Common hardwoods and skin irritation?

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Forum topic by Jimothy posted 10-30-2015 02:27 PM 496 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jimothy's profile


9 posts in 360 days

10-30-2015 02:27 PM

Hello all, recently I have been commissioned to make wooden plugs (ear jewelry which stretches your ear lobe to varies sizes). I made them out of glued pieces of bloodwood and maple. Later I read a page listing all the woods that are known to cause skin irritation, and to my surprise, maple is one of them. I have done lots of work with maple and have never had a problem, but perhaps it is different when you permanently have it in your earlobe.

What I’m curious about is, is it on the list because someone at some point had an allergy to it, or is it commonly irritation-causing but i am immune? What are your experiences with maple and do you think I’d be able to sell it without skin complications?

On top of that, is there a skin-safe finish that I coud apply that would create a thin layer between the plug and the ear to eliminate all possibility of problems?


5 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


3457 posts in 1187 days

#1 posted 10-30-2015 02:49 PM

More likely if someone has an allergic reaction to wood like maple, they will develop an allergic reaction to chemical finishes. With that said, I recently read that woodworkers are 500 times more likely to develop some sort of cancer than the general population. Go figure!


View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 650 days

#2 posted 10-30-2015 02:56 PM

From experience I wouldnt use jotaba. It turns the skin black. After finish it should be ok but I wouldnt risk it.

[Thinking: That would be funny, though]

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View LiveEdge's profile


476 posts in 1040 days

#3 posted 10-30-2015 04:33 PM

I am both an allergist and also have my own contact sensitivities to a number of woods. Technically any wood can cause a sensitivity, but some are more known for doing it than others. Maple is likely on the lower end of risk.

Ear plugs are probably a decent way to become sensitized in an individual who is prone to such things.

Here is a decent article from the Wood Database:

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 596 days

#4 posted 10-31-2015 02:04 PM

I had a friend who owned a woodworking business for many years. She worked mainly with Cedar and then within a short period of time she became allergic to Cedar and would develop a bad rash if she came in contact with the wood or dust. So sensitivity can change over time.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Aj2's profile


627 posts in 1218 days

#5 posted 10-31-2015 03:20 PM

A skin safe finish? Now that’s funny. Maybe people shouldn’t be sticking wood in thier ear.But if you must Shellac is often used to coat pills.I would say it’s pretty safe for the skin in its pure from.Mother nature wins again.

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