Home Contact Mandolin Health Hazards Hospital Finish



   The health hazards when repairing or restoring mandolins are not too grave, but nevertheless shoulod not be ignored. It is important to be aware of them a most can be quite simply reduced or avoided with a little fore-thought.

   Dust: probably the most common problem. Whenever sanding occurs, there will be dust which is not healthy to inhale. When sanding, I always wear a mask. This problem is exaccerbated by the use of power tools. Always use the dust collection systems; this will reduce the free dust, but the very act of power sanding will spread much more fine dust than hand-sanding, even with its collection system working.

   Noise: only a problem if you use power tools. But the noise of high speed routers, drills, band-saws and sanders can be damaging to the ears over time. When using these kinds of machines, I always wear ear-defenders.

   Old Finishes: many of the old instrument finishes are made up of complex and often dangerous chemical substances. It is not enough to take precautions when applying varnishes and so forth, sanding off these old finishes is also potentially dangerous. Besides wearing an apron, gloves and a mask, I always try and do this job outside. I really don't want the stuff circulating in the dust in my workshop!

   Solvents: this is the biggest area of concern, and the reason why water-based finishes have been developed.Mineral spirits, methylene chloride, various alcohols, lacquer solvents and acetone are all common in finishes. Some are more hazardous, methanol for example, but all enter the body through lungs or skin. For this reason it is VERY IMPORTANT to work in an airy environment and wear a mask. A well-fitting, organic-vapour, cartridge-style mask is recommended and wear gloves.

   Vapours: unless you work area is well-ventilated, you risk the build up of toxic vapours causing health and fire hazards. Keep as little of the finishing material as you can in the workshop, and what there is should be in a metal cabinet. The idea situation is to have a ventilation system that draws vapourous air out..... but failing this, open the door or window often.

  Rags; it came as a surprise to me, but apparently, and its well documented, oily rags can spontaneously combust starting a fire. The chemical reaction that causes the oil to cure will produce enough heat to start a fire. For this reason I always let my wiping oil rags 'go off' overnight, flat, on a non-flammable surface, before throwing them away. DO NOT roll them up wet and throw them in the bin with dust, paper and wood-shavings!!

   Common sense: listen to your body! If you begin to feel dizzy, have a head-ache or feel nauseous, stop what you are doing and go and get some air. While you are out try and work out what you did wrong and fix it when you go back. These hazards are only dangerous if you let them be!