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Skin allergies to Alder?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, May 12, 2011.

  1. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I don't use Alder because nobody asks for it but I had a body blank in my wood room for a few years and a customer requested it. I have been working with it for a few days now and have developed bumps all over my arms. I am working on several basses at the same time naturally but the Alder is the only wood that is new to me. I have never had a reaction to any other wood.

    Has anybody else experienced it?

    Thanks ...tom
  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I've got nothing to say about alder, but I do know that some other woods, which you might be using, are sensitizers. With these you can start with no problem but with repeated exposure the reaction starts and then increases.
  3. I have the same bumps when working with ash. the bad thing is that if you have bumps on your arms, guess what it can do to your breathing organs.
    INTP likes this.
  4. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    I sometimes get tiny red dots with ash too, nowhere near close to bumps, and its only occasional when doing a lot of sanding. But I assumed it was just sharp bits getting stuck in pores and irritating the skin.
  5. GregBreshears

    GregBreshears Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2002
    Independence, MO
    Owner: Greg Breshears Guitarworks
    I haven't heard of any alergies to alder, BUT when I was at school there was a fellow student that almost died due to an alergy to Spruce. The doctors told him that because he was from an area that didn't have that species of tree (sitka) his body couldn't handle it. He was in the hospital for a while and has to wear a resperator when working with it, and wash all of the dust off right after he finishes working with it.
  6. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    +1 to sensitizers, but the simplest explanation is the alder. I'd say it's possible you are sensitive to alder -- I know guys that react to a variety of woods... red cedar, walnut, pau ferro, even maple. I had never heard of anyone having a reaction with maple, but it was enough to get him to stop using it until he got a handle on how to prevent exposure.

    Be especially careful finishing this guitar -- if you even do. There are alternatives to alder. Try finding some butternut. If you do go on, wear long sleeves and a respirator at all times and clean up after yourself immediately.
  7. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Thanks all I went to the doc he doesn't think it is from wood at all. He gave me some steroids and said continue working and see what happens. I guess I will.....t
  8. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    Interesting, almost exactly the same thing happened to me about a week ago - started breaking out in a rash on my arms and back of my neck. It was spreading, so I went to the doc, who thought it was poison oak/ivy/summac or something and got me all hopped up on drugs (steroids, 2 different histamine blockers, anti-itch pills). A week later it's definitely better, but not fully resolved. Hope you're able to recover quickly - it definitely isn't comfortable :atoz:
  9. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    And there I was thinking the "Luthiers itch" was caught a different way....:D
  10. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    That's why one puts a finish on the thing (well, at least *one* reason...)
  11. From touching wood? :bag:
  12. Built some picnic tables from some surplus cypress a few years back. That stuff leaves splinters from hell and infected sites you wouldn't believe. I'd never work with it again.

    I realize cypress is not thought of as a tone wood per se, but I have seen it used for guitars and wonder if everyone is affected (infected?) as I was.
  13. I built my first bass last year using spalted alder for the body. I didn't know of the importance of a dust mask unfortunately. Soon after finishing I developed a nagging cough which I didn't pay too much attention to until i started running a slight fever every day. Turns out I had a lung infection which took three rounds of antibiotics and steroids to clear up. I am not positive this was from the wood but I don't know what else it could have been. Now that I have read Tom's thread I remember having a slight rash if I had the wood dust on my skin also.
  14. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Spalted wood is bad stuff. Allergies or not, spalt is fungus and it's perfectly happy hanging out in your lungs. I don't mess around with spalted wood any more.
  15. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    +100 to this, I stopped using spalted woods 10 years ago, when I found out the spores will remain in your shop indefinately and can cause severe respiratory problems long after the wood is gone.
  16. Michael B

    Michael B

    Dec 16, 2015
    Lowell, MA
    Sorry to revive an old theead. The 'use the search' crazies will have my head for posting about this.

    I am doing my first build. Did some band sawing today. It was a blast, however, I had a really bad allergic reaction. After working on the bass, I went for my weekly allergy show. I believe I also had a reaction to the shot. Now I have taken the most amount of allergy medicine as instructed by the Doc. Finally starting to feel a little better.

    Has anyone who has wood allergies successfully used masks and gloves and was able to avoid allergic reactions?

    I was hoping this would be a long term hobby but it's starting to look like it's not a good idea. Any advice on avoiding allergic reactions appreciated. Thx. Michael
  17. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    Did not realize the risks. Haven't reacted to anything yet. Dang it i LOVE spalted tops, knew it was fungus but never thoght about the risks!! I know a bit about allergies as i was educated by the pharmaceutical industry. There are all kinds of reactions but i may be done with spalted tops. Had a fungal sinus infection once and THAT was one time too many!

    Hope you all figure this out!
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The only wood I am seriously sensitive to is cocobolo. I use a full face respirator and long sleeves when I work with it. Some other oily woods are a minor irritant, but nothing serious.
  19. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    This link comes in handy to know what you could be up against with certain woods: Wood Allergies and Toxicity | The Wood Database

    I have allergies to sawdust. I tend to (/always) use multiple woods at a time, so I don't know if I can actually pinpoint which woods I'm reacting to, but I'm fairly certain East Indian Rosewood is one and African Mahogany is probably another. Definitely Pau Ferro too.

    Anyway, I put skin shielding lotion on any exposed skin every time I work with wood, I still get a reaction sometimes, but not as bad as without the lotion. I started wearing nitrile gloves while working with wood, but I have to take them off every once in a while to peel double sided tape and stuff like that and end up getting a little sawdust on my hands, which still causes them to break out sometimes.

    I wear a dust mask and haven't had any issues as far as that goes.

    I got a Dust Deputy recently, so I'm hoping that will help keep the sawdust off of me. We'll see how it goes.

    I'm thinking that wearing coveralls might be a good idea too if you have bad allergies.

    Also, I'm not sure if you're able to take antihistamines along with your allergy shots, but if you can, it'd be a good idea to take some (non-drowsy) before coming into contact with sawdust.

    Hopefully some of these ideas help.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
  20. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Padauk for me. Makes it hard to breathe. So I avoid it whenever possible.

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