Which Exotic Woods Should You Avoid?

Welcome to Thomas’s Woodworking Wisdom!

Rare Woods Alert: Top Exotic Timbers to Steer Clear From!

Hey there! I’m Thomas, your go-to woodworker, here to share my passion for creating stunning pieces from wood, especially for your home. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned craftsman, I’ve got some crucial tips for you when it comes to exotic woods.

⚠️ Exotic Woods to Steer Clear Of

Before you dive into your next project with exotic woods, there are some you should definitely avoid due to their toxicity or endangered status.

Toxic Woods: Keep your distance from woods like Bosse, Cedar, Cocobolo, Ebony, Greenheart, Pau Ferro, and Rosewood. These can cause various irritations, some even leading to cardiac or central nervous system problems.

Endangered Woods: Give a thought to our planet and avoid using Brazilwood, Ebony, Mahogany, Merbau, Monkey Puzzle, Parana Pine, Rosewood, Sapele, Teak, and Wenge. They are endangered and need our protection.

Remember, this isn’t a complete list. There’s a whole world of exotic wood out there, and it’s always best to do your homework before you start cutting and carving.

Finding Reliable Information

If you’re curious and want to dive deeper, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) archive is a fantastic resource. I’ve sifted through some of the data and summarized key points here for a quick start.

The Hidden Dangers of Exotic Woods

You might not think of wood as being toxic, but some exotic varieties can be surprisingly dangerous. While you’re not going to snack on a plank of wood, exposure can happen through touch or inhalation of sawdust.

Take Paduak, for instance. Just a brush with its dust gives me a rash, despite its beauty. Some exotic woods can even be poisonous upon contact or when their sap is ingested.

Thankfully, the most hazardous types are rarely on the market, but still, be cautious with commonly available varieties that could pose health risks.

Exotic Woods with Toxic Traits

Some exotic woods to keep off your list include:

  • Bosse: Known for causing nausea, asthma, and headaches.
  • Cedar: Surprisingly toxic, causing asthma, migraines, and more.
  • Cocobolo: Can induce asthma, pink eye, and nausea.
  • Greenheart: Known for its severe toxic effects, including cardiac issues.
  • Pau Ferro: Causes extreme irritation and sensitivity.
  • Rosewood: A strong irritant, causing asthma, rash, and hives.

☠️ Exotic Woods with Poisonous Properties

Some woods are outright poisonous and best avoided altogether. These include:

  • Laburnum: Causes nausea, headaches, and vomiting.
  • Milky Mangrove: Its sap can lead to temporary blindness and skin blisters.
  • Mulga: Used in tribal warfare, can cause nausea and legions.
  • Oleander: Entirely poisonous, not for commercial use.
  • Poison Walnut: As the name suggests, its sap is corrosive and harmful.
  • Tambootie: A direct toxin known for causing blindness and diarrhea.

Endangered Exotic Woods and Conservation

Being a responsible woodworker also means being mindful of the environment. Some exotic woods are endangered, and using them can have broader implications.

While international laws might not directly affect your possession of certain woods, it’s important to consider the source and legality of your materials.

Here’s a quick list of endangered exotic woods you might want to skip for your next project:

  • Brazilwood: Listed as endangered but not close to extinction.
  • Ebony: Highly sought after but facing critical endangerment in some regions.
  • Mahogany: Surprisingly on the endangered list, especially from specific regions.
  • Merbau: Considered vulnerable, it’s best to avoid.
  • Monkey Puzzle: Another wood on the severe category of endangerment.
  • Parana Pine: Critically endangered and best left alone.
  • Rosewood: Highly prized but facing endangerment in several areas.
  • Sapele: Vulnerable and not close to extinction, but better to avoid.
  • Teak: Including Burmese Teak, this popular wood is endangered.
  • Wenge: A popular choice, yet it’s on the list of endangered exotic woods.

Quick Reference Table

Category Wood Type Concern
Toxic Bosse, Cedar, Cocobolo, Ebony, Greenheart, Pau Ferro, Rosewood Various irritations, some severe
Poisonous Laburnum, Milky Mangrove, Mulga, Oleander, Poison Walnut, Tambootie Direct poisonous effects
Endangered Brazilwood, Ebony, Mahogany, Merbau, Monkey Puzzle, Parana Pine, Rosewood, Sapele, Teak, Wenge Environmental concerns

Which Exotic Woods Should You Avoid?

Complement the information with the following instructional video: