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Thread: Safety First, Last, or just fingers crossed?

  1. #1
    Member Route 58's Avatar
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    Safety First, Last, or just fingers crossed?

    Hi, all

    I’ve been looking around at lots of different methods advocated for finishing guitars, mainly focussed around stuff that we can do in a fairly standard house/garage setup without a dedicated ‘workshop’.

    DingoTone and TruOil have been the likely items we’ll continue to use, but I’ve been looking at a few things like Feast Watson Wipe-On Poly and others, and found that a little checking on the safety info for some of these chemical products ends up with some serious concerns in terms of safety.

    I’m bring8ng this up because I’m investigating Sanding Sealer, and again it’s a pretty nasty product (or at least, the version I looked at is).

    Most safety sheets for the products basically turn your work area into a likely Zone 1 hazardous area (at best Zone 2, but that’s unlikely given that Zone 2 typically involves open areas such as petrol bowsers), and your lights, power, switches and tools need to be iEC Ex rated equipment (which is some serious outlay in terms of finances).

    Additionally, I see heaps of videos with people using these products in what appear to be fairly run-of-the-mill man-caves, workshops and sheds, and most often with no gloves, eye-protection or breathing protection. Very now and then I’ll see some veteran of dozens of very informative and authoritative videos get called out in their comments section with someone saying “that xxxx is pretty nasty stuff. Shouldn’t you be using gloves/respirator/etc.?” And they’ll respond “good pickup”, but meanwhile there’s a bunch of newbies like myself potentially getting some advice that misses some serious safety tips.

    Am I being overly concerned, or is there a real issue in the safety aspect of a lot of the instructional videos out there? Are many of these workshops a time-bomb waiting to go off?

    Another interesting point is that I got both Leonardo Lospennato’s books on building and designing guitars (awesome books), and the health issues around working wood are numerous. Most woods have some degree of toxicity in their sand-dust particles. Skin diseases and respiratory problems can be created and/or exacerbated by wood dusts. I’m not sure if it’s related, but the day after I finished building a basswood & ash guitar on a two-day weekend course I got this massive sty-like infection on my eyelid.

    I’m not trying to be a buzz-kill, but how does everyone treat the issues of safety with their guitar-work?

  2. #2
    GAStronomist wazkelly's Avatar
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    Good points raised here.

    Have to admit to not wearing dust masks when sanding and paying the price with blocked sinuses and also getting some of the dust particles in my eyes resulting in a sticky eye conjunctivitus type condition. I always do the heavy duty sanding outdoors so that it doesn't coat everything in a fine layer within the garage and also return the waste back to nature in the process.

    In relation to using solvents and finish products, that is when those blue nitrate gloves are used on both hands, even with turps as that is not so good on sensitive or broken skin.

    Have used both DT & TO, DT is virtually harmless but still requires gloves as it is quite messy stuff and the pigments may take a few days scrubbing to get off your hands. On the other hand TO looks and smells like linseed and mixed with a turps type thinner where there are plenty of warnings about how toxic it might be. Personally, I have had no problems using it and if you get a few drops on your skin it comes off easy with soap and warm water with no reactions.

    The nastiest stuff I have used is CA Glue (high grade super glue) to seal a fretless bass conversion. Extremely toxic fumes that make your eyes water and also burns your nostrils and throat if you breathe with an open mouth. I would never use it again in such large quantities over such a large area (whole of a Bass Fret Board). Also very hard to get it to set just right and it eventually goes cloudy over time.

    Stepping it up a few notches and you end up with epoxies and from my younger days helping my old man doing fibreglass and epoxy jobs on his sailing boats it doesn't bring back fond memories. All that marine grade stuff is very, very dangerous and hazardous to your health.

    One thing I have noticed when wet sanding is the skin on my hands cracks and opens up into small crevice like cuts quite easily and not sure if it is a reaction to the fine TO particles or the small drop of detergent in the water, or both. Cold dry, non humid weather doesn't help but have experienced same in warmer months too. Not much can be done to avoid this as you need to feel the surface with bare fingertips to gauge how smooth it is and using gloves takes all that away. Small amount of discomfort but can't see any other way to avoid it?

    Cheers, Waz
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  3. #3
    Overlord of Music Fretworn's Avatar
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    Safety should never be shirked at. But it’s easy to forget when you can watch “experts” on Better Homes & Gardens and other shows doing all sorts of things without safety gear. I’ve started using gloves for everything since I started making guitars, but I do need to remember respiration and eye protection more. It’s better to be over protective than dead, injured or damaged for life.
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  4. #4
    Mentor Rabbitz's Avatar
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    Like most things in life context is important.

    The vast majority of these products contain harmful chemicals, and with the state of WHS laws, the corporate WHS empires and the draconian application of their power means that pretty much every MSDS says that if you use this product you will die.

    Now if your employer says "you must use every single piece of PPE ever invented" then that is what you do. The employer is satisfying their requirements under their duty of care (the are also re-assigning vicarious liability by telling you this).

