non-toxic and non-allergenic woods, anyone?

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Forum topic by ilovewoodworking posted 07-28-2008 09:49 AM 7859 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3856 days

07-28-2008 09:49 AM

Hello all.

I’ve been using several different exotic woods for small sculpture projects over the last couple of years and have found that recently I have begun to develop some irritating reactions in the form of rashes and hives on my hands and wrists and even a couple on my face and forehead within an hour or two of exposure (although I do wear an N95 respirator mask and eye protection while carving and sanding).

Unfortunately, i’ve discovered that some of my favorite woods are sensitizers, namely: Ebony, Cocobolo, Kingwood. It’s really heartbreaking to me that I may not be able to do what I love any longer.

I have found some great lists online detailing toxic woods and their effects, however I have found it near IMPOSSIBLE to find a good list of woods that are SAFE, or hypoallergenic/non-toxic/non-allergenic.

I was hoping that some of you more experienced and knowledgeable woodworkers out there can help me out with a list or partial list of those. I desperately want to get back to my craft :) Thank you all so much in advance!

7 replies so far

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4206 days

#1 posted 07-28-2008 12:11 PM

I’d be curious if there was a list as well, though I’d be surprised if there was. Allergic reactions are a pretty personal thing in my experience. Recently my nephew brought over a piece of Leopard Wood to trim out the work bench he is making. We did some planing, cutting and sanding and got the pieces ready to assemble. By the time he got home that evening he was covered in a rash and heavily congested while I had no reaction whatsoever.

It would seem reasonable to find the families of woods that cause a reaction and avoid those while sticking with the wood families that don’t affect you negatively. With reactions being individualized I’d bet this is the best you can do.

-- Working at Woodworking

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4034 days

#2 posted 07-28-2008 02:00 PM

I recently discovered a wood called orange agate. It is harvested from the panhandle of Peru. It has similar characteristics as cocobola but without the allergens. This is a recent project I made with it. It has gorgeous grain patterns and the color is outstanding.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4381 days

#3 posted 07-28-2008 04:18 PM

Not to long ago, Dorje and I were working on a project with Bolivian Rosewood, we both develop a rash from the dust. It took weeks from my rash to go away! It is now on my to avoid list :(.

View kjverlanic's profile


56 posts in 3917 days

#4 posted 07-28-2008 04:25 PM

Here is a great list: Toxic Wood List

One thing to be really aware of when dealing with allergies is that every time you expose yourself to the offending item, your reaction will become worse. You really don’t want to have an anaphylactic reaction.

-- “There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper … and the buyers who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.” John Ruskin

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4263 days

#5 posted 07-29-2008 07:15 PM

I just cleaned up the shop yesterday and have a little bit of a rash on my wrists…I’m not planning to work that Bolivian Rosewood again any time soon.

Future projects will probably be out of american hardwoods…though I’m hoping that I’m not allergic to some of the other exotics that I have not used yet. Time will tell.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 07-29-2008 09:06 PM

the one form of protection people forget in the shop is the mask… Hard enough to get folks to wear hearing protection… Glasses usually make sense to most of us. USE A MASK… and wear gloves. At least in my shop

-- making sawdust....

View lew's profile


12552 posts in 4022 days

#7 posted 07-29-2008 09:20 PM

Here is another list of toxic woods:


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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