All Replies on sensitivity to wood dust

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View Tom's profile

sensitivity to wood dust

by Tom
posted 07-29-2012 08:52 PM

26 replies so far

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3292 days

#1 posted 07-30-2012 12:33 AM

Long sleeves and a good respirator. Is it all wood dust or just a specific species? If it’s all wood dust, you may need to take up pottery. Being super-sensitized can be a death sentence if you forge blindly ahead. Stay out of the shop until the Doctor says you can go back. Something like the Trend Airshield will help, but not with skin sensitivity.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Gary's profile


9386 posts in 3674 days

#2 posted 07-30-2012 12:39 AM

Make a downdraft sanding table. That will help

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View brtech's profile


1054 posts in 3164 days

#3 posted 07-30-2012 01:52 AM

You need real dust collection with a good filter. A shop vac has lots of pressure and not much volume. You need volume. The most bang for the buck is a Harbor Freight “2HP” DC. The filter that comes with it isn’t good enough. You want a Wynn Environmental 35A – they sell a kit that is a bolt on to the HF DC.

Then you need to pipe it to your machines. Lots of threads here on that, search for them. It IS possible to get 95% of the dust into the DC, and roughly none of it in the shop. Most of us don’t do that well, and you can invest in an overhead air cleaner that will get a lot of the dust the DC doesn’t collect.

You probably want a downdraft table to sand on.

Start reading:

Tons of info there. Not everyone believes everything Bill preaches, but everyone agrees there is a lot of good information there.

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3478 days

#4 posted 07-30-2012 02:08 AM

Ditto what everybody else has told you. The Harbor Freight dust collector is first rate. I solved the filter problem by putting the DC outside on the porch and running the duct through the wall. I don’t hear the noise and the tiny dust particles are outside. I also wear a respirator anytime I’m working. I bought one with replaceable filters that are designed to stop paint fumes. It took a while to get used to it. Especially when it’s hot, but I’m not sneezing out walnut dust any more.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3310 days

#5 posted 07-30-2012 02:21 AM

Earlier this year, I got a real bad case of the crawly itchy and thought it might be from the poplar I was working with at the time. The Dermatologist said that it might be, but I could probably deal with it by taking short showers with minimal soap, taking antihistimines, and using some prescription strength itch cream. Within a week, the itching was gone.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#6 posted 07-30-2012 01:11 PM

Thanks everyone for your replies. The downdraft table is next on my list of this to construct. I also think I am going to learn how to use a card scraper and smoothing plane much better. I was so shocked when I went the Harbor Freight website and saw how inexpensive the 2 HP unit is. It will definitely be an addition to the shop, provided I don’t have to take up pottery.

I had already made appointments with the appropriate medical personnel when I first made this post. Although, I do feel better after reading Sawkerf’s reply.

Looking back I realize that I started to get sensitized from working with Soft Maple. But it wasn’t until I was making a father’s day gift from Leopardwood that it really started up. I’m gonna wrap myself up in a berka and thoroughly clean out my table saw.

-- - Tom

View derosa's profile


1590 posts in 3077 days

#7 posted 07-30-2012 01:32 PM

Go to the book store and find whichever mag has the dust collector listed for 150.00 and buy it. If we stay where we are my current plan is to run 2 of them, one up each side of the shop with 5” straight mains and 4” connections to all the machines. This way each DC has a 20’ run and at most 5 Y’s and no other turns for best efficiency. Might be a slight overkill but 2 of them at 150.00 is still a lot cheaper then one permanent DC unit that could handle several turns while still having the same amount of power. Each will be hooked to a switch to flip based on which tool I’m on. A proper air filtration system is a good idea as well. Also find out if it is just one wood in particular like walnut. I just discovered that large amounts of tigerwood causes hives which has slowed down my shop time. I eliminated most of the saw dust that was lying around the shop but couldn’t wash and dust every surface so every time I go out there I get a slight spike in itchiness that has been steadily decreasing.

-- A posse ad esse

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

395 posts in 3324 days

#8 posted 07-31-2012 08:17 PM


There are charts that list the toxicity of various woods. is a good starting point, although it does not list leopardwood.

