wood turning question

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Blog entry by Vince posted 01-14-2012 12:03 AM 6928 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am a beginner wood turner and I recently turned a small bowl. This bowl was fairly dry but had some black in it.
I am not sure what type of wood this is but I believe it to be some sort of Fig. As I turned this bowl it had an ammonia/ mold smell.
What is this smell from? is it moldy wood?
Is it spalted?
If it is mold is it the type that if u breath it ,you can become sick?

-- "Putty and paint make the carpenter I ain't"

9 comments so far

View dspahn's profile


85 posts in 3023 days

#1 posted 01-14-2012 12:45 AM

And thus begins the Zombie Apocalypse…

Nah! Just kidding! I don’t know the answers to your questions, but as another beginning wood turner, I’m very curious.

View Moby's profile


64 posts in 3402 days

#2 posted 01-14-2012 12:49 AM

That kinda looks like black oak to me. This would explain the ammonia smells because wet oak has a unique scent to it. It doesn’t look spalted, so I think you’re fine.

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3803 days

#3 posted 01-14-2012 12:58 AM

Any time you suspect mold, or fungus(spalting), you should take precautions. Anything out of the ordinary should raise a flag.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3640 days

#4 posted 01-14-2012 01:34 AM

I would be careful with any wood that has either an odor that you find foul or something that smells too good.

Turning as long as you are cutting is not that big of a deal as the pieces are large. Not that many woods are toxic to skin contact from chips. Scraping and sanding are the most problematic as they can cause respiratory issues. A respirator can be your friend.

Everyone has their own tolerance but the repeated contact from different woods brings the chance of sensitivity and you need to be very aware of your own body’s reaction. It can range from mild irritation to life threatening. Look out for any rash or redness. If you have any trouble breathing, stop immediately and get away from it. Personally if I was working on any wood and had difficulty breathing, I would not hesitate and go immediately to an emergency room. Not something to mess around with.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 4428 days

#5 posted 01-14-2012 02:06 AM

I have had to endure problems steming from this exact example your showing here. Word to the wise “ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR LUNGS” never go w/o protection.
I did and learned the hard way, please be smarter than I was.
Good luck!

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3751 days

#6 posted 01-14-2012 02:30 AM

Vince, you might want to invest in a respirator for use while turning. They are not that expensive. Some woods have mold, some can trigger allergies, all can take a toll on you from breathing. I bought one from a big box store for about 20 bucks and it is very comfortable to wear.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4889 days

#7 posted 01-14-2012 05:51 AM

I did have a reaction to turning spalted Maple. It was dry too. I argued with one of FWW magazine female experts that was telling people you can’t get a reaction to dry spalted wood. I was vindicated in Wood Magazine when a Dr. wrote an article that stated anyone is suceptable to allergy from spalted wood of any kind,dry or wet. He stated the spores can infect the lungs cause an incurable disease. So basically you should wear a resperator no matter what. As David stated, any wood dust isn’t good for you long term. The so called expert from FWW was a well meaning mold specialist. However, I would trust a Dr’s word over a mold specialist any day. I told her that too. I think she got pissed.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3446 days

#8 posted 01-15-2012 07:06 PM

dspahn: LOL yup, the Z-Apocalypse is comin… Vince: just to be safe, I’d wear some sort o dust mask. a good one. certain dust particles are definately no good for ya. work/play safe. ya did a nice job turnin that bowl

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3912 days

#9 posted 01-15-2012 07:20 PM

If in doubt…always lean towards safety. I wear a respirator when turning…the best being a full face mask. I went that direction after seeing all the small dust particles my shop filter picks up after a day of turning…The filter hangs from the ceiling a few feet away.

Particle masks are not good enough in these situations, in my opinion, as they do not form a complete seal – (I could tell on my end when I was done turning using a dust mask, that I would spend the evening sneezing and blowing my nose). Different woods have different levels of toxicity and our bodies have different levels of sensitivity. Never doubt that this dust can be harmful…or very irritating to the body….spalted woods have their special challenges also….all are toxic to some degree.

If you are going to be turning in the future….I would recommend a Trend Airshield or a Triton powered respirator….they are somewhat pricey…but when considering how much it costs for emergency medical care – or to treat a recurring problem – then they are very cheap by comparison.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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