    As an individual you need to balance safety, practicality, work practice, exposure and expense. That is to say you have to manage the risk.

    For me (and this is not a recommendation) I look at what I am doing, what I am using and how long I will be exposed. To be honest, except for sanding, the exposure times are relatively short - especially when compared to industrial process.

    I wear a dust mask for sanding, nitrile gloves when using coatings (mostly to make clean up easier) and I only use a respirator when using enamels through an air brush. For short jobs in acrylics I don't use the respirator, for longer ones I will.

    Use your common sense and you will probably live to play the guitar.

    When in doubt, use the PPE and don't take silly risks. At the same time don't kill off the joy of working with wood and building things by making the experience so expensive and uncomfortable with over-excessive PPE.
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  6. #5
    Overlord of Music Dedman's Avatar
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    Other than keeping electrical leads out of water I admit to not using any saftey equipment. I wear glasses to see properly so I don't need safety glasses, I can't work wearing gloves. I've worked in very toxic environments ( dark rooms) for many years with no safety code at all so at this stage of life I figure it's a bit late to start worrying now.
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  7. #6
    Mentor Marcel's Avatar
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    I'd echo Rabbitz comments fully... For each task you are about to undertake you need to take the decision on what safety requirements are needed.

    The whole MDS and MSDS thing came about because workers in industrial situations had nil idea of the dangers of and PPE requirements of the materials they were employed to work with, and this was not good enough if we wanted ALL the workers to go home every night and enjoy a long and happy healthy life...

    As a hobby user your exposure is vastly different yet no less dangerous. The biggest difference is you now have the choice on all the variables whereas the employed worker does not. You can decide to not use a particular product for any personal reason, because it stinks, because it makes your eyes water, because it does or doesn't react to your skin, or many other reasons... The worker does not have those choices so by law should be protected from their effects, and the MSDS sheet tells employers how to achieve this.

    Tru-Oil is used by gun owners (and guitar builders) world wide but due to its chemical composition is banned from sale in California. Is it a dangerous product? Many would say no, however some in California say yes. But one could also ask to whom is it dangerous? Personally I think if used correctly the product is fine, and on guitars and rifle butts is wonderful, however it does release gasses that are not good for the environment and probably also not good to breathe in, so for me if it is used in moderation in an open air environment then that is my choice in compromise to get my desired result.

    There are safety data sheets for Petrol and Diesel and Kerosene, and when you compare the three I am left wondering why anyone would want to own a petrol car (all my cars are Diesel). Yet I entirely understand the reasons for using Kerosene in aircraft.... go figure...

    It's a hobby... Do what you feel is right. If you want to use that "dangerous product" then it is up to you to satisfy the PPE requirements to your satisfaction, otherwise choose another product.... There is nil employer telling you that you must use this or that in some defined environment. It's just you and your informed choices...
    Last edited by Marcel; 17-07-2018 at 08:40 AM.
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  8. #7
    Overlord of Music Sonic Mountain's Avatar
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    I'm with Deddy. I have built in safety goggles these days, but I've always had a bit of a 'tilt your head back and squint' approach.

    That said, I'm very careful with rotating machinery and fire. My downfall is probably respiration, but same as Dedman, I've already worked in so many hazardous environments over the years with out it the damage is likely done. When I started as a mechanic a lot of brake and clutches were still asbestos and that dust gets everywhere... so I won't be surprised if that catches up to me eventually. I do make sure my ventilation is good, but that's probably not enough to be really safe.
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  9. #8
    Overlord of Music Fretworn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dedman View Post
    Other than keeping electrical leads out of water I admit to not using any saftey equipment. I wear glasses to see properly so I don't need safety glasses, I can't work wearing gloves. I've worked in very toxic environments ( dark rooms) for many years with no safety code at all so at this stage of life I figure it's a bit late to start worrying now.
    Hence the moniker?......
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    Meinl DIY Cajon
    Cigar Box lap steel

    Wishing:
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    Open D/Standard Double 6 twin neck

  10. #9
    Mentor blinddrew's Avatar
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    I tend to be fairly relaxed about anything that is hand powered, blades are obviously sharp and should always go away from you, but you're not likely to do yourself serious harm with a bit of sandpaper. Similarly, hand sanding doesn't tend to produce dust as quickly and it doesn't get ejected into the air that quickly.
    As soon as you plug something in (or pull the starter cord), you're upping the game and need to up your protection. A dremel could probably do you a nasty, a band saw is in a different league.
    When it comes to solvents and chemicals it's really as people have mentioned above - we're hobbyists for the most part and don't have extractor chambers and the like, and we're trying to balance a well-ventilated environment without ending up with a finish that's more hairy than the dog. Short exposure is probably the key here.
    Ultimately, just make sure you're going into things eyes wide open (but wearing goggles)

  11. #10
    Member Route 58's Avatar
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    Great responses.

    Yep, I came to a similar conclusion, that in order to do the hobby you’ve got to find the risk level that you’re prepared to deal with.

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