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SLAG

Toxic Woods !

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Greetings,

Many of the I. F. I. fraternity, also work with various woods.

For example, knife scales (knife handles), mixed media sculptures, etc. etc.

But many woods are problematic. And a minority of woods can cause all manner of serious problems, and a small number are extremely poisonous.

Some woods can cause difficulties such as

Irritation,

Skin sensitivity,

Allergies,

Allergy sensitivity to other woods.

nausea,

Brain, (neurological) problems,

Asthma,

Heart problems,

Lung problems,

Most of the problematic woods can be worked using a respirator, or outdoors, or with good dust control, eye protection, etc. (or a combination of the preceding measures).

A few woods are super poisonous and should be avoided altogether. For example Oleander, Sassafras, Laburnum, Greenheart, Milky mangrove, Manga, and Yew, etc.. (this bunch can cause heart damage among serious other problems).

Wood toxicity information is diffusely available on the net. A little bit here and a little bit there. In bits and drabs.

I have chanced upon a complete coverage of woods and their potential problems, on one list, & at one site.

Try this,

http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/

I strongly urge those who work with wood to have a look at that list. (especially when exotic woods are used, for example, for knife scales).

Regards to all the metal bangers on this site,

SLAG.

 

 

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Generally speaking, highly aromatic woods or particularly oily woods are more likely to be toxic. Most of these evolved as natural insect repellents, especially in the tropics. Thus, aromatic cedars, rosewood, cocoblo, and so on are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than, say, applewood or tiger maple.

I have one friend (a sculptor) whose entire bronchial tract got inflamed from breathing cocobolo dust, and another (an instrument maker) whose mouth broke out in blisters after the first time he played the new rosewood recorder he'd just turned at the lathe. The first time I worked with cocobolo in the art restoration studio, I was very careful with my dust mask, but my arms broke out in hives from contact with the dust.

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Yep. Australia has its share of toxic timbers too. Black Bean (a rainforest tree), black walnut (high in silica) and red cedar come to mind. The worst I can recall is a pretty purple timber known as rain tree. I turned it once on my lathe and never again. Throat irritation and nose bleed. Bad stuff. Respirators if in doubt.:wacko:

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Aus,

Black walnut has a high silica content as you pointed out.

But it, also, has a toxin that poisons other plants  (e.g. apple etc.) but it also causes problems for many.

Fellow i.f.I. citizens.

The wood is beautiful and rewarding. but please use a respirator and cover up. while working that wood. (especially when you work it with a lathe).

SLAG.

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Is the black walnut in Australia the same tree as here in the USA? "Juglans nigra, the eastern black walnut, is a species of deciduous tree in the walnut family, Juglandaceae, native to eastern North America." (Wiki)

I know the American variety can cause trouble; I once worked with a guy that if you sanded black walnut in the far end of the shop, 80 feet away his nose would start bleeding!

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Thanks Slag! Saved the link after taking a look. I'm thrilled to see Myrtle isn't toxic, I have some I planned on using for handles ad I'd hate to discover it's not safe. I have sensitive skin anyway and take precautions. Any kind of wood sawdust can make me miserable for days. The dry bits hit your nice moist eyeball and glue themselves to it. I have to wash my eyes out seriously after working wood. Now I'll have to buy different eye protection.

Frosty The Lucky.

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one of the problems with walnut sawdust, if it is used as horse stall bed it will cause the horse founder. dont know if its black walnut, white walnut or what have you type walnut. but it is a major concern.

 

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Thomas,

Good point. I looked it up and discovered that the Australian black walnut, (Acacia melanoxylon), is a different tree than the North American black walnut (Juglans nigra).

The Australian plant can cause eye, and irritation. It can also cause respiratory difficulties, & in some cases asthma. The wood can set up  (potentiate) allergies to other woods.

So Aussies take care when working it. That wood is not black has beautiful figure (grain) and is known as the "poor man's Koa" (wood).

I neglected to mention that the toxin of North American black walnut is a chemical called juglone.

SLAG.

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The American Black Walnut actually kills off plants near it using it's toxin. When we lived in Arkansas there was a place that would process black walnuts for the nut meats creating a large heap of the hulls that they offered free to anyone who wanted it.  One person who did not research first got a large pickup load and used it to mulch his garden---which then refused to grow anything for years!   Black walnut shavings and saw dust can NOT be used for horse bedding as severe reactions of the horses occur.  We have used black walnut hulls for dying.

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T.P.,

You referenced black walnut, its poison juglone, and its effect on other plants. The general phenomenon is known as allelopathy and the following source has an excellent review of black walnut's effect on other plants

. https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/staff/rbir/blackwalnutcompanions.html

That article lists plants that are tolerant to juglone and also lists plants that are susceptible.