I have sensitivities to several woods, so I try to avoid them when possible, or else I increase my dust collection efforts when I work with them. I use a combination of a cyclone dust collector, an overhead air filter, and a face mask. I have heard enough bad stories about cocobolo and rosewoods that I may never allow them into my shop no matter how nice they look. It sounds like you should add leopardwood to your list of “banned” woods.

-- Steve

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#9 posted 07-31-2012 08:37 PM

Steve – thanks for your reply, I had noticed that the Wood DB had nothing listed on Leopardwood concerning toxicity, but did find a lot of folks talking about it online. Do you use a full face mask or just a respirator. An over-head filter really seems like a wise decision.

I still have about 6 board feet of Leopardwood that I’ll find time to use sparingly after I’ve cleaned house and set up the shop better to handle the dust.

Appt with allergist is in the making!

-- - Tom

View MrRon's profile


5281 posts in 3485 days

#10 posted 08-01-2012 07:44 PM

Many LJ’s have been complaining about the heat lately. The excessive heat causes the pores to open. Thiat and dust can cause aggrevating itching (think fiberglass). Keeping your shop cool and implementing good dust control may solve your problem.

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2756 days

#11 posted 08-01-2012 07:49 PM

Mr Ron makes good advice on keeping the shop cool. Lots of people have to stop since they don’t have AC in their shops. I hate using mine, but tonight looks like one of those nights in SE Tennessee…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2432 days

#12 posted 08-01-2012 07:49 PM

LOL, try a hazmat suit with a full face respirator…you’ll scare your wife.

-- My terrible signature...

View marcosvillamontes's profile


32 posts in 2424 days

#13 posted 08-01-2012 08:20 PM

there is one more advise, we work a lot with hardwood ipe, and dust from ipe makes you itchy and please don’t sweat and go into the sun because then it will start to burn right into your skin… Really, it gives you buring feeling, no harm though, just take a shower with ordinary soap and no problem.

-- Marcos Villamontes, Santa Cruz,

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#14 posted 08-01-2012 09:58 PM

@ Alexandre – LMAO Don’t think I haven’t thought of that!
@MrRon & Tennessee – I have noticed that while the symptoms have gotten worse the temp and humidity have also risen. Open pores easy dust access.

I’m staying out of the shop until Friday, I have an allergist appt and they don’t want me on any antihistamines for two days prior

-- - Tom

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#15 posted 08-01-2012 11:46 PM

@ marcosvillamontes – thanks for the heads up on Ipe. I have always wondered how it is pronounced. Since I’m not sure I just say I-P-E

-- - Tom

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2618 days

#16 posted 08-02-2012 12:10 AM

I’ve always pronounced it ee’pay.
Do you have an allergy to nuts by any chance?

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#17 posted 08-02-2012 02:19 AM

Thanks Matt. No nut allergies at all.

-- - Tom

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2432 days

#18 posted 08-02-2012 02:20 AM

So what’s the problem with a hazmat suit?

-- My terrible signature...

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2432 days

#19 posted 08-02-2012 02:20 AM

I always knew ipe as I pay…

-- My terrible signature...

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2848 posts in 3679 days

#20 posted 08-02-2012 02:42 AM

You need to invest in some dustless wood. ;-)

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 2432 days

#21 posted 08-02-2012 02:49 AM


-- My terrible signature...

View Everett1's profile


213 posts in 2775 days

#22 posted 08-02-2012 03:00 AM

I cut a 4” hole in the side of my garage and route the dust (after it goes through a thien separator)

One of the best things I ever did

-- Ev in Framingham, MA

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2618 days

#23 posted 08-02-2012 03:23 AM

That’s great if you don’t mind constantly throwing your heated or cooled air out of the shop.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View kizerpea's profile


775 posts in 2609 days

#24 posted 08-02-2012 01:13 PM

I have trouble with MDF dust…dont want iy in my shop….if i have to cut some i do it outside…whoaa..


View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3473 days

#25 posted 08-02-2012 01:48 PM


For starters, I am too lazy to read all the replies above me, so sorry if I am repeating information here, but here goes…

Go and read Bill Pentz web site. It honestly takes some doing, but once you digest what he is saying, it will go a LONG way to keeping your dust down to a manageable level. But I will summarize what he is saying as best I can here.

