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Old 08-02-2017, 09:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Waxhaw, NC
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Default Never again...

I will NEVER turn another Camphor wood pen. Apparently I have a sensitivity to it that I didn't know about until well, I made a bunch of wood dust. Grabbed a nice block of it from Ebay and immediately after receiving it cut off a strip on the bandsaw, glued it up, and started turning. 2 days later I'm breaking out on my arms and face. I suppose it's possible it's something else but that's the only new wood I've turned and nothing else in my environment has changed. (Checked the laundry detergent already)

Contact dermatitis I believe they would call it in the medical profession. 1-3 weeks typically to recover from it. Until then I'm an itchy mess, and there will likely be a block of camphor burl for sale soon. Here's hoping it's not the gateway to other wood allergies. I've never had a problem beyond woods like marble wood making my nose run until I got smart and wore a mask.

To make matters worse I sanded through the slight dye work I did on that pen so I can't even put it together.
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Old 08-02-2017, 09:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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A friend of ours was turning marblewood and had to go to the ER. She was having trouble more marble wood for her.
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Old 08-02-2017, 11:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not sure but I don't recall hearing about Camphor Laurel causing allergies but I may be wrong.

Is interesting that camphor is used for human use in many ways and that for a large number of people such as myself, working with that wood is probably the only time I manage to breathe properly without the regular nasal sprays and I love the aroma/smell of it.

With that said, some people can be sensitive to certain woods that are not your typical problem woods in that respect, many of which do not know until they are exposed to it and get the "surprising" reacting you are experiencing.

If your allergy was caused by the Camphor wood or not, it may not be an easy thing to confirm but just in case, I would cross that wood from your stock and woods to buy/handle, just in case.

You can also have an allergies test but I have a hard time in believing in them just because, in my younger years and up to my 40's I had regular allergy tests when I would come up with an allergy that I couldn't identify, out of all the different samples they use, there were 2 that consistently show a positive result, and that was of grasses and peanuts when I consumed "horrendous" amounts of peanuts since a little kid and I never felt sick or anything at all apart from wanting to eat more and as for grasses, for most of my life, I've been exposed to all sorts of grasses in all stages of maturity some of which are well known to inflict serious allergies to some people and again, I never had a single problem caused by those grasses and in a few instances I had people with me that all of a certain had to reach for the antihistamine medication and in cases where none was available, they had to be rushed to the hospital so, and unless these type tests are done now in a different and more accurate way, I don't trust them.

Would this allergy be the start of "something"..? I don't think so, many of us live a full and long life full of allergies that they never knew about just because they were never exposed to them, and they can be anything, really so and in my opinion, there are 2 types of allergies, those that are caused from the first contact to a single and specific source and those that are caused by the over-exposition of a particular source, one that is most known in the pen turning world is the used of CA applications.

I hope that your allergy goes away fast and that this information does help you understand the issue a little better.

"Don't give others what you don't like for yourself"


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Old 08-02-2017, 11:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Kingwood is my nemisis. Great looking wood but after I turn it, I get a rash on my chest that lasts for a couple days. If it wasn't for the itching, it wouldn't really bother me.
That's right I'm fat. Deal with it.
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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My allergist gave me a way of testing new woods after I had a similar reaction to Moradillo, Bolivian Rosewood. Make a little sawdust from the wood your testing, wet it and put it under a bandaid on your arm. Leave it for a day and check for a rash.

It took me several weeks and 3 medications and doctor visits to finally get over my reaction. The allergist was the only one that really knew what to do to help. Wish I had gone there first. I did learn a trick to get the itching to stop for a while before the drugs kicked in. You blow hot air on the rash with a hair dryer. It actually makes the itch intensify so much that your nerves an brain shuts off the sensation for a few hours. It let me get some sleep. Stay safe folks.


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Old 08-03-2017, 08:05 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm allergic to work. With that aside, a person can develop allergies at any point in time. Mine occurred when I was 22 while in the military. I have asthma and allergic to just about anything that has pollen. I developed a severe reaction to a bee sting several years ago while fishing and was too close to a hive; am taking shots for it- wasp and white faced hornet, the latter I have never seen. A friend developed asthma in his 40s. My grandmother caught a bad cold while cleaning up in WV after the 1937 flood. This developed into severe asthma and allergies. Testing in the early days of immunology showed that she was even allergic to her own hair!
Due to the lack of interest, tomorrow will be cancelled.
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Old 08-03-2017, 08:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: Tellico Plains, Tennessee, USA.
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Originally Posted by robutacion View Post
You can also have an allergies test but I have a hard time in believing in them
Years ago in my first marriage, the wife had a series of allergy tests... according to the allergist, she was allergic to house dust and elm trees....
we lived in California and I don't think there was an Elm tree in the state and she was a pretty meticulous house keeper, so dust was minimal...???

I understand about the wood reaction... I did a series of pepper mills a couple of weeks back... it was hot in the shop and I took my shirt off, but wore my smock, which has been hanging in the shop for several months....I did do some sanding without the smock, I came down with a rash on my upper chest with big bumps and down the small of my back just above my belt line.. I was using several different species of woods, some local TN hardwoods and some more exotics... don't know for sure which of the woods I reacted to, but suspect it may have been the IPE as I used a larger block of that in a mill. I've used it before and don't remember a reaction...
Tellico Plains, TN

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Old 08-03-2017, 11:07 AM   #8 (permalink)
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So far, I've been lucky with no reactions to wood or wood dust.
I do have a problem with CA fumes.
I always where long a sleeved hoody and a respirator thru the whole process.

I was asked by my heart doc the other day about allergies, I said I have a violent reaction to pain, other than that all is well.
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Old 08-03-2017, 11:21 AM   #9 (permalink)
Join Date: Mar 2012
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Stillllll itchy. It's entirely possible it is something else but the only new wood I've worked lately is the Camphor Burl. I'm hoping it's not some sort of skin allergy to CA glue, that would REALLY be a bummer. I've been out turning and finishing pens despite the bumpy itchy skin, which might not be the best idea. Wet sanded and polished 9 pens last night so I've had quite a bit of exposure to the CA glue dust for sure.

On the lathe in the past week I've had walnut, maple, koa, box elder, acrylic galore, mango, stabilized maple, stabilized buckeye, stabilized box elder, and that camphor burl. I think that's it. Quite a few options there but nothing new other than the burl.

Skin allergies are funny things. I've had the contact dermatitis before but never did figure out what caused it back then. At the time I wasn't really actively working wood so who knows...
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Old 08-03-2017, 11:27 AM   #10 (permalink)
Join Date: May 2017
Location: Delray Beach Florida
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Found this on

Allergies/Toxicity: Camphor has been reported to cause skin and respiratory irritation, as well as a number of other effects, such as headaches, giddiness, and asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
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