Plants Damaged by Juglone are

apple, crocus, autumn peony,

azalea, forget-me-not, pine

birch, white grape, domestic potato

blackberry lily-of-the-valley rhododendron,

blueberry, linden, thyme,

chrysanthemum, mountain laurel, tomato

That article also has several lists of plants that are tolerant to black walnut. If you are interested, check it out

Black walnut is not the only plant that produces and exudes toxins to ward off competing plants. There are many such plants and many different chemicals

SLAG.

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SLAG, you are a virtual encyclopedia of plant information :)...good to know and surprising to find it on a blacksmithing site!  Thanks for posting the info so far, and keep it coming!  I had often heard about the walnut toxicity to other surrounding plants and that confirms it.

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  "Despite the very long list of woods below, very few woods are actually toxic in and of themselves. But what a great number of woods do have the potential to do is cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  However, all woods produce fine dust when worked, which in turn can damage your lungs and cause a number of other adverse health reactions."  This was quoted from the first article mentioned above.  So simply handling something like Sassafras occasionally is not a problem in and of itself for most people?

Also, what level of exposure does the chart assume?

Just wondering.

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Years ago I cut down a large walnut (Juglans nigra) for a client in prep for some garden construction. I was hoping to replant with some species I knew were sensitive to the toxin 'juglone'. I went to a trade show, where they had an 'expert' there to answer all our questions, and posed the question " How long is the toxin viable in the soil before it breaks down" or words to that effect. The expert couldn't answer my question, so I won a tee- shirt for 'stumping the expert'. Didn't answer my question, though.
I did the planting ~ 1 year after the tree was cut, with no ill effect. I do have a list if plants that are not affected, just in case.

Steve

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Stash,

The toxin juglone will be less toxic to other plants if the soil has a lot of organic matter in it. The organic matter chemically grabs the toxin and holds onto it. Soils that do not have much organic matter are toxic for a longer time.

Check out the reference I posted. It has three lists of trees, shrubs, and other plants that are tolerant of juglone.

https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/staff/rbir/blackwalnutcompanions.html

SLAG

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Addendum,

Organic material in the soil, also, encourage bacteria and fungi that can break the toxin.

SLAG.

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Thermonuclear devices tend to get rid of things like Juglone too.   If you stop by one of the two days it's open a year I'll take you out to the Trinity Site; it was only fission; but it was the first!  (The Very Large Array, usually has a special tour that day too---lots more to see at the VLA as the basic premise of most nuclear bombs is to NOT leave a lot to see...)

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T.P.

When are those tours?

Is there any trinitite left?

V.L.A.would be very impressive for me.

Thanks for the heads up.

SLAG.

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http://www.wsmr.army.mil/PAO/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx    "wsmr == White Sands Missle Range"

The white sands are really neat as well but they are a several hours drive from the Trinity site.  The Trinity site is on the north end of the WSMR, the white sands are on the south end.

Most trinitite being sold isn't;  being actually sand melted during rocket engine tests.  The way to tell is that real trinitite is an alpha emitter...removing it from government property populated by people with guns AND missiles is not suggested.

https://public.nrao.edu/tours/visitvla   VLA info  (note that while a building on the NM Tech campus is a VLA headquarters, the actual site is 55  miles west of Socorro on HW 60 perhaps better known as "eat and gas up *before* you leave Socorro" road.)

HW 60 is a scenic way to get to Phoenix; I've done it multiple times with only a few whiteouts during blizzards (You cross the continental divide near Pie town)  and a few landslides when it was raining in Salt River Canyon.  You also go through a lot of old mining towns in Arizona.  Please avoid dropping yourself in mine shafts---you can see a bunch along the road...

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T. P. ,

Thank you for the heads up.

Marg., my long suffering spouse, wants to revisit that part of the country. I have never seen it. Sooo, why not?

Regards,

SLAG.

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I suggest not doing so in the height of summer or in the depths of winter (if you plan to go in the mountains; otherwise it's lovely supposed to be in the 70's and 80's degF this week and of course blinding sun!)

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I'm awfully glad i found this thread before I sanded my laburnum axe handle, is a high quality respirator good enough or would I need something more than that?

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Laburnum is a direct toxin,

Work the handle outside, upwind and wear a respirator. And if possible blow it downwind away from people/pets.

Dust can settle on the floor and on the equipment in the shop or smithy, and fly up when an air current hits it.

SLAG.

p.s. I just looked up the wood in wiki for more information, try   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laburnum

p.p.s.  Are you in Reykyavik or Akureyri? (sorry about the spelling). Iceland looks like a lovely place.

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Can you scrape it instead of sand it?  Coarser dust/shavings so less a problem with respirators and shops.

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