STLWood Turners have used these woods
1. Acer negundo - boxelder
Acer rubrum - red maple
Acer saccharinus - soft maple
Dust is a sensitizer causing dermititis (skins and eyes), rhinitis and asthma (bronchospasm). But the
dust is of low potency and incidence is rare. Reaction to the spalted wood dust may actually be due to
chemicals produced by the fungi and insects invading the wood. One of the offending chemicals is
oxalic acid. The molds and fungus spores in the bark may cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Incidence
depends on dust control.
Dust from the Europoean elm (Acer plantansides or Norway Maple) and Acer pseudoplantanus
(sycamore maple) may cause nasal adenocarcinoma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis and laryngitis. Incidence is
low. The limbs of this tree are quite toxic so if you want to use this part of the tree wash the wood in
bleach, then rinse and dry in direct sun.
Aesculus glabra - buckeye, horse chestnut. All parts of this tree are toxic, especially the leaves, bark,
fruit and sap. The toxin is glycoside aesculin, saponin aescin and other alkaloides which poison the
nervous system. Injested wood dust may be poisonous, but reported cases of contact reaction are rare.
Albezia julibrissin is a deciduous ornamental and forage tree living in our area but is not known to be
used by SLWT.
Aralia spinosa - devil’s walking stick, angelia tree, Hercules club, prickly ash. The incidence of reaction
to dust from turning this wood is great and causes skin, eye and respiratory system reaction. Sensitive
persons may develop dermatitis, conjunctivitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis and bronchospasm.
Asimina triloba - pawpaw, custard apple. Many people are allergic to pollen from this tree but
woodturners are not known to use this tree.
Carya glabra - pignut, red hickory. This tree makes a small amount of juglans (5-hydroxy-1,4-
naphoquinone) in the bark and leaves. This may be the cause of respiratory allergy to hickory smoke.
Dust from wood turning is a respiratory irritant but SLWT’s are not known to turn much of this wood.
Carya illinoencis - pecan. This is a dense wood which contains about 2.7% lignin and 1% tannin.
Dust from wood turning is a respiratory irritant. The nuts contain gamma tocopherol which is an
antioxidant that can reduce the LDL by about 30%. Maybe better to eat the nuts rather than to turn the
The polyphenols are antifungal. The nut globulin contains lycine, leucine and tryptophan. The shell
contains steregmatocystin. The bark contains paclitaxel (precursor of Taxol).
Catalpa speciosa. Wood turning dust from this tree is not known to be toxic to woodturners.
Celtis occidentalis - sugarberry, hackberry. Dust from turning the bark off the wood is toxic. Smoke from
burning the leaves is toxic but dust from turning the dry wood is not known to be toxic. Responsible
Cercis canadensis - red bud, Judas tree. Turning dust may cause respiratory symptoms such as
rhinitis, laryngitis or bronchospasm. It is possible that the insects which love this wood may cause some
of the reactions but most often the live, larval form of the insect is encountered. At this time the specific
chemicals in the wood, which may be the responsible irritant, are not know.
Carnus racemosa and C drummondii - gray dogwood and roughled dogwood. Only the fruit is known to
be toxic to man. The turned wood has a pleasant cinnamon odor but the chemistry is not known at this
Diospyros virginiana - persimmon. The wood dust is a mild skin irritant for the person sensitive to the
Erythrina herbacea - corn bean, Cherokee bean. All pats of the plant contain alkaloids having a curare
like action. These alkaloids are: erysopine, erysothiopine, erysothionine, erysorine, erythrinine,
erythroresine, cordin, erythric acid and hypophorine. SLWT are not know to have turned this wood.
Fraxinus caroliniana; F pennsylvanica; F quadrangulata - swamp ash; white ash; blue ash. Turning dust
may cause rhinitis and bronchospasm. The toxic chemicals have not yet been identified.
Gleditsia tricanthos - honey locust. No data available concerning toxic properties. What has been your
experience turning this wood?
Halesia tetraptera - Carolina silverbell. SLWT’s are not known to have turned this wood.
Ilex decidua; I. opaca - Holly; white holly. I. vomitoria - Christmas berry. The seeds are highly toxic
containing saponic glycosides and triterpenoids but the wood dust is not toxic.
Juglans nigra - black walnut. The roots produce the chemical juglane (5-hydroxy-alpha napthaqinone)
which is toxic. Walnut chips and sawdust are toxic to horses. The pollen causes allergic rhinitis. The
leaves and bark also contain the juglane chemical. The largest concentration occurs in the buds, nut hulls
and roots. The wood dust caues dermatitis and bronchospasm.
Juniperus ashei - mountain cedar, rock cedar; J. virginiana - aromatic red cedar.
This tree is a real chemical factory. Cedrene and cedrol cedar oil is a pheromone which disrupts the
octopamine neuron receptors of insects and also disrupts the reproductive cycle in insects. Good idea
to put the wood chips in your closets. It is interesting that the oil increases incidence of liver cancer in
mice but when these are in your closet a trap works faster. The oil is composed of sesquiterpene
hydrocarbons; allpha, beta and gamma himalchenes plus alpha-gamma atlantone. Specifically: alpha-
pinone; gamma-himachalene; beta-himachalene; himachalene oxide; alpha-himachalene; delta-
cadinene; alpha-humulene; beta-calcorene; cedrene epoxide; alpha-cedrene; alpha-atlanone; gamma-
atlantone; C-deordora (P-methyl-d-3-litrahydroacetophenone) and p-methyl-acetophenone. Now you
know why wood turners get contact dermatitis and bronchospasm from cedar dust.
