Safety (or the lack thereof) #1: Rule #3, if your lathe has a safety shield and you can use it....DO!!!

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Blog entry by PASs posted 01-14-2013 05:06 AM 2888 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Safety (or the lack thereof) series Part 2: Fixing what I broke...finishing the exploded bowl. »

My wife, who loves me more than I deserve, let me get a new lathe a few months ago. A Powermatic 3520b.
I love this lathe, especially better than the old Craftsman tube-types I had.

Anyway, I’ve flung a few pieces of wood off the lathes over the past 40+ years, and I’m always conscious to keep my face shield/mask/goggles in place (unless I forget in the heat of the moment.)
But the safety cage just looked better holding a couple of worklights than down in its intended position.

Sooo A couple of days ago I started turning a little blank from some scraps of Indian dontknow I use for most of my smaller works. It was square so I thought I’d chuck it up and try something like a winged bowl, just to get used to working near spinning square corners.

The piece is only about 8 inches across, two larger pieces of one wood with a smaller “center” piece in another.
It only weighed a few ounces, so after I drilled a 2” recess (using a forstner bit) for the chuck I mounted it and did a test spin.
Everything looked good so I cranked the speed knob to the right and brought the RPMs up to about 1300.
I finished turning and sanding the top and decided to work the bottom without remounting it, i.e. from the headstock side.
(Hmmm your thinking…is this a good idea.)
I made a few passes on the backside when WHACK…a reddish/yellow blur flew off the chuck, hit the toolrest, (somewhere in here it broke into two parts), whacked my big worklight (mounted on a plywood backstop about 2 feet behind the lathe) and bounced up (and down….[two parts, remember]) into the wood stack behind the lathe.

I knew I wasn’t hit (not this time at least, but that’s another story) so I shut everything down and did a quick survey of the damages.
I was ok (see above.)
Lathe was ok (take more than a few ounces of wood to hurt that.)
Safety cage was ok….it was safely flipped back out of the way.
Worklight wasn’t….the bulb was broken (a nice compact florescent one too) which wasn’t a surprise.
But, just beside what was left of the bulb there was a tear, in the aluminum reflector, about 3/8 by 1 1/4 inches. Now the reflector isn’t a heavy duty thing…but it’s WAY thicker than a soft drink can.
I was duly impressed by the damage from that little piece of wood.

So here’s a little math for you…
8 inch diameter (corner to corner) equals 25 inch circumference.
1300 RPM of a 25 inch circumference gives 32,500 inches per minute.
Divide that by 12 (inches per foot) and you have 2,700 feet per minute, or 45 feet per second.
I don’t know about you folks, but I can’t dodge ANYTHING going 45 feet per second when my face is about 10 inches away.

So, I took the lights off the safety cage and will at least use it until anything I’m turning doesn’t have any sharp corners left.

As a side note, the blank broke at a glue joint, very unusual I know, but I don’t think it was the cause of the dismount. (In retrospect I am habitually too stingy on glue….that will be different in the future.)
Because I used a forstner bit to drill the mounting hole there was no dovetail for the chuck to hold into.
When I started working from the headstock side I think I pushed the piece off.
A simple tailstock block would have stopped that…typical me…get in a hurry and forget the common sense.

But this block isn’t going to beat me….it’s already glued back together, with a LOT of glue, and is chucked back on the lathe, where I’ll finish it under the watchful gaze of an in-place safety shield.
Here are some photos of the event.

The recovered blank, split at the joint.

The worklight, bulb shattered and spun 90 degrees by the impact of a few ounces of wood traveling 45 feet per second.

When I turned the worklight back around the hole was visible.

Closeup of the hole.

The aluminum tore part of the corner of the wood off as it spun out, it was easy to match the corner to the hole.

The view as it would have been just before the event….working from behind the piece, with no tailstock block to hold it on….bad Pete, bad Pete.

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

8 comments so far

View ichbinpete's profile


110 posts in 2929 days

#1 posted 01-14-2013 06:12 AM

Good God man! better use that safety equipment next time. Glad you didn’t take a hit. RIP efficient light bulb

-- It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3256 days

#2 posted 01-14-2013 12:41 PM

Gloves are another NO, NO. Your hands are usually too near spinning pieces and a corner of the square piece could have easily caught a piece of your glove and instantly wrap your arms up in the spinning vortex! Not a pretty picture to visualize but believe me it has happened to somebody somewhere! Like you said at 45 ft per seconds guess how many times your arms gets wrapped around the lathe! Get rid of the gloves! If it is cold, get a little heater.

I only use Titebond III glue and put thin layer on each piece and don’t worry about wasted glue. (Glue is cheap by comparison)

Edit: By the way, ENJOY your new CLEAN lathe! I’ve got one like it so I know how you feel!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3042 days

#3 posted 01-14-2013 01:47 PM

Thnx for posting this Pete. We all need to be reminded of the dangerous hobby we all enjoy. Work/Play safe, and Keep makin dust.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View cosmicturner's profile


403 posts in 3633 days

#4 posted 01-14-2013 01:49 PM

Glad you are ok and maybe slow down a little….be safe my friend the lathe can bite quick

-- Cosmicturner

View nonickswood's profile


554 posts in 2625 days

#5 posted 01-14-2013 11:50 PM

Good Grief Pete,
Glad your OK!!

-- Nick, Virginia,

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2928 days

#6 posted 01-15-2013 02:49 AM

Dang, somebody could have lost an eye. I KNEW I didn’t want a lathe, and you have convinced me that I’m right.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View PASs's profile


595 posts in 3336 days

#7 posted 01-15-2013 04:09 AM

True, someone could have, but I was wearing a full face respirator, and standing to the side of the piece.
Being a klutz, I’ve hit my fingers with hammers, cut myself with razor knives, shot myself with a nail gun, stapled myself with staplers, and I don’t remember what else.
But I do really try to be safe, my worst enemy is ADD (attention deficit disorder) which leads me to rush into the next step of a project sometimes forgetting to do the slower, more prudent thing, like putting the safety cage down.
But if I was going to be completely safe I wouldn’t be doing ANY woodworking, and the lathe is my best method of self expression.
So please don’t take this blog entry as a reason not to get a lathe, just be safe when you use it.

-- Pete, "It isn't broken, you just aren't using it right."

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2928 days

#8 posted 01-15-2013 04:34 AM

Thanks for the reply Pete. I just see too many posts where turnings blow up and hurt people. Working with horses is dangerous enough for me!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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