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Woodworking at home with hand tools

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Forum topic by Mendel314 posted 08-29-2016 01:12 PM 381 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mendel314

3 posts in 96 days


08-29-2016 01:12 PM

Topic tags/keywords: safety allergies dust collection

First post!

Hello everyone. I have recently become interested in woodworking and signed up for a fine woodworking class for the fall. I have bought some beautiful pieces of different hardwoods to play with, and a pretty nice set of hand tools, which I am really excited to learn how to better use. The facility where I will be learning is a very well equipped place with every power tool imaginable, and a correspondingly well thought out dust collection system. I have a few questions about working at home, however.

I live in a 2 bedroom apartment with my wife. We chose this place so I could use one bedroom as my dedicated workshop (she’s the best). I’m an engineer by profession, but I come from a family of doctors, so before I take up a new hobby, I like to know all the risks and how to best mitigate them.

1. If I exclusively use handtools at home – planes, chisels, hand saws, etc, how worried should I be about dust colection? Naturally, I am drawn to the more beautiful woods, many if which are rosewoods, which I have read can be quite allergenic. If I don’t use power tools, and only sand wet, am I still generating enough fine dust to be dangerous?

2. I have been poring over the literature that details wood allergies and the most toxic species, but I havent really come across a list of woods that are generally safe. For instance, on wood-database, you can find a species and it will occasionally just say “apart from normal woodworking risks, no additional dangers have been associated with this species” or something like that, but there isn’t anything I have found that lists woods like that. I’d love to get started at home with safer woods, but it’s hard to find many that are both safe and beautiful.

I’d appreciate any insight from some of you that have already given this some thought, or might be aware of resources I have missed.

Thanks!


6 replies so far

View gargey's profile

gargey

457 posts in 235 days


#1 posted 08-29-2016 01:29 PM

Using bedroom 2 of a 2 bedroom apartment as your woodworking workshop sounds like a recipe for disaster.

1) Woodworking is noisy and dusty. That sucks for your wife and neighbors.

2) Who in their right mind is willing to devote 1/2 of their bedroom spaces to a dust & noise zone?

It just seems massively sub-optimal.

3) All of the “normal” woods are safe to handle and work. Don’t breathe redwood, and start to be cautious if you get into exotics like cocobola etc. Hand work doesn’t send enough stuff into the air to have to worry about a mask. Unless you are sanding.

View onoitsmatt's profile

onoitsmatt

225 posts in 635 days


#2 posted 08-29-2016 01:53 PM

I wholeheartedly disagree with gargey. Handtools are not noisy with the exception of beating on chisels for mortising. There are lots and lots of blogs out there by people who are using extra space in their apartments to do handtool woodworking. Google it and you will surely find them. They will have lots of insight. Learn to use a card scraper and smoothing plane and you can minimize sanding. I would recommend sanding outside.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

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Mendel314

3 posts in 96 days


#3 posted 08-29-2016 01:56 PM

It’s not exclusively a woodworking workshop. It’s my workshop in general. I use it for a lot of things: soldering and assembling electrical systems, building optimechanical systems, some metalwork (although bandsaw cutting, milling and lathe work I do with tools at work). I know all about handling the stuff I do outside of woodwork, but I came across all these warnings about wood toxicity and wanted to get some pointers, since it is less easily found in msds type recommendations, and there doesnt seem to be any formal convention for rating risks.

I will not be perfoming any operations at home that require power tools (except maybe a drill). I can do that at work or at the facility where I will be taking classes. The type of woodworking I would like to do at home is not loud – and only involves hand tools. Joinery for boxes and chests, and finishing operations like planing and wet sanding, basically the type of thing a luthier would do, but I’m not making musical instruments. I don’t have any particularly large sized projects in mind.

Our apartment is actually quite well set up for this, as it was something we factored into our apartment search. My wife doesnt mind so long as I keep my workshop confined to that space. Part of the reason I ask is that I want to respect that, and i want to make sure that what I do in there wont affect her.

