Nothing to sneeze at

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They say there are two kinds of woodworkers: Those who are allergic to cocobolo, and those who will become allergic to cocobolo. I think I just switched teams.

I’ve never had an issue with cocobolo – or any other wood species – and was always mystified at what seemed a widespread allergy to cocobolo dust. It’s never bothered my in the least, no matter how much dust I make with it.

To my knowledge, I’ve never had allergies to anything at all. Not, at least, until I got older. It’s only been in the last couple of years that spring pollen has become an issue, for example, albeit a minor one. So minor that this past spring it was easy to ignore. But the fact that there was a minor issue where none existed before should have been a warning.

I turned some cocobolo this week for the first time in ages, and I noticed that the dust bothered my throat and nasal passages. After a bit of sanding my nasal passages started to feel all burny, for lack of a better word. Then the sneezing started. I don’t mind sneezing (in truth, I’ve learned that a couple of good sneezes can clear the brain as much as the sinuses), but after half a dozen in a row it was clear that I could no longer be numbered among those woodworkers who aren’t allergic to cocobolo.

With a runny nose and scratchy eyes I finished the project without incident. Is this a deal breaker for me shop-wise? I doubt it since, again, this new allergy appears minor. But I suspect it’s something I’ll need to keep in mind as I select my turning stock from now on – if I’m noticing minor allergic reactions to cocobolo, rosewood and a few others may also be something to watch out for.

Oh, joy. Another sign of aging. I’m so happy I could just, well, sneeze.

A.J.

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