In addition, the long-term negative effects of exposure to sawdust of any species are well documented.
It is important to remember that although many people may, or may not, be sensitive to any given wood, the only experience that truly counts is your own, so use reported side effects as guidance but not as a substitute for cautious and safe practices.
Appropriate protective equipment is therefore always recommended when working with this, or any other, wood, exotic or domestic, unless you have worked with the species before and are certain you are not sensitive to it.
Complete information about health hazards associated with a wide variety of exotic hardwoods is available from The Wood Database. Additional information about how to best use a dust collection system and personal protective equipment, such as respirators, can also be found through this excellent and comprehensive resource.
Fortunately, I experienced no negative side effects when working with Magnolia.
My Personal Experiences
In general, I find Magnolia to be a very easy wood to work with. The wood is quite soft and therefore it cuts incredibly easily although you should expect fuzzy surfaces whenever you work with a wood this soft. I do find that it is relatively easy to achieve quite smooth edges by the careful use of a sharp bowl gouge for the final cuts.
I find the distinct growth rings add a bit of interest to a otherwise fairly pale and potentially uninteresting wood. In all the pieces I have worked with I have found some degree of spalting or other discoloration and my belief is that this is essentially impossible to avoid with a wood this soft and prone to rot and decay.
I wouldn’t attempt to store Magnolia, even if well waxed, for a long period of drying time. Instead, I would green turn it and then allow the rough turned forms to season in whatever manner you prefer. I have even found success with simply sealing rough turned blanks in a paper bag with their own shavings and no further treatment. This soft wood will dry quickly and in my experience at least with little deformation and no checking. But every piece of wood is different and my experiences are no guarantee of your success or equivalent experience.
I think it is safe to say that I will work with Magnolia again because despite its relatively plain appearance, it is so easy to work with, it is very forgiving, it dries easily, and it is a traditional symbol of the southern United States. I intend to take advantage of my relatively easy and affordable access to this wood before I relocate to the western United States in the next few years.
As always, I wish all my readers a great experience in whatever their wood working interests happen to be and to those who like working with lathes especially, do a good turn today!