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Username Post: How toxic is cocobolo?        (Topic#843561)
Master Member KnifeNut!
02-01-09 14:11.11 - Post#1753116    

Wouldn't you know it, the set of scales I bought for my first knife project were cocobolo. After I bought them, I started hearing horror stories about the allergic reaction to exotic woods, cocbolo in particular. The project is fairly simple. I have to band saw around my outlined scale, drill and counter sink two bolt holes and then sand to contour and shape. What do you suggest for basic precautions? Are mask and gloves mandatory?
Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man's papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.


Master Member KnifeNut!
02-02-09 02:45.53 - Post#1753409    

    In response to cadjak

I have never used it, but a friend of mine does wood turning. He has turned a number of bowls with it, with no problem. Then he developed an allergic reaction to cocobolo, with a rash on his arms.
I'd use gloves and a mask - you don't know how you will react. Some people are allergic (lots of people) and some are not.
If you are allergic, you could get an extreme, life threatening reaction.
The problem with some woods is that they are sensitizers - reactions can develop later and not at first.
Personally, I am allergic to poplar, but not any of the other woods I have cut and far. I have cut up kingwood, tulip, purpleheart, padauk and others. I have some exotics sitting in the garage - I hope that I don't develop an allergy to any of them.
Robert C
Master Member KnifeNut!
02-02-09 14:55.39 - Post#1753979    

    In response to arty

First let's deal with terminology. There are toxic woods and there are allergenic woods .Toxicity will effect everyone .Allergies will effect only those who have specific allergies to that wood.Only pure air should be in your lungs .Knife makers should have a good exhaust system and wear a very good respirator for wood and metals. Contact allergy is minimized with gloves , long sleeves.
As far as how you react to a specific wood only you can tell after one or two exposures.
Ed Caffrey
Journeyman KnifeNut!
02-03-09 02:17.40 - Post#1754267    

    In response to Robert C

Ditto to what Robert said! My very first blade was created with Cocobolo handles.....and that evening was spent in the hospital. My eyes were swollen shut, and I could hardly breath when my wife got me to the ER. It took the Doc and us a couple of days to figure out what had turned out to be the Cocobolo. I can handle it, and get the dust on me with no issues...but if I happen to breath the dust, I have a very bad reaction. The Doc told me that about 1 in every 250 people have some kind of allergy to specific woods, especially if you happen to breath in the dust.

Nobody has ever done a study on how all of these things we work with will effect a human body over the long run, so nobody can say what the effects will be over time. Protect yourself NOW, or you may not be here later!
Ed Caffrey, ABS Mastersmith
"The Montana Bladesmith"
"Nobody cares what you know...Until they know you care."

Master Member KnifeNut!
02-03-09 03:35.58 - Post#1754367    

    In response to Ed Caffrey

Over the Years we have had the most reaction in our Shop with cocobolo.

It does not effect me and most people but we ended up with Our Foreman in the ER with it a few years ago.

When we do Cocobolo he is relegated to the Front Office until the knife is finished and the Dust all Cleared from the Grinding room.

My son Jim gets a contact Rash from Lignum Vite so he wears long sleeves when using it.

We all wear masks so Breathing stuff in is not an issue.

We use about every kind of Exotic Wood so we see a very good Crossection of them.

NJKCA #041

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Journeyman KnifeNut!
02-03-09 08:52.23 - Post#1754697    

    In response to MikeStewart

Most likely it is the oil in it that causes the reaction, just like poison ivy or oak. The first reaction you have is usually the mildest, meaning that each reaction after that will be worst. I had two patients in the hospital last spring from burning a wood pile. It had some poison ivy in it and the inhaled the smoke. So always be carefull.
Master Member KnifeNut!
02-04-09 07:12.01 - Post#1755692    

    In response to WadeH

Very toxic, that is, if you develop an allergy to it. I can no longer work with it nor other rosewoods, for the dust on my skin causes a reaction akin to poison ivy, particularly around the eyes, neck, and, horrors, genitals. Cover yourself as best you can, though not all who work with it will develop a reaction. If you do happen to suffer from the extracts in Coco, cease, it will get much worse. Good luck. RC

Master Member KnifeNut!
02-05-09 17:56.16 - Post#1757266    

    In response to RC1947

Okay, I'm warned. It's taken some of the excitement out of the project, but not as much as ending up in the E.R.
Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man's papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.


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