got to thinking about some of the chemicals we may use when doing  luthier work.  For now, I've only been using stew mac's polishes but as I start learning more I know I'll start experimenting with other possibly dangerous products. 

I am working in a small DIY room, the size of a large closet.  I haven't been using a mask, but maybe I should?  What solvents/chemicals are considered dangerous or at least need some kind of ventilation equipment?

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You need to have adequate breathing protection from wood and other dust (N100 or HEPA masks and filters on dust collection) when using power tools). Some of the woods commonly used in making guitars are particularly irritating and can cause severe allergic reactions. You also need protection from chemical fumes (Organic Vapor Cartridge on a respirator) from CA (Superglue), Epoxy, Finishes, etc when you use them. Adequate ventilation away from your room to the outside is also something you need to provide. I started out in a spare bathroom.

thanks for all of the advice here!

So I have this mask:

is it not enough because it is a N95 and not a N100?  I never thought about superglue before.  So is there a mask that will protect against wood dust AND chemical fumes? Though I don't think I have to worry about the wood dust since what little sanding I do, I always do it wet.

You should be able to replace the cartridges on that mask to an N100 filters when woodworking and to Organic Vapor filter cartridges when using chemicals. Tightly seal the organic vapor cartridges when not in use as they get used up exposed to air. The round pink 3M N100 filters are the most comfortable to breathe through with that mask if you like the fit or don't want to buy another. I use a similar mask for organic vapors but because I do more woodworking I use a different one when making dust in addition to HEPA filtered dust collection on my machines: Elipse P100 Dust Mask

Stay safe and keep the blood on the inside!

Super glue accelerator is said to be cancer causing in California. Nitro lacquer is not good for you , and butyl cellusolve is said to be real bad .

yes i have some nitro lacquer but keep it in my garage, never in the house.

Dust is more dangerous the smaller it is. Sanding wood or using high speed mechanical tools make the finest and most dangerous dust. Using hand tools like knives, scrapers or planes and keeping the sanding and use of high speed mechanical tools down to a bare minimum is a good policy.

As a thumb rule, the more colorful the wood the more toxic stuff is in it, toxic chemicals are used by the tree to defend itself. Using natural and proven relatively safe compounds like spirit or water based lacquer and hot hide glue instead of for example epoxy or superglue is a way to minimize being exposed to toxic materials.

It's important to always use masks, filters and good ventilation when you know you are making dust or chemical vapors. And rubber gloves when touching allergenic material like epoxy. You only got one health, be careful with it.

If you have a window, you should put in a fan for exhausting smells. I use a P95 mask when cutting, sanding or filing or using anything that smells. I use a respirator when using glues, finishes or cleaning compounds that release VOCs. I also keep a small fan on my bench that sucks vapors through a filter with impregnated charcoal that was originally designed for solder fumes:

Your health is more important than your hobby or career. It helps to be a little paranoid. You don't want to end up wearing an O2 cannula.

Hi Jim,

what Robbie said about your health is more important than your job - and 20 seconds to put a mask on or turn on a ventilator is a good trade off against recovering from workplace related cancers (x 2 - it ain't fun and it's expensive).

I went full on and reserached a bunch of stuff to find out what can kill you in the long run but it got pretty difficult sorting it all:   So if its anything faster on wood than a handplane I cover up and wear an organic vapor grade mask, (plus the dust now irritates my skin which is an accumulating allergy - the longer you do it the worse it gets) and if I can smell it I wear a mask.  I also have a commercial quantity of safety googles (so I never "can't find em")  around the factory.

A lot of my colleagues in the military trades got very sick from vapor inhalation and stuff - and a lot of my father's ship mates died from the asbestos lagging they used to use on the pipes in warships........20 years from now you don't want to find out that superglue of zylene thinners or felt tipped pens are deadly.   Just get used to wearing protective gear in a potentially deadly environment until ti becomes second nature - bit like seatbelts really.


so what if I have the all the safety gear but not the ventilation?  Is it a deal breaker?

I just bought a similar fan, thanks for the tip!

Potassium Dichromate: This is a BIG one. It is used widely in our Luthierie  industry for aging wood and a few other things.

In Canada, in the soil science lab I used to work in, it was kept locked up, and the Head Lab Tech gave me a 20 min talk before she even let me look at it. Only use under fume hood, if a single drop got on the counter, there was some serious clean up procedures... 




and seemingly available everywhere down in the States, and somehow every second Luthier has it, and doesn't worry at all about it. I have NO clue why that is. 


I use Potassium Permanganate instead. Not nearly as toxic.


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