Is Cocobolo toxic?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Meteor Hammer, Feb 18, 2012.

  1. Meteor Hammer

    Meteor Hammer Member

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    Cocobolo is very beautiful tonewood for neck or fretboard. But I heard that Cocobolo is toxic that may cause skin irritation and the Cocobolo dust can harm the lung. What is your suggestion?
     
  2. Vince

    Vince Member

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  3. mjtripper

    mjtripper Supporting Member

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    I can't even cut it without a full respirator on.
     
  4. gtrckl

    gtrckl Silver Supporting Member

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    From what I've read it's not a good thing to breathe in the dust.
     
  5. shan564

    shan564 Member

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    Some people are allergic to it. But if you just want to be safe, you might as well wear a surgical mask when you're cutting it. They cost about $2-4 at Walgreen's.
     
  6. MBP

    MBP Member

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    No dust is good for you.

    Some people are affected by wood dust more so than others.
    Rosewoods affect quite a few people and of the rosewoods cocobolo is one of the more common irritable woods.

    Most people actually become allergic to woods if the use them a lot.
    For a guitar neck or fretboard I dont think it would be an issue for most people. If you do get dermatitis etc I would avoid it otherwise you should be fine.
     
  7. Glenn Brown

    Glenn Brown Member

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    Yes, some people are more sensitized to Cocobolo than others...both from the dust and the wood itself.

    FWIW, I own a custom guitar built from Cocobolo, both the neck and body. The body is finished; the neck is not. In the few years I've owned and played it, I haven'tsuffered any irritation or reaction from touching it.
     
  8. Zero G

    Zero G Member

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    Breathing in any wood dust isn't good for you. I lost my Uncle 3 years ago and my Aunt 8 months ago to lung cancer because of long-term cedar exposure.
     
  9. Pfeister

    Pfeister Member

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    It's technically a sensitizer, not a toxin. Some people won't be affected by it right away, but the more they work with it, the more it affects them.

    When I used it at first, I was fine as long as I wore a dust mask (like with any wood). Now, if I work with it my eyes burn and my skin turns red where it sits for too long. If I breath it in at all it burns like crazy and makes me feel ill for a day or so.

    Some guys have more serious issues with it. I've heard of other luthiers getting blisters, even on their eyelids, and a couple guys who had to be rushed to the hospital because their lungs basically shut down.

    It all depends on the person, though. If you're concerned, rub some of the dust on the underside of your wrist and let it sit for a minute or two. If it turns red, itches, or anything else you're going to have problems with it.

    Edit:
    If you're buying a guitar that includes it (it makes for amazing fretboards!), there's nothing to be worried about at all. It's the dust from sanding and cutting it that causes problems.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  10. Meteor Hammer

    Meteor Hammer Member

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    Thanks very much for all your informative comments. I suppose I would adviod the Cocobola fretboard option for custom built guitar although she is very beautiful. I worry about that the health will be harmed after years of playing Cocobola fretboard. I decide BRW or Snakewood would be the way to go. Thanks again for your suggestions!
     
  11. schlagsaite

    schlagsaite Member

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    It's only "dangerous" for the one working with the wood. Spanish cedar has the same problem btw.
     
  12. Laurent Brondel

    Laurent Brondel Supporting Member

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    Only the dust while building with the wood can provoke allergies in some people, not unlike pau ferro.
    The cases where sensitisation happens just touching the wood are so rare as to be almost inexistent. I wouldn't worry.
     
  13. shadpeters

    shadpeters Member

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    I dont think its toxic, but it is definately the most irritating wood I have worked with. I have heard stories of some builders having such violent reactions that there tongue and throat started to swell shut and they had to be rushed to the hospital. Don't know if they are true or not, but its definately worth taking precautions though.
     
  14. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    Sorry to hijack the thread but that SUCKS!

    Sorry for your loss. :(
     
  15. Route234

    Route234 Member

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    Some people have allergies to it. A guy who was building a guitar for my brother had a near death experience when he found out he was allergic to it by breathing in some of the dust. Im not sure its toxic to people in general, but Id avoid it unless I knew whether I was allergic to it or not. This guy was knocked out of business for like 6 months while he recovered.
     
  16. shan564

    shan564 Member

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    It won't hurt you if it's finished. But I think Madagascar rosewood is better anyway.
     
  17. Ravage777

    Ravage777 Member

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    Hmmm... I get contact dermatitis when I touch certain newspapers(think parade insert on Sundays) or just even certain regular newspapers. I had a guitar for a few months w/an untreated coco neck, didn't notice any problems. Matt Artinger is building a guitar for me now coco back and sides w/a coco stripe up the neck , but she'll be finished...although the fretboard is coco.... Which wouldn't have a finish applied, right? Next Artinger I might was thinking coco neck....
     
  18. duckbunny

    duckbunny Member

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    There is about a 2-5% incidence of true allergic (anaphylactic) response to cocobolo, as well as the others in the genus dalbergia.

    The more common reaction is a contact reaction (dermatitis) due to the saponins S-4'-hydoxy-4-methoxydalbergione, R-4-metozydalbergione, obtusoquinones, and other quinones and phenols.

    Sadly, most of the genera that comprise tone woods contain many of the chemicals responsible for this condition, as well as other sensitivities, up to and including true anaphylaxis.

    Makes me appreciate the luthier's art that much more...I certainly hope our very gifted luthier/co-board members take great care to protect their health!



    -db
     
  19. iansegal

    iansegal Member

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    not to mention the high-oil content of cocobolo can gum up fret saw teeth in one pass. but of course, then it polishes so well and is a delight to play on.....
     
  20. Sir Douglas T

    Sir Douglas T Supporting Member

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    God Bless Mike Ponce from Suhr Guitars for hand sanding this Coco neck for me. I had no idea it was toxic. It really is a thing of beauty and sounds even better than it looks.
    [​IMG]
     

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