Liquidamber styraciflua - sweet gum. Wood turning dust causes dermatitis. The chemical constituents
benzyl benzoate and benzyl cinnamate serve as antagonists for angiotensin II-induced hypertension. The
tree’s shikimic acid is a precursor of the drug Tamiflu. The tree also manufactures storax which consists
of meta-styrene, & cinnamic acid. The styrene is phenylethylene and, styracin is cinnamyl cinnamate.
Other chemicals are phenylpropyl cinnamate, ethyl cinnamate, vanillin and aromatic esters. This is a
good wood for destructive embellishmet such as piercing, carving and pyrography.
Liriodendron tulipifera - yellow poplar. Turning dust from this tree causes a recurring dermatitis of the
face, hands and forearms. Oxoaporphines of the root bark may cause vasodilitation, hypotension;
stimulates the gall bladder to discharge; emesis and mild sedation. The heart wood contains toxic
amounts of the alkaloid liriodronine (2-0-N-dimethyl lirodronin), a yellow pigment. Other chemicals
generated by the tree are: tulipinolide, alpha-liriodenolite, beta-liriodenolide, lipiferolide; 11,13-
dehydroanuginolide and tulipinodide diepoxide.
Maclura pomifera - osage orange, bois d’arc. The white sap may cause dermatitis. Chemicals involved
are the isoflavins osajin and pomiferin which may be the same thing as scandenone and auriculasin.
These chemicals are antioxidants that repell cockroaches. Good for your shop. The chemicals
oxyresveratrol, tri and penta-hydroxystilbene and, 3,5,2’4’-tetrahydroxystilbene are antfungal. Don’t try to
spalt osage orange along with soft maple. It may take months and months. The later is also called
Piceatannol which is anticarcinogenic.
The sap may cause a dermatitis in some people. Thorn pricks can be very painful probably because
of the isoflavins.
Magnolia acuminata - cucumbere tree. The root bark contains lignincalopiptins, galgravin, veraguensin,
and bis-phenylpropide. The bark and leaves are irritant. Extracts from the bark are antibacterial
especially to mouth organisms. But because the wood dust may cause rhinitis and bronchospasm better
leave your mask on.
Mespilus canescens - Stern’s medlar. This tree belongs to the
Rosaceae family and is a shrub not used by STWT’s. The fruit is toxic. Its chemicals dibenzafuran-
phytoalexin, 6-hydroxy-phytoalexin, 6-methoxy-phytoalexin, and 7-hydroxy-6-methoxy-alpha-pyrufura are
23. Morus alba - mulberry. The ripe fruit is edible. Oral, dermal and inhalation toxicity has not been
determined but the sap can cause a dermatitis. The leaf extracts posses potent snake antivenom
properties especially against systemic effects of Daboia russelii venom by inhibiting inflammatory
mediators. That snake poses no threat to SLWTs. BuOH extracts contain rutin, esoquercitin and
derivatives of kaempferol and quercetin glycosides. The water extracts contain chlorogenic acid and
caffeoxylquinic acid derivatives which have anticancer properties.
24. Platanus occidentalis - sycamore. This wood is not often used by our wood turners but, when
stained presents a very nice figure. Data concerning toxicity of the wood dust is not available. What has
been your experience?
25. Prunus sp. - cherry, peach, plum. Woodturning dust is toxic and may cause bronchospasm and
giddiness. Fleshy parts of the tree contain precursors of cyanide (prunasin and amygdalin). Now you
26.Quercus species - oaks. Wood dust causes a dermatitis and rhinitis. Tannins are not a factor in the
adverse reaction to the dusts, but the specific toxins are not yet identified.
Robina pseudoacacia - black locust. The bark, leaves, seeds, green wood are toxic due to the chemical
toxallbumin robin, a phytoxin. The chemical can be destroyed by heat. The alkaloid robinine can cause
cardiac arrythmias, vasodilatation, hypotension and shock. Toxicity of the glycoside Robitin not fully
investigated. The poisonous parts can cause depression, weakness, dilated pupils, vomiing, and bloody
28. Rhus aromatica - fragrant sumac; R. copallina - shinning sumac. Both are non toxic. Pen turners love
this wood because under ultra-violet it fluoresces green. The same character is exhibited by black locust.
29.Rhus toxica - poison ivy. The pentadecylcatechol of he oleoresin within the sap causes a severe
dermatitis. Inhalation of poison ivy smoke damages the mucosal lining of the luung and can cause acute
30.Ulma alata - cork elm; U. americana - water elm; U. crossifolia - basket ellm; U. serotina - red elm.
The wood dust causes a dermatitis. This may be due to residues of nigtrogenous compounds in the
xylem and dried sap. The specific toxic chemicals are not identified.
Plywood dust is very irritating because of the many binding agents that hold many species of wood
together. The adhesives urea formaldehyde and phenol formaldehyde are carcinogens.
Please add your comments and experience with these woods.
Arthur L. Duell