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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone! So, I'm a fairly tall guy(6'4"), and I've been noticing lately that when I spend any amount of time at all at the lathe, my back is wrecked. I have to crouch pretty far to get a good view of the work(I don't hover over it, and I keep a safe distance), and my lower back reflects this. Now, being entirely self taught, it is very possible that my stance is bad. I may not be facing the work correctly, and that could be causing me unnecessary stress. I plan on watching some videos today to see how people address their work, and trying to make sure my feet, torso and head are all positioned correctly. Aside from that possibility, does anyone else have height related issues? Should I just build a taller stand for my lathe(Harbor Freight 12x36ish)? Should I put it on a bench? Prior to this, my lathe usage was practically non-existent, but now I'm hooked, so I need to figure something out. I've got back problems as-is, so I don't want to exacerbate them to the point of having to quit woodworking altogether. Any idea would be great. Thanks!

WCT
 

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Should I just build a taller stand for my lathe
That's a good idea .
The rule of thumb is , centre of spindle height same as elbow height .
Tailor that to suit you
At the Woodturning Guild workshop I went to down south , we had one lathe on extended legs , another on a low bench , and a few sets of duckboards for use anywhere they were needed .
 

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I’m not tall (5’11”) but I had to raise my lathe (Nova 1624) an inch and half to be comfortable.
Dave Hout, and instructor, talked about it in his video. He found tall students ( 6-4 or over) also had a hard time maintaining control with spindle tools because they were having to reach down too much and lost the fine control when your arms form a triangle. He put the lathe on 4X4’s and the control problems went away.
I’m not sure of his height but in John Jordan’s video he also has his lathe on 4X4’s.
In Hout’s video he suggested setting the tool rest to the center height. Take a tool in your hands in a comfortable stance, lock it to your body, and turn and place the tool over the rest. You should be able to see about how much you need to raise the lathe.

This is a link to some Stuart Batty videos. There are three on stance; not height per se but how you move (dance with the lathe).
http://vimeo.com/woodturning/videos/page:2/sort:alphabetical/format:thumbnail
 

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Definitely build some legs or a bench to put it on so you don't hurt your back any more. We've made huge leaps in the medical field in the last century, but as I'm sure you know, once your back is hurt, it's never the same as it was before.
 

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I like my spindle height to be about an inch above my elbow. It keeps my back straighter. I'm not that tall so I actually had to lower the adjustable legs on my lathe all the way down to get that height. I know a lot of people who have 4x4's or other things under the lathe to get the height up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Great advice, guys. I may still be standing incorrectly, but now I know that I can save my back, at least. As far as spindle gouge control... Yup. I turned a mallet last night, and yikes... The handle was fairly easy(straightforward as it gets), but the head gave me fits. I got it done, and once the head dries, I'll assemble it and share pics, but man, I had more catcher than I thought possible. I kept second guessing the sharpness of my tools, but they were razors-edge sharp. This should help matters tremendously. I think I've got some 4x4 around somewhere, and I need to put the lathe on a mobile base anyhow, so this should come together nicely. Oh, and John, thanks for the spindle roughing gouge video. Using that bevel cut made a world of difference. Feels like I've been working to hard up till now. Thanks!

WCT
 

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Something else to consider, if you have a concrete floor stand on some type of rubber or plastic mat to insulate your feet from the floor. Standing on concrete for a period of time will also cause back pain and foot pain
 

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I'm 6-4 as well and have similar issues. For me it's upper back problems because I tend to hunch over to see the work better. I agree that more light (or better eyes) might help. My lathe is adjustable and is at its limit which puts it right at elbow height. The problem is that it's still farther from my eyes to my elbow height than if I were 5-6 so I take a wide stance and hunch over when doing detailed or final cuts. Not good. I may need to shim mine up a bit too.
 

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I'm not that tall, just a bit over 6-1 but I had upper back and neck strain with my standard height tube lathe. When I got my new lathe I had to build a stand for it and I made it right at elbow height and it works out much better. I still have a bit of neck strain after a while of turning but I think that is just from wearing a full face shield and respirator. And hunching to see my work better. I bought a small magnifying glass and so far that has really helped.
 

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Just raised my Harbor freight lathe 6 inches!!! Turned all day,no back problems.Lathes are not made for us tall people.
 

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Where are you looking? If you are looking at the front of the piece your chin is much closer to your chest putting strain on your BACK when possible look at the far edge of your work. Same amount of wood comes off that side and at the same spot as if you were looking at the near edge with your chin / eyes looking at the wrong place. So when you can look up and away it will take strain off your back and you will be able to stay aat the lathe longer that's a good thing.

Jerry
 

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Height of Turner

Well I used to be 5' 11" but I had my physical last week and now I'm 5' 8 3/4". Thanks for asking.

David TURNER
 

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I am 6'5". For about 10 years, I turned on a Ridgid 12" lathe that was sitting on 6x6 treated beams to get it to a comfortable height for me.
 
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