I had another allergic reaction

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Blog entry by Blake posted 09-30-2009 06:49 AM 7399 reads 0 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I haven’t been spending too much time in the shop ever since i finished the Jellyfish Table.

I actually moved about 10 miles away from my shop so it is not as easy to “casually” do woodworking after work, after dinner, here and there on weekends, etc. My shop is on family property, so its not going anywhere. It takes me about 25 minutes to get there from where we are staying now. So I mostly go on a weekend day here and there.

I have been up to the shop a few times to finish some random projects that I started a long time ago. But three days ago I decided to make a small box out of some scraps of Maple and Lacewood. I spent about 10 minutes shaping a piece of lacewood on my stationary disk sander. That machine doesn’t have dust collection so I wore a respirator. But I am pretty sure that oily, exotic wood in the form of a microscopic dust particle PLUME is what set me off.

I have been paying for it ever since. I am itchy and rashy and puffy EVERYWHERE. The allergy seems to be evolving. I’ve worked with lacewood before without problems. But ever since the BLOODWOOD INCIDENT I seem to be getting more and more sensitive. Its not just Bloodwood anymore.



My puffy face after the bloodwood incident (it wasn’t quite as bad this time)...


I just have to be even more careful. I can’t do anything that puts fine dust into the air. I don’t have the power to run a dust collector, much less the money to afford a system anyway. Someday I plan to have a shop with machines that are vacuum SEALED for dust collection, and an OVERKILL central dust collection system.

But for now I just need to limit the use of exotic woods, increase my use of hand tools, and be hyper aware of every operation in the shop.

A woodworker who is allergic to saw dust. Freakin’ lame, man.

-- Happy woodworking!

30 comments so far

View woodworm's profile


14462 posts in 3554 days

#1 posted 09-30-2009 07:39 AM

Do woodworking frequently and you will be immuned, I think.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3298 days

#2 posted 09-30-2009 10:15 AM

Life is always throwing curve balls at us. It can be pretty frustrating sometimes. It’s always good to have alternative plans. Your idea to work more with hand tools is one good idea. It might also change what kind of projects you will want to do. I’m sorry you are having this problem Blake, but I’m sure you will find a work around. Get well soon.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3859 days

#3 posted 09-30-2009 12:13 PM

Sorry to hear about this Blake. It may be that you’ll have to start wearing long sleeves, along with the respirator. What about using a shopvac outfitted with a dust hood?

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View patron's profile


13600 posts in 3304 days

#4 posted 09-30-2009 12:24 PM

i bet you could rig a box with a glass lid , with gloves ,
like those sandblasting cases ?
a vacuum hookup and an air blaster .

and wear a carbon mask just in case .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 3464 days

#5 posted 09-30-2009 12:31 PM

Here are a few good articles on this subject.

The best way to prevent allergies is reduce exposure. I went to pick up my kids from school after working with Walnut and a kid with severe allergies started to cough and her eyes were puffy within seconds. i now make sure I change prior to going to school. Keep a log of the wood you react to and clear your shop of all scraps and dust from those species. Good luck.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#6 posted 09-30-2009 12:36 PM

oh dear :(
Once the allergies have taken hold …. not good .
You might have to start doing outside woodworking, with the wind to your back.

Take care!!!!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jcees's profile


1058 posts in 3762 days

#7 posted 09-30-2009 01:23 PM

Sorry about that, bro. Many woods are high in alkaloids that can lead many of us to allergic reactions such as the kind you NOW have. Years ago I gained a sensitivity to Dektol, a high alkali print developer. I was trained to keep one hand dry so I used my right hand ALL THE TIME. Eventually my cuticles broke open and tiny little blisters erupted on the ends of my fingers. I now have contact dermatitis in my right hand and if I get anywhere near a tray of Dektol with it, viola! However, I can process all day long with my left.

Well, my skin doc sez, “Keep it up, bright boy and you’ll “develop” the same with that one too.” So now I use rubber dishwashing gloves and I feel so pretty.

