Sunday, December 30, 2012

Exotic Wood

This month I had my first encounter with exotic wood.  I've 'seen' exotic woods before but this is the first time I've turned it into chips, dust, and art.  There was much to learn...

The Wood
I was asked to carve a piece of Purpleheart.  "OK.  I can do that."  After a brief moment of 'sellers remorse', I Googled purpleheart wood.  Google showed me lots of pretty photos of deeply colored purple boards, boxes and furniture.  It was exciting!  But before making the worlds first purple salmon, I searched Google a second time.  This time for 'purpleheart toxicity'.

The Danger
Everyone knows it's not good for you to breath dust.  Fewer people know that some wood dust can be poisonous and even cause an allergic reaction.  As for purpleheart wood, the most common reactions include eye and skin irritation. It's has also been reported to cause nausea!  I HATE nausea!!  To make matters worse, I learned that even the fumes are toxic so there will be no color added with my torch.

The Process
Sufficiently warned, I prepared to carve.  In addition to the regular task of laying out the design, I put my safety plan to practice.  Gloves, safety glasses, respirator (not a dust mask), and a fan pushing air (fumes) across my work area.  Naturally all of this is happening out of doors.

The Result
This is one very hard wood!  It chips and splinters like Red Cedar or Douglas Fir but is as hard as dried out Oak.  To get a nice finish in something so hard requires sanding.  Sanding generates poison dust.  I'm not getting paid enough! ;-)