Edit:
Matt,
Thanks. Yeah, I have read about how effective planing/sanding is at smoothing and have gotten myself an old stanley #4 plane and a block plane for exactly that purpose.

View Mosquito's profile

Mosquito

8071 posts in 1752 days


#4 posted 08-29-2016 02:05 PM

I did it for 2 years (spare bedroom in my apartment, though I wasn’t married at the time). After getting married I used a spare bedroom in the house we were renting for another 2 years, and now an old kitchenette in the basement. I didn’t really have any major issues with dust, as I too was using about 99% hand tool (I had a cordless drill).

The room I used was also the room my air exchanger was (closet style forced air heat/ac unit). I added a second filter over the intake that I changed out every 2-3 months depending on how much woodworking I was doing.

Any time I would sand I’d tape a furnace filter to a box fan right next to where I was working, to help collect a little of the dust. Sanding was really the only time I ran into more dust than I’d like. If it was nice enough outside, I’d also put the box fan in the window and blow some of the dust out that way (I’d sand, and then blow the dust into the fan out the window).

I used a canvas drop cloth over the carpet for a while, but eventually bought a couple of those vinyl carpet runners and taped them together, that worked a LOT better for clean up.

Anytime I was applying finish I’d either go to my parents’ house to borrow their garage (larger projects), or make sure I put a fan in the window to circulate air, and turn the a/c or furnace off until the smell was dissipated enough. My preference was always to go to my parents’ though, or use water based finishes that didn’t smell as much. Though I started using shellac more too, which isn’t as bad for a smell.

I always used a dust mask when sanding, and a respirator mask for finishing. I take no chances that way.

Otherwise, like Matt mentioned, learn to do as much as you can with out pounding on chisels, and heavy hand sawing can get noisy as well. I was respectful of the time and the amount of noise I was making and never got any complaints from my neighbor or building management.

One big tip if you do decide to go forward with woodworking in your apartment (or anyone else working in a spare room/space in the house)... put a heavy rug between the ‘shop’ space and the rest of the apartment/house.. I used a scrap of carpet at one place, and later one of those heavy entry mats. This helped a LOT to cut down on the sawdust and shavings that migrated out of the shop from the bottom of my shoes.

You can check out my workshop page for my last 2 and current arrangement. I’ve had one spare apartment bedroom, one spare bedroom in a rental house, and currently an old kitchenette in the lower level of the house we bought a year ago.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - http://www.youtube.com/MosquitoMods - http://www.TheModsquito.com

View derrickparks57's profile

derrickparks57

128 posts in 1330 days


#5 posted 08-29-2016 02:08 PM

Reactions to different types of wood are going to vary from person to person. My dad is allergic to cedar but I am not. Like Matt said, sand outside when all possible and get a decent dust mask when when you have to do it indoors. I’ve only ever had 1 exotic species of wood ever bother me while sanding it but I can’t remember the species.

Working in the bedroom is doable long as you stick with hand tools, I’m sure you’re apartment neighbors wouldn’t be too happy about a power saw. We all started somewhere, just keep you’re workspace clean and it shouldn’t affect the other parts of the house.

-- Derrick, Florida, DP Woodwerks

View gargey's profile

gargey

457 posts in 235 days


#6 posted 08-29-2016 02:23 PM


I wholeheartedly disagree with gargey. Handtools are not noisy with the exception of beating on chisels for mortising. There are lots and lots of blogs out there by people who are using extra space in their apartments to do handtool woodworking. Google it and you will surely find them. They will have lots of insight. Learn to use a card scraper and smoothing plane and you can minimize sanding. I would recommend sanding outside.

- onoitsmatt

1) FWIW, I consider sawing noisy. Chisels/mallet very noisy. If I had an apartment neighbor doing those things with any frequency I would be pissed.

2) Absolutely, there are ways to do a lot with a little bit of extra space. But space is at a high premium when you have little of it.

Everyone is different, maybe you can make it worth. But as a couple of marrieds, I’d expect that you’ll be desperate for more space sooner rather than later. I lived with my wife in a one bedroom apartment in manhattan for several years.

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