Toxic Wood?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by count_funkula, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. I have been doing some work with bloodwood lately and I've come to understand it's toxic. I hear cocobolo is as well.
    What exactly does "toxic" mean?

    I always use breathing protection when working with any wood but I was just curious.
  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I know of someone that is allergic to cocobolo. He has a bass made of it, and has to wear long sleeves when he plays it. I am supposing it has some chemical in it that would do you harm if you inhaled some of it's dust. That about all I know.

    I googled this info here:
  3. schuyler


    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    i got a nasty rash from iroko dust once... took two weeks to go away. breathing the iroko dust closes up my lungs very quickly.

    i have to remove goncalo alves splinters immediately or they cause swelling and inflammation.

    i've known people who had reactions to cocobolo, padauk, and ebony as well.

    i always wear a respirator when creating dust... even if the wood isn't toxic, the fine particles can wreak havoc on the sinuses.
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden

    As Schuyler says: always use a respirator when making dust. :ninja:
    With some materials you will need gloves, and for some, even a dust-tight overall!

    Take special care with spalted and other fungus affected wood!
  5. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    purple heart and eppa are also very irratating to the lungs.

    beware of anythiing you get from a un--reputable source also ( home depot for example)

    alot of times they have some sort of treating on them to prevent rot, which is usually is usually very toxic :rollno:
  6. There's even more to the situation than that. You can "acquire" allergies to these woods by overexposure to their resins. So even if you don't have an allergy or reaction now, you might later.

    There are basically 2 types of mask that you can use. The simplest is a particle filter mask - the white bubble masks you see everywhere. These are somewhat efficient at filtering dust particles but that's all they do. How well they do it is totally dependent on the fit around the nose and mouth. It is best to get the expensive ones from the good tool and hardware suppliers. These masks seem to be bigger, thicker, have more features like foam padding on the nose of the bridges and are larger than imported cheapies. They also have 2 elastic straps. This is critical to keeping the mask in place and sealed on the face. Though these masks do a decent enough job at keeping dust out of your pulmonary tract, they aren't the best for working with aromatic exotic woods. That's because the vapor coming from the fresh cuts can also be irritating to some people. That's where the second type of filter is helpful.

    The other type is a vapor mask. They are usually a rubber type mask with screw on cannisters and a one way exhaust valve. This will filter dust but also filters organic vapors like paint fumes and other invisible gases. They use NIOSH canister type filters that have a given working life and are discarded when they reach the expiration date. This mask also seals around the nose and mouth (some around the eyes too) and will filter even smells from the shop. In fact, that's one of the tests that are performed for the OSHA certification - a smell test to confirm that the mask is sealing around the face properly. This is the best type of mask to use for exotics because it won't let the irritating vapors through to your nose. It's what I use for this process and for painting too.

    I have noticed that when ebony dust comes in contact with the more sensitive skin like my forehead (from wiping sweat away with the back of my hand) I get a burning. I've noticed it also with some of the rosewoods but not as much. When radiusing a fretboard, I've gotten so much caught up in the wrinkles in my brow that I've had to use denatured alcohol to wash my skin and dissolve the resins. That worked and now I've got to be careful of what I do unconciously.
  7. I have one of those 3M brand mask similiar to what you described as a vapor mask. It doesn't use canisters but it does have two replaceable filters. It fits very tightly around my nose and mouth. It actually makes breathing a bit of a chore but it works great to keep the dust out.

    I did notice a slight burning sensation on my face yesterday when radiusing the fretboard. I was using a router so stuff was flying all over me.

    On that topic, where can I get an adapter to hook my shop vac to my router and other tools to collect the dust?