Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Walnut, Heat, and Allergies.

The boys are back in daycare which gets me back into my "shop". When I say my "shop" I'm really referring to the back wall of my garage, unconditioned, unheated, and until quite recently completely free of wasps. I started this week carving through the large batch of great walnut I received from Reggie Power who runs a small mill just outside Columbia. He exchanged 30 odd board feet of walnut for the promise of a dough bowl carved from said wood. I haven't decided which piece to declare his but needless to say it will be the finest bowl from the batch.

The heat Monday and Tuesday in the shop has been almost unbearable. It's been riding in the mid nineties outside so you can imagine what it's been like inside. Anyway I started to get a rash on my arms on Monday which got significantly worse on Tuesday after a few minutes carving. With a little research through the power of the Internet I found that a significant portion of the population can have allergies to walnut dust and shavings. This didn't seem likely to be the solution to the situation as I've never had an allergy in my life. Yet there it was on my arms itching an burning. Well this really was a bummer, here I am with a huge dose of walnut to carve and I get allergic to it! Not only could this be a waste of wood I just don't have the capital in the business accounts right now to replace this amount of wood with anything comparable in another species. And that's even if I could get access to any wood in the right dimensions (a whole blog post could be written on this struggle).
The more I though about this the less sense it made. I've carved 6 walnut bowls previous to this batch without any problems. So while checking out at The Do It Center, where I'd gone to get some new dust masks, I mentioned my problem to them. They've always seemed like knowledgeable, helpful guys and I think yet again they've pulled through for me. They said that walnut contains acids and tannins that can be activated by heat and sweat when they come in contact with sweaty skin. There we go, I have my answer, and as soon as it cools down some I should be able to go right back at the walnut. The problem now is that I have no other wood ready to carve. I'm out of the shop for the remainder of the week anyway, I have no plans to aggravate this rash any further especially considering I woke up at 5am this morning with itching and burning arms. Two coats of calamine lotion and it's still burning.

On to the bowls!
This oak bowl measures 9.5" by 5.75" by 2.33" deep. It's from a piece of scrap quarter sawn oak that I had essentially discarded but decided to carve for no apparent reason. I must say that I'm delight I did as the picture shows the quarter sawn nature of the oak really adds some nice detail to the bowl (sold).

This walnut bowl is one I'm considering for Reggie. Its 17" long 6.5" wide and 2.5" deep. (Bluestem)

This is the bowl that first produced the offending rash, 17.5" long by 7.25" wide by 2.5" deep. (bluestem)

This was the last bowl made this week and may be the last walnut bowl till the fall. 16" by 7" by 2.5" (For Reggie)

These bowls have been oiled with organic tung oil and will be ready for sale in about 4 weeks. They'll either be up on or in one of the local craft stores.