#1. Use dust collection equipment that will move as much air as physically possible away from where the dust is being produced, and into some sort of filtration / separation area. More on these below… What this means is you need a big sucking machine. A Dust Collector with fairly HIGH CFM capacity. A true 3 HP or better cyclone is best, but even the lowly 2HP Harbor Freight DC with some mods can be made to work well enough for most woodworkers. In your situation though, I would suggest a true cyclone. They cost a bunch more than a cheap dust collector, but they move more air, and already have separation built in. If I had the $$ to buy one myself, I would…

#2. Keep the flex hose runs as short as physically possible. Think of air flow like a car going down the road. The bumpier the road, the slower the car can travel down that road. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not built with washboard on the track for a good reason, your dust collection ducting shouldn’t have it either.

#3. Same goes with tight 90 degree turns. The tighter the turn, the slower the air can go. At the very least, use a 45, a jumper of straight pipe, and another 45 to make a 90 degree turn, and design your system so you don’t have too many bends.

#4. Filtration is key. If you get a single stage dust collector, most of them come with bag filters, those are garbage IMHO. Pleated filters offer MUCH more filtration area, and good ones offer better filtration ratings than bags, as well as some models are washable. Do not bother with any filter media that does not filter 1 micron or below. I see a LOT of folks bragging up their dust collectors with the 2 micron canisters, its the 1 micron dust that is the most dangerous, those 2 micron filters just pump the dangerous stuff back into the air, and what good is that?

#5. A clogged / dirty air filter will cause your dust collection to stop because it can’t flow any air. To radically delay the inevitable cloggings, a separator of some sort needs to be used. Commercially available trash can lid separators work in a very limited fashion. Honestly they mostly separate out just the big stuff and let the fine flour dust through. Not good. Add on cyclone cone separators like the Oneida work, but they are expensive, and need fairly long runs of flex hose to connect them. A bad thing. A Thien baffle in the inlet ring of the DC works great, it makes the dust go into the bag and stay there. Bill Pentz recommends a neutral vane for this function. This is where I strongly disagree with Bill. I have tinkered around with several different designs, and the Thien baffle / separator has worked best for me on my budget.

#6. Buy, build, or modify dust hoods such that you are collecting the dust at the source. What I have noticed is the hardest places to collect dust from are the sliding miter saw, and the lathe…

#7. You WILL end up missing some dust, no matter how good your dust collection strategy. You will need an ambient air filtration unit. A lot of guys build them out of salvages squirrel cage fans jammed into a box with increasing efficiency A/C filters going from coarse fiberglass matt filters, and ending up with Filtrete Ultra Allergen filters. These work great, but sometimes the fans can be hard to come by when you need them, or you just need filtration NOW. I bought mine, a Grizzly G0572 and have been very happy with it…

#8. Working in a hot shop means your pores open up and are more susceptible to irritation by dust etc… Keep your work area, and yourself cool.

#9. Use a good respirator. If your skin has gained a sensitivity to certain wood dust, chances are excellent other organs are getting there fast…

#10. This should be #1, but I wanted to address the technical first… Talk to your doctor about his / her suggestions for dealing with this. If it is a mild allergy, they may suggest an OTC antihistamine, however if it is more severe, they many tell you to only work in the shop in a hazmat suit. It all depends on your biological reaction to stimuli.

#11. Spend some time in the Wood Allergies and Toxicity Database. This resource can help you chose woods that might not be all that reactive. I know a lot of exotics and even a few domestics really bother people. For example I love working with Walnut, and I don’t have an issue with it. But if I forget to kick the DC on when working with it, which I do from time to time, My next door neighbor finds out VERY quickly as he starts in with violent sneezing fits. I now am EXTREMELY careful to make sure the DC is properly working when I work with walnut, and that my neighbor is out for a few hours when working with the stuff… For what it’s worth, those guys that recommend exhausting their DCs outside, I can say this with no doubt whatsoever, not a good idea in the suburbs where the houses are so close together…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Tom's profile


11 posts in 2369 days

#26 posted 08-03-2012 12:21 PM

@ dbhost – Thanks so much for your very detailed and in-depth reply. there were a couple points that you touched upon that really struck home.

I want to thank everyone else, again, for adding to this thread. The info and insight that I have received from everyone is extremely helpful.

Today the allergist will tell me that I need an hazmat suit or not :^)

-- - Tom

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