Anyone else get black colored finger tips w working w certain woods?

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Forum topic by Dan posted 05-05-2011 09:06 PM 4516 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3630 posts in 2043 days

05-05-2011 09:06 PM

I would love to know I am not the only one here.

Yesterday I was running some Mahogany boards through the planer and after a while I noticed that the tips of my fingers had turned a blackish color almost like they would look after touching a bunch of newspaper. They also had a bunch of little black spots.

I have had the same reaction when working with Red Oak and Walnut. The spots and color usually only appear when there is a lot of direct contact with the wood dust. Most of the time I get the reaction when sanding or planing the wood. Just touching the boards does not cause a reaction.

The black spots and color do not wash off and the finger tips will return to normal color by the next day.

I am sure this is an allergic reaction of some kind but I was just curious if anyone else has had this happen to them. I guess I just want to know if its somewhat common or if I have this super rare reaction to these woods.

I have no other allergic reaction symptoms other then the discolored fingertips. I do avoid a lot of contact when working with these woods but sometimes you cant avoid it.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

28 replies so far

View dbray45's profile


3002 posts in 1940 days

#1 posted 05-05-2011 09:13 PM

Walnut will stain your hands, it is from the oil in the wood.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View DaddyZ's profile


2474 posts in 2203 days

#2 posted 05-05-2011 09:19 PM

Again for the Oil, If you are not itching or Peeling skin, Probably NOT an allergic reaction !!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2043 days

#3 posted 05-05-2011 09:23 PM

I agree that it is the oil from the wood but the oils in the wood don’t do this to everyone do they? I guess I don’t much care what causes it but I more want to know if anyone else has same reaction.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View DaddyZ's profile


2474 posts in 2203 days

#4 posted 05-05-2011 09:28 PM

Yes same reaction !!

I Scrape with the Fingernail & soap & water

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2043 days

#5 posted 05-05-2011 09:33 PM

DaddyZ- That makes me feel better. I was hoping it wasn’t just me

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View CptWingnut's profile


34 posts in 1832 days

#6 posted 05-05-2011 09:43 PM

Whenever we harvest walnuts the juice from the hulls will turn whatever is touches, especially skin, black, I would imagine there is a relation.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2086 days

#7 posted 05-05-2011 09:50 PM

Probably just a precursor to turning into a cigar store indian :-)
Seriously I think it’s a reaction with the oils in your skin and the oils in the wood.

-- Life is good.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2013 days

#8 posted 05-05-2011 11:13 PM

I get it from red oak and walnut. Haven’t run enough mahogany at once to know.

On recent juniper projects I could feel a minor reaction in my hands.

The red oak shows purple on my fingers.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View alan coon's profile

alan coon

114 posts in 2876 days

#9 posted 05-05-2011 11:33 PM

It’s the tannons in the wood, wash your hands with lemon juice and gone.

-- Al, South E. Az., But it's a dry heat.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3151 days

#10 posted 05-05-2011 11:49 PM

I have worked with all three of those woods, especially mahogany and have never had that happen.

In fact I have worked with almost every exotic wood and the only one that did that was Gabon ebony. That is not surprising though since it’s black, but it does just wash off so it’s only the sawdust.

I have yet to find anything that I am allergic to, so that may help. (I always remember poor Blake)

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View ChuckV's profile


2783 posts in 2690 days

#11 posted 05-06-2011 12:12 AM

Yup, I have had the inky fingertips from mahogany and black walnut.

-- “There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.” ― Dave Berry

View Tony_S's profile


517 posts in 2246 days

#12 posted 05-06-2011 02:37 AM

Yep, Alan Coon is right….can’t remember the specifics, but it’s a reaction of the Tannic Acid in the wood, with the Iron(?) I believe it is, on your skin.
Different people have different reactions. It all depends on the amount of Tannins in the wood and the amount your hands sweat.
I typically don’t have a really bad reaction, but my hands are usually drier than a popcorn fart….depends on the time of the year.

Red oak and a lot of chisel work(Iron) = black hands for me.

-- Come Heavy...or don't come at all.

View dbray45's profile


3002 posts in 1940 days

#13 posted 05-06-2011 01:15 PM

I have found that air dried wood has more oils and the like than kiln dried lumber. May account for the wide swings of reactions. I have some aromatic cedar that was kiln dried and some that was air dried and the differences in fragrance is significant. I just finished a walnut jewelry box and had the same issues on my hands.

Thanks for the tip of lemon juice, never tried that, always used Lava soap (takes everything off).

-- David in Damascus, MD

View lcurrent's profile


120 posts in 2978 days

#14 posted 08-05-2011 12:53 AM

-- lcurrent ( It's not a mistake till you run out of wood )

View DaleM's profile


952 posts in 2547 days

#15 posted 08-05-2011 03:24 AM

Like Lee mentioned above, red oak turns my fingertips dark purple every time, almost black.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

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