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(Siamese) Rosewood, is it THAT Dangerous?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Cellwelder, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. Cellwelder


    Dec 25, 2012
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Gee, I wish I had a commercial affiliation. I could use a little more spending money...
    Well, I've started on my first bass guitar build, a fretless 4 string made from a body and neck of Teak, and a Siamese Rosewood fretboard.

    I've done some research and found that these Rosewoods can cause allergic reactions without a proper mask of some kind. When I consulted this with my shop teacher and according to him, it causes some kind of cancer, and he promptly finished his rant with a "I'll never work with the stuff".

    Also, the workshop I have to work in is about the size of a 3 car garage, with 15 other students crammed in.

    Has anyone worked on Rosewood (specifically Siamese), and what kind of precautions did you take?

  2. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    Never heard of Siamese RW, but I'd guess it's the same species as Southeast Asian RW. I have used it will absolutely no ill effects. However, many people can have allergic reactions to some woods. Very common for RW to be a problem with causing itching and rashes. Causing cancer?? Nonsense. There are no carcinogens in wood. If you have other issues with allergic reactions to ordinary things like food then I would take precautions when working with rosewood, such as a respirator and a long sleeve shirt.
  3. Hi.

    Most organic materials cause irritation and allergic reactions, so it's IME/IMO not over reacting to always use a respirator when producing organic dust.

    I don't think that I have heard about carcinogenic woods that are commonly used in carpentry or luthiery either, but some splinter punctures sure do get infected pretty fast and pretty severely.

  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Wood dust is considered a human carcinogen. It's not hard to verify this, there are some links here to those who are interested, or you can just google it:


    The carcinogenic risk is obviously the highest in an occupational setting.

    Many species are also categorized as irritants and/or sensitizers:


    All that said, most any species can be worked by most people without issues when precautions are taken -- you should just wear a respirator and an air filter would be good to turn the air over in the shop.
  5. ddtkills


    Mar 7, 2009

    I've had radiation training for working on X-ray inspection devices. One of the things we learned was that many things we don't think of as being radioactive do in fact have some radioactivity. Tobacco for instance is radioactive from the ground it is grown in. The clay used in cat litter is also radioactive. so it makes sense that lumber from trees would be as radioactive as the ground it was grown in. Radon gas is a problem throughout the U.S. and other areas of the world. It effects all crops and plants grown in areas where it is at high levels. However to put this into perspective the levels in the trees, tobacco and other plant is not very high, but radiation is preasent and therefore could be a carcinogen. So we must take percautions with all materials we use. A proper dust mask is important when creating dust from any wood.
  6. Here's a good chart with wood toxicity as well: http://www.shopsmithacademy.com/Tip...oods_files/TP124_Images/TOXIC WOODS CHART.pdf

    Years ago I made a bridge piece out of some cocobolo. Didn't think anything about it being toxic...so there I was, sanding away for a couple of hours. Turned out beautiful--but the next day, my face was burnt and swollen, very painful. I guess Cocobolo is related to poison ivy.