N for Noise                                 

N is for Noise and how it can impact on us and those around us when we are woodturning or working with wood.

Whilst using a lathe is probably not the noisiest machining operation we will undertake, some of the operations involved in preparing wood for turning, such as sawing or planing, can result in high levels of noise being generated. Some dust extractors also operate at high noise levels.

We use our sense of hearing to enhance our awareness of our surroundings whether it is our environment, our machining or our woodturning. The noises emanating from the lathe, tool and workpiece give additional information about whether the process is going smoothly, if it is running roughly or if it may be about to fail catastrophically.

Our hearing can be permanently damaged by exposure to excessive noise. Factors which particularly influence the degree of damage to hearing are the relative noise level, the distance from the source of the noise and the length of time we are exposed to the noise. The amount of hearing damage sustained is also dependent on the noise frequency - it is thought that certain low frequencies, such as those associated with mains electricity generation, may cause a disproportionately higher level of hearing damage.

A radio operating at a reasonable volume can provide a useful measure of ambient noise levels in the workshop - if the radio can be easily heard then the noise level in the workshop is probably acceptable. If the radio cannot be heard then the noise levels are such that hearing protection should be worn. Don't just turn the radio up!

Whilst the use of hearing protection such as ear defenders or in-ear plugs will reduce exposure to damaging levels of noise it is always worth looking at ways of reducing the noise at source. A typical example is locating a dust extractor outside the workshop in a separate room which can result in significantly reduced noise levels in the workshop.

If doing noisy jobs we should also give consideration to our neighbours. An electric hand plane can be heard over a hundred yards away and much further still during the quieter hours. If you regularly work late then it is worth considering fixing additional insulation to the walls and roof of your workshop to reduce the level of noise reaching your neighbours.