Workshop Mishaps: Face shield folly: never turn without one.


It had been about 40 years since I last used a lathe, but I remembered how to do it safely—or so I thought. For my inaugural project, I decided to make a simple mallet to rive wooden blanks for turning chair spindles. After mounting an 8"-square × 14"-long walnut blank between centers, I grabbed my roughing gouge and began rounding the piece. Moments later, the gouge caught and the blank launched from the lathe. The wooden missile struck me between the eyes and knocked me out. I came to in a puddle of blood. The blank broke my glasses and my nose. Knowing that I was on blood-thinning medication and would be unable to stop the bleeding, I called 911.

At the first hospital, a doctor tried packing my nose, but could not stop the bleeding. I received an emergency transfusion and was then rushed to a larger hospital to see a specialist for cauterization. Fortunately, this stopped the bleeding. Unfortunately, the excitement left me with an abnormal heartbeat, so that mallet won me a 24-hour vacation in the hospital until things stabilized.

To say the least, I was skittish about turning again, so I finished shaping my mallet on the bandsaw. Now, this rough-sawn hand tool reminds me of things I should never have done.


Jim Horne, an insurance agency owner who lives in Churubusco, Indiana, has been a woodworker since his teens. He became passionate about his hobby eight years ago and has taken classes to hone his skills. He enjoys building furniture, using mainly hand tools. His pride and joy project: a Sam Maloof-style rocker.


Jim literally did not have his guard up for turning; a face shield would have deflected the nose-breaking blank. But this wasn’t the only thing that was amiss. When he returned to his lathe to see what went wrong, he found a quarter-sized knot running through into the center of the blank, which caught his gouge. He also noticed that the wood was not tightly secured between the centers and that the turning speed was too fast for roughing.


Don’t tempt fate or Murphy’s Law—wear a face shield (such as the Uvex Bionic Face Shield) when turning or sanding a workpiece. Also, if you’re not sure that you remember all of the operating procedures and safety guidelines for your lathe, review your owner’s manual or a good book before you flick the “on” switch. (After his mishap, Jim bought additional safety gear and took several turning classes before he returned to turning.) Further, to ensure that your work never rockets off the lathe, follow these tips:

• Examine the wood for flaws. Do not turn the piece if it has cracks, knots, poor glue joints, or other defects that could cause a tool to catch or the wood to fracture or come loose.

• To minimize turning stresses, rough-cut blanks on the bandsaw to the approximate finished shape before mounting.

• Make sure that the ends of the blank are flat and square, so that the drive centers make proper contact and grip.

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