Near Death Experience Pen


Introduction: Near Death Experience Pen

About: Hi, my name is Rich and I'm just an amateur woodworker that wants to share some of my projects. Badlands Wood-N-Stuff is the name we use to sell our crafts at shows, Ebay, and Etsy. I also enjoy watching oth...

I know this is a strange name for a pen, but trust me it is fitting. Part way through I learned a very important safety lesson in pen making. I know many folks are trying pen making as a hobby or to bring in a little extra income. Pen turning for me has been both therapeutic and enjoyable. You watch an ugly piece of wood turn into a magnificent pen. I just want to put this out here so you don't have the same experience that I did. Keep reading and learn, it could save your life.

Step 1: My Pen Making Shop

My small project shop is in the corner of my basement. It's a very tiny area, but has all the needed tools. Safety is always at the forefront especially when using the lathe.

  • Face Shield
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator
  • Gloves (for handling solvents)
  • Dust collector (shop vac)

I always wear a shop apron and short sleeved shirts when operating the lathe. Jewelry is not recommended to be worn while working with power tools. My wedding ring never comes off, and it's been through a lot so I still wear it. The key here is to use all your safety equipment no matter how small the task.

Step 2: Drilling the Pen Blanks

I began by mounting my pen blank in my lathe chuck and started drilling. I was saving time or didn't think of it so my respirator was not on my face. I was wearing my safety glasses at the time. As I drilled I noticed a very fine dust building up on the drill bit. I turned on my shop vac to catch the majority of the shavings. I went on to complete the drilling of the blank.

Step 3: Glue the Pen Tubes

Next I began gluing the brass pen tubes into the blanks. I noticed I had started coughing. It wasn't very long and I began having trouble breathing. I set the blanks aside to let them dry and went upstairs. Once I got to the top of the stairs I could hardly breathe. I was gasping and struggling to get air. Later when I described the symptoms I was told this was similar to an extreme asthma attack. I was able to make it outside and get some fresh air, and slowly but surely regained some breathing. At one point I thought I was going to pass out or even die. I could not get any air in. Several hours later I was somewhat normal again. Well...somewhat normal for me anyway.

Step 4: Breathing Again

After this experience I was convinced that I had come in contact with something toxic. I got on my computer and found this website I would recommend anyone in woodworking to look over this site. Sure enough when I looked at Cocobolo it listed irritant, sensitizer, nausea, asthma, and pink eye. It also listed as areas affected skin, eyes, and respiratory. The potency was very high for this wood. While looking at this I learned there are many woods that can affect the human body. This was an important lesson for me. In the future if I plan to work with a wood that is not native to my area I will check this list. As for me I will never work with Cocobolo wood again. It's a beautiful wood when finished, but not worth my life.

Step 5: Finished the Pen, It's Gorgeous

I never finished the Instructable on making the pen. I thought this safety Instructable was more important. I did get my courage up and donned my best safety gear and went on to finish the pen. The pen turned out fantastic, and I gave it to my wife as a reminder of the day she almost lost me to a piece of wood.

Woodworking is fun and rewarding as a hobby or a business. Just be sure to be safe in anything you do!!!



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    19 Discussions

    Can you can see the interest of working in well ventilated areas ?

    2 replies

    Has very little to do with the problem. an anaphylactic reaction to a toxin does not require significant quantities of the pollutant.For me it is Bocote, and all it takes is handling gloves that were contaminated with sanding dust. Thinking ventilation would cure the problem is a bit like opening a window when someone with a severe peanut allergy has a mouth full of planter's roasted.

    Breathing particles is not a good idea, but if you are having trouble with a particular material, you need to use care around any materials with similar proprieties. Avoid resinous rosewoods if not sure about them.

    I feel your pain badlands.... that is absolutely zero fun

    I did this outside my shop in the backyard too. But winter can hit 40 below here so I try to use my basement during the cold months. Maybe when I retire I can find a large warm shop. I may put a filtration system up just to be on the safe side. Breathing is very important.

    It's good to know this kind of thing can happen, thanks for reporting on it

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    Safety is so important we all try to work safe, but as we are on instructables we like to now how you make it

    1 reply

    Thanks for commenting. Keep watching I will have an instructable soon with another gorgeous pen. I'll do my best to pass along my knowledge.

    Glad you're still with us. A guy I know had a similar reaction to rosewood and ended up in the intensive care unit. Ventilation and safety equipment really are important in the shop.

    1 reply

    Thank-You, apparently Cocobolo is a type of rosewood, or so I've been told. Some people are more susceptible to a reaction. Hope your friend is okay. I certainly can't give up my woodworking but I will be cautious in the future.

    I guess near death experiences make a neat story! Your pen is beautifal, and so was your write up! I was enthrawed til the end! ...Also glad you're okay.

    1 reply

    Thank-You, I really want to make more with that wood but I think I would need a scuba suit with air tanks. I'd made about 40 pens when this happened. I have made eight more since this happened, just not with Cocobolo wood. I really enjoy Instructables as well. So many ideas and stories too.

    Goodness gracious, I'm so glad you're okay. Be careful, because that couldv'e ended it completely! Great work, i vote you on the contest. Stay safe my friend!

    1 reply

    Wonderful lesson here. So sorry you had to find out the hard way but thank you for sharing! Your pen did turn out beautiful but I think the lesson is worth far more

    1 reply

    That's also why I changed the instructable to a safety issue. Maybe what I learned the hard way can help keep someone from the same experience.

    It is a beautiful pen. I agree it is not worth your life.

    1 reply