Severe Reaction to Cocobolo

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Means2nEnd, Oct 1, 2016.

  1. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Hello luthier family, I have worked with cocobolo before and I always wear a respirator and some protective clothing but this week it was hot in my shop and wore a t-shirt and never needed to wear gloves. All that changed yesterday.

    I am doing a commissioned build for a professional player up in NY and I want to get this bass done because I have 3 more started and a guitar luckily none with cocobolo. I have a nice cocobolo fingerboard and the other night I was leveling it after gluing it to the neck and had dust extraction running and a respirator but that’s all. I was using a shop-vac to suck up dust and a rag to wipe down the fingerboard as I was sanding. Cocobolo loads up sandpaper so fast and makes little sticky wads in the paper it’s a pain in the butt. I washed up afterwards but after I got out of the shower all over the back of my neck, inside my arms, hands I developed a terrible raised rash and poison ivy blisters inside my fingers. Oh man this sucks! This will only get worse if I continue to use it. Luckily I have only one other fingerboard left and it’s going on eBay or wherever Tom Clemet listed his wood the other day. Scary because I have some insane Bocote I will be re-sawing up for fingerboards I hope I don’t have to worry about that.

    I am buying a full Tyvek suit with hood to wear to finish the job what a bummer. I will never be able to work with it again because the reactions only get worse and worse. I have has some slight itchy reactions to some woods like African mahogany but nothing like this. I hope it’s only this wood that does this to me and there are no others I have to scratch off my list like other rosewood family woods.

    I refuse to use black ebony because of all the damage to the environment and wasteful to get. Personally I feel for me it’s selfish to use it especially. I know other woods are similar but not to the extent ebony is to get the pure black stuff. I was looking for some other hard dark woods for fingerboards that were interesting looking but coco is off the list.

    Tomorrow it’s off to Sherman Williams to buy the body suit and then all the filters in my dust collectors are getting changed and my shop blown out. We live we learn... Be careful people

    Here are a few pics of what it can look like. Its worse on the back of my neck ugh!

    Skin 1.jpg
    Skin 2.jpg
  2. Man, that's nasty.

    If it helps any, for the first little while building I had all manner of allergic reactions to wood dust. Thankfully, after a while it all settled down and I have no dramas. You might find your's goes away after a while too. :)
  3. Christine

    Christine Guest

    Aug 3, 2016
    Not nice, barrier creams and cover yourself up as much as you can is the only way when you have reactions like that. If Cocobolo does that to you then avoid Santos rosewood like the plague it will give you all sorts of grief. I used to be a cabinet maker and had a wide range of timbers pass through the shop, the only one that gave me any problems was Ceylon ebony, it made my nose bleed if I didn't wear a dust mask continually while working with it
  4. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I was at a job site where a guy was cutting Ipe Mahogany the first time, he went into some kind of respiratory shock, ambulance, the whole nine yards. Don't mess with it, you might get better, you might not. Not worth the risk.
  5. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    Try your best not to scratch it, trust me it spreads like crazy. Go to a doctor if you can and get some topical ointment and take some antihistamines. You can also use solarcaine to numb your skin if you're having a hard time not scratching it.

    Skin shielding lotion/barrier cream is good and I also use nitrile gloves with cotton glove liners underneath to try to prevent further skin reactions when working with sawdust or oily woods.
    Means2nEnd likes this.
  6. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Bummer. I wonder if benadryl would help.

    Good call on changing the filters. I turned some pens out of cocobolo and wore a respirator, then I vacuumed everything up before ending for the day. A few days later, I ran the shop vac while cleaning up another area, and didn't think I needed the respirator. The dust that made it past the filter in the shop vac from the previous day was enough to give me a nasty upper respiratory infection. In retrospect, I was able to smell it but it didn't occur to me that it would be enough to cause a reaction. Fortunately no rash as you had, but it was still no fun whatsoever.

    Beautiful wood, but what a cost on the body.
  7. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Man this stuff is no joke. I have been taking about 4 Benadryl a day and putting on poison ivy stuff. I'll leave out the details but it's much worse now than yesterday which was worse than the day before and I have not been in my shop at all and that alone is killing me I have work piled up everywhere. If this doesn't start to get better tonight I'm off to the doctor..
  8. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Definitely head to the doctor, they will treat it like an allergic reaction and will prevent further advancement of the condition and hopefully also prevent scarring...
  9. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    FB 3.jpg Well I'm going to post 3 fingerboards and a nice chunk of cocobolo in strings and accessories I guess. All three fingerboards are already radiused too. Anyone interested please let me know. I think things are finally starting to fade symptom wise. I had to wear a full Tyvek suit in the shop today and basically totally clean it all out.

    I posted in "other stuff" FYI..
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2016
  10. Whammytap


    Oct 17, 2004
    Kansas City
    I had a similar reaction to either wenge or rosewood when building my fiver years ago. Had to get a steroid shot, the whole bit. My fingers swelled up like bratwursts. That sucks, man. I commiserate.
  11. Lonnybass


    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Oh man. I must be a medical marvel, I seem to be allergic to everything BUT cocobolo!
  12. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    Same here, although I've only used cocobolo for making pens, so that's pretty limited exposure at a time. I'm trying to steer clear for anything that would involve more exposure to it than that.
  13. michaelwayneharwood

    michaelwayneharwood Builder of the Wastelands Commercial User

    May 1, 2014
    Owner Melodious Resonance Constructs
    Ouch! I just got a severe reaction to your severe reaction!


    *edit* Thems some mighty fine woods you got there - I would put down some money iffen they wasn't already radiused. I am an odd bird that prefers a zero radius (flat) fingerboard.
  14. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Well I wound up needing to go to the doctor and get a steroid shot and then now I am still on a one week prescription of steroid pills and i still after a full week still have red marks on my neck, arms, and fingers... the suckage was at a high level and still not gone. I'm just grateful my breathing was not affected.
  15. michaelwayneharwood

    michaelwayneharwood Builder of the Wastelands Commercial User

    May 1, 2014
    Owner Melodious Resonance Constructs
    That really sucks. I truly hope everything resolves quickly and without any long term problems.
  16. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I've used some cocobolo boards that really tore me up, and I have used some that had little affect on me at all. I guess it depends on the board itself.

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