Lathing When You Live In An Apartment: Is It A Problem?

When we think of a DIY woodworking shop, the first image that comes to mind is a converted garage or shed which forms part of a residential home somewhere in the suburbs. Not everyone has these facilities, and if you live in a smaller apartment and still want to explore woodworking as a hobby, it is possible to set up a small shop in the apartment.

You can turn wood on a lathe in an apartment if your lease doesn’t prohibit it, your landlord authorizes it, and you take all possible steps to ensure you don’t aggravate the neighbors. It is essential to manage the sound and ensure that sawdust does not become a problem.

Many people have comprehensive woodworking shops in their apartments; however, they are very active in ensuring that their turning activities do not cause an issue to their neighbors. They also use very effective dust extraction systems to ensure that their woodworking does not become hazardous for the community.

You Can Use A Lathe In An Apartment

Using a lathe in an apartment is possible if you respect your neighbors and work socially acceptable hours.

All power tools used for woodworking cause potential problems for the apartment dweller.

  1. The noise that a lathe generates.

The dust that a lathe produces. 

The Noise Which A Lathe Generates

There are two noise levels with which you need to concern yourself with.

Lathing When You Live In An Apartment: Is It A Problem?

Sound Number 1 – The Lathes Motor

The sound produced by the lathes motor is not generally intrusive. The loudest component is the pulley driving the main spindle.

This noise level is acceptable and should present no problem to your neighbors.

Sound Number 2 – The Sound Produced When Turning Wood

The faster spindle rotates and the denser and the harder the wood, the louder the resulting noise is.

The sound generated by lathes in a woodworking shop is in the region of 74db.

When sound exceeds 70 dB over a prolonged period, not only will it annoy the neighbors, but it can also damage the user’s hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.

Source: CDC

How Can You Keep The Neighbours Happy When Using A Lathe

It would help if you remembered that neighbors have as much right to peace as you do.

To be a responsible neighbor, use the following guidelines.

Check The Construction Of Your Apartment Block

While modern buildings use drywall to separate apartments and the rooms within, older buildings use a more solid lathe and plaster construction with better sound insulation properties.

If your apartment is built with this material, you have a head start.

Choose Your Lathe Room Carefully

Select the bedroom that doesn’t adjoin the neighbor’s apartment as your toolroom.

It will mean that sound must travel through more than one room before hitting the neighbors’ ears.

Download, A Sound Level Meter, To Verify The Lathes Sound

Decibel meters are freely available in the Apple and Google Play stores.

Download and install one on your phone, and then measure the decibels produced by your equipment. If the levels are under 50db outside the room, you don’t have a problem.

Be A Considerate Neighbour When Turning Wood

For at least part of the day, think about giving the lathe a rest on Saturdays and Sundays.

Don’t use the lathe or any other power tools late at night or early morning. If you work from home and your neighbors work away, wait for them to leave before using the lathe.

If you can’t use your lathe in the apartment at certain times, use these intervals to assemble your projects, and leave the turning until convenient for your neighbors.

Talk To The Neighbour About Your Lathe In The Apartment

Don’t wait for a problem, and then try to calm your neighbor down.

Be proactive and discuss using your lathe in the apartment. Try to find a compromise time when the neighbor is unaffected by the noise of the lathe in your apartment.

Not only is this a way to defuse a potential situation, but you may make friends!

If your neighbor gives permission, use the decibel meter on your phone to test the noise levels in your neighbor’s apartment.

Select The Wood To Use On The Lathe In Your Apartment

Turning harder woods makes more noise than turning woods that are soft. If possible, try to restrict your turning activities to softer woods.

It is not about the difference between hardwoods and softwoods, which are categories of woods, but rather how they measure on the Janka scale.

The Janka is used to calculate a wood’s “hardness” and produces a score at the soft end of 100 for balsa wood, and at the other end is Quebracho, which scores 4,570.

If you aim to turn woods with Janka scores of 750 or less, it should generate fewer decibels.

Use Lower Lathe Speeds On The Lathe In Your Apartment

The higher the lathe rpm, the more noise is generated. Add this to turning a more dense wood, and a screeching sound is sometimes the result.

Sharpen You Turning Tools Of Your Lathe

A turning tool must be very sharp to achieve the cut and fit, which will satisfy you.

The duller the turning tools blade is, the noisier it will be.

The tool’s blade becomes duller more quickly than you may imagine. The edge works very hard, and you need to regularly test the sharpness to ensure that it is cutting optimally and reduces the noise it generates when turning.

If All Else Fails, Deaden The Sound Of The Lathe

If the noise your turning activities produce is too high, acquire soundproof material to line the wall of the tool room. If you intend to attach soundproof panels to the walls, you may need to obtain the landlord’s permission.

If the landlord doesn’t let you attach anything to the wall, construct standalone sound deadening units by building frames to hold the acoustic foam in place against the walls and even on the floor.

Consider purchasing sound deadening curtains to hang against any windows which lead out of the room. Although the original intention behind soundproof curtains was to reduce sound coming into an apartment, they are equally effective at reducing the sound levels of a lathe in the apartment.

The Dust Which A Lathe Produces

It doesn’t matter if you have a dedicated woodworking shop or a smaller facility in your apartment; dust will always be a problem.

Lathing When You Live In An Apartment: Is It A Problem?

The problem with a lathe is how you catch the sawdust. With the other woodworking power equipment, it is simple to attach a vacuum to the waste port of the tool.

Lathes are not so simple; not only does the lathe spread the sawdust far and wide, but it is also difficult to attach a suitable collector without restricting the wood turners’ access to the spindle.

Make sure that you thoroughly vacuum up all the sawdust created by the lathe at the end of each session. Apart from the fact that sawdust is known to have carcinogenic properties, it is also a fire hazard.

General Caution About Using A Lathe In Your Apartment

Confirm that you are allowed to use a lathe in the apartment.

Ensure The Landlord Allows A Lathe In The Apartment

Check with your landlord and verify in the lease agreement that no restrictions prevent you from using a lathe in the apartment.

If the landlord verbally agrees to you using a lathe in the apartment, confirm this in writing to ensure everyone “remembers” the same thing later on.

Follow Any Instructions Given By The Landlord

Comply with any safety measures that the landlord requests.

Ensure that you don’t breach the apartment blocks insurance policy

The last thing you want is fire damage, which the insurer refuses to settle because you were doing an unauthorized activity.


If you are not breaching any of the conditions of your lease agreement, it is not a problem to use a lathe in an apartment. Ensure you don’t aggravate the neighbors and always take as many measures as possible to reduce the decibel count of your woodworking activity.

Ensure you have permission to use a lathe in the apartment and keep the woodworking room spotlessly clean.


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