The moral of the story is, take care and beware.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View SPalm's profile


5317 posts in 3845 days

#8 posted 09-30-2009 01:43 PM

Take care sir. Health comes first.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 3749 days

#9 posted 09-30-2009 03:16 PM

Blake I know the feeling,
I have become so much more careful since my reaction. Although I noticed I have become allergic to more wood dust than before the first out break. I use a cheap vac on my sanders and other tools to keep down the dust, so far all has been fine.
Here’s to a fast reaction recovery.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4163 days

#10 posted 09-30-2009 03:45 PM

Blake, I hope you get well soon.

-- Billp

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4263 days

#11 posted 09-30-2009 03:50 PM

Sorry to hear about you allergies. You may be developing multi-chemical allergies.

Barb has this problem, there’s hardly no escaping them. Perfumes are a menace to her.

She’s only gone into our Lowes, which has been in our town for 3 years now 3 times, just to use the restroom, & got allergic reactions each time.

Maybe you might want to try using an organic mask like they use for painting.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3137 days

#12 posted 09-30-2009 04:52 PM

I think I can appreciate what you’re going through … and … it has to suck.

Hope it clears up fast, and that you’re back at it—symptom free—before long.

-- -- Neil

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3661 days

#13 posted 09-30-2009 04:54 PM

Sorry hope you get better real soon.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4063 days

#14 posted 09-30-2009 05:36 PM

Man that is tough. I am really sorry to hear that.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View SteviePete's profile


226 posts in 3266 days

#15 posted 09-30-2009 06:37 PM

Respiratory and skin reactions are nothing to fool around with. The only person with your health as their only concern is your personal physician—- working only for your health. Try to see the Doc when you have symptoms. Bring samples, internet information and various recommendations and folk remedies you may hear or get from well meaning LJs like us when you see the Doc. As far as generic protection use the following controls: 1. Eliminate the hazard – don’t sand, scrape. One species of wood causes problems—-don’t use it select different species.
2. Engineer out the problem—Use dust collection both household types and commercial woodworking types. At the point of operation—collect the most dust possible. Air cleaners for your shop area—-dust that gets a way from the dust collection system is filtered out of the ambient air of your shop. Make housekeeping easy. Use the best brooms, dust pans, garbage cans and have a regular routing of sweeping, and dusting all surfaces in your shop area.
3. Administrative controls—stay out of the dusty areas when you don’t need to be there. Like leave the shop to eat lunch, make phone calls, receive guidance from SWMBO, etc.
4. Use personal protective equipment (PPE)—- For respiratory hazards, information is available from many sources. If you have a workplace exposure to respiratory hazards in an OSHA covered workplace you are well aware of a respiratory protection plan and the provisions found in 1910.134. This is the type of training/safe practices we should all be using when working with wood. The respiratory hazards are particulates and hazardous chemicals (like cedar oil, methanol and formaldehyde). The respirator you select must address the hazard. Simply stated: It must remove the hazardous air contaminant, it must fit, you must be physically able to wear one (it makes breathing in and out more difficult) and you must be able to clean and maintain your respirator.

Sermonnette: (my personal opinion place no credibility to it) If you are using anything for respiratory protection that is not rated by NIOSH as a respirator you are only pretending to be protecting yourself. Take RP seriously or start watching more cable TV. Thus endeth the gospel.

If you are reactive to wood dusts, oils or other constituents in wood other PPE should be considered. My personal choices include the following costume for woodworking: Steel toed shoes, long pants, belt and suspenders and duct tape to keep the pants up, longsleeve shirt buttoned at the collar and sleeves and tucked in, gloves that provide the correct level of protection and dexterity (sometimes double gloving leather with latex is necessary), safety glasses with side shields or splash proof goggles or both, face shield and goggles or safety glasses if using rotating tools, hat, balaclava to cover as much skin as possible if you suffer from contact dermatitis. I am trained and fitted for several types of respiratory protection and will use particle masks—only N95 (NIOSH rating) or better, half-face respirator and full-face respirator with two cartridges—organic vapor/acid gas/HEPA multi purpose cartridges. These cartridges are somewhat fitzall in many woodworking circumstances but if you are sensitive to a particular chemical make sure you select the proper chemical. Yes this is probably more information and alarm than most folks want for their hobbies. These exposures can cause serious illness and injury and must be understood to prevent longterm disability. I hope all this bla bla helps someone. spj

-- Steve, 'Sconie Great White North

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