Posted on December 04 2012
The dust produced by machining parts and sanding the hull has potential health consequences that no one should ignore. Paying attention to a few simple, inexpensive precautions will ensure that the canoe building experience is as safe as it is satisfying.
The most important thing you will need is a good mask. There is a simple rule for determining when to use an air filter. If what you are doing produces visible dust or a smell, then wear a mask to filter the particles before they reach your lungs. Keep in mind that even the lovely scent of cedar is a natural fungicide and is potentially unhealthy for humans in large doses.
Many people are allergic to wood dust and some will develop serious respiratory problems as a result of prolonged exposure. If you have a family history of asthma or respiratory allergies (even if you yourself have no symptoms) or if you have a history of lung inflammations or pneumonia, be especially cautious. Wear the best protective equipment you can.
The absolute minimum is a good disposable dust mask. An activated-charcoal filter mask is an even better idea for those at risk. Even though you will be wearing a good mask, you should still provide effective cross-ventilation in your work area. Put a fan in the window and open the door, or sand outside in the breeze. Eliminate the problem at its source by rigging up a good shop vacuum or dust collector, with the hose positioned close to where you are sanding. (Check the motor periodically for overheating, because not all vacuums are made for such continuous duty.)
Not only is wood dust a respiratory hazard; it can also be a skin irritant for some It is wise therefore, to wear work gloves, long sleeves and also a hat. (If you have any doubt about this, try wearing a hat for an hour of sanding, then look at how dirty it has become - that could be your hair and scalp.) Cover shelves and other hard-to-clean areas with plastic film to make cleanup easier.
When working around power tools, it is always a good idea to wear eye protection as well as ear protection. This is especially important when you are doing a job like sanding the hull, because it is not just the intensity of the noise but the duration that is hard on your hearing.
Finally, before you begin sanding the hull, find yourself something firm to stand on. You still need to work directly above the hull, so you need to have good balance and enough height for ample visibility. And be sure the light is adequate so that you can see what you're doing.
This tip is from Ted Moores’ bestselling book, Canoecraft. Published by Firefly Books 2000, Canoecraft, first published in 1983, is known as the standard textbook on woodstrip epoxy construction. With over 200,000 copies sold, thousands of builders from around the world have discovered that their first canoe can exceed their greatest expectations by using Canoecraft to guide them. Completely revised and expanded in 2000, the book includes five new designs, a chapter on carving a paddle, building without staples and a series of insider tips.