not cool!

                            I also stand to the right of the chuck. Its become a habit now, I don't even think about it. If for no other reason than the chips get thrown toward you by the jaws.
                            Something else I've noticed, don't set anything above the chuck. Our Nardini has a flat top on the gear box. It catches drill bits, center drills, reamers, tool holders etc... They can fall into the chuck and will be thrown your way.


                            • #15
                              In the 20+ years I taught lab based classes I had two student injuries that required medical attention. One was a machine malfunction. The 2nd was when a student decided to clean up the edge of a plasma cut piece of steel on a big honking pedestal grinder and did not remove his gloves. Well he got his thumb nail removed when the glove was caught by the wheel and pulled in between the wheel & the tool rest. OUCH!

                              So absolutely NO GLOVES unless your getting material out of a stock rack, or cleaning up.

                              BTW, the loose clothing also includes a rag/shop towel hanging out of a back pocket. Very easily caught in the lead screw.