Is Woodturning Dangerous? The Risks and How to Stay Safe

Last Updated on October 1, 2023 by Charles Wilson

Woodturning is a popular woodworking craft that involves shaping wood on a lathe by rotating the material while applying cutting tools to create intricate designs and functional objects. As with any craft involving power tools and sharp objects, there is an inherent risk involved in woodturning. This article aims to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the risks associated with woodturning and how to minimize them to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

The Risks of Woodturning

There are several risks involved in woodturning, including the use of sharp tools, flying debris, and exposure to dust. The potential injuries associated with these risks range from minor cuts and bruises to more severe injuries such as eye injuries, respiratory issues, and even amputations in extreme cases.

Sharp tools:

Woodturning requires the use of sharp tools like chisels, gouges, and scrapers. Injuries can occur if these tools are not used correctly, are not sharpened correctly, or if the woodturner loses control of the tool.

Flying debris:

When working on a lathe, wood shavings and chips can be thrown at high speeds. This debris can cause bruises or cuts if it strikes the woodturner or can even lead to eye injuries if proper eye protection is not worn.


Wood dust can pose respiratory hazards, as well as eye and skin irritations. Prolonged exposure to wood dust has been linked to respiratory issues, nasal and sinus cancer, and even lung cancer.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Machinery used for metal, woodworking, or special material was involved in 1,660 amputations in 2018.

Although this statistic covers different kinds of machinery, it underscores the potential dangers involved in woodturning.

Factors That Affect Safety

Various factors can affect the safety of woodturning, including the condition of the lathe, the quality of the tools, and the experience level of the woodturner.

Lathe condition: 

A poorly maintained or improperly set up lathe can lead to accidents and injuries. For example, an unbalanced or loose workpiece can cause the lathe to vibrate excessively, making it difficult to control the cutting tools and increasing the risk of injury.

Tool quality: 

The quality of the tools used in woodturning can significantly impact safety. High-quality, well-maintained tools are less likely to break or slip during use, reducing the risk of accidents.

Experience level: 

As with any craft, a woodturner’s experience level plays a significant role in safety. Beginners may be more prone to accidents due to their lack of familiarity with the tools and techniques involved in woodturning.

Precautions and Safety Measures

To minimize the risks associated with woodturning, it is essential to take proper precautions and safety measures. Some of the key safety measures to consider include:

Wear appropriate safety gear: 

This includes safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris, dust masks or respirators to protect your lungs from wood dust, and gloves to protect your hands from sharp tools and splinters.

Maintain and inspect the lathe and tools: 

Regularly inspect your lathe and tools for signs of wear or damage. Sharpen and clean your cutting tools regularly to ensure they are in optimal working condition.

Keep a clear workspace: 

Ensure your workspace is clean and free of clutter to reduce the risk of tripping or knocking over tools and materials. Proper lighting is also essential for visibility and accuracy during woodturning

Follow proper techniques: 

Learn and practice correct woodturning techniques, as well as proper tool use and handling, to minimize the risk of accidents. Seek guidance from experienced woodturners, attend workshops, or take classes to improve your skills.

Use appropriate speeds: 

Adjust the lathe’s speed according to the size and balance of the workpiece, as well as the type of cutting being performed. Using an appropriate speed can help prevent the workpiece from becoming dislodged or the tool from catching on the wood, reducing the risk of injury.

Secure the workpiece: 

Ensure that the workpiece is properly secured to the lathe using the appropriate fixtures, such as a faceplate or chuck. This will help prevent the workpiece from coming loose during turning, reducing the risk of accidents.

Stay focused: 

Pay attention to your work and avoid distractions while woodturning. Fatigue, inattention, and complacency can lead to accidents, so take breaks as needed to maintain focus and alertness.


Woodturning can be a rewarding and enjoyable craft, but it does come with inherent risks. By understanding these risks and taking the necessary precautions and safety measures, you can minimize the dangers associated with woodturning and create beautiful, functional pieces safely.