I realize that inherent in working with wood is the killing of a part of the natural world that may be slow to return and if I become deeply concerned about this fact, I will have to find a new hobby. I hope that such a time does not come to pass or at least not any time soon. In part because I am concerned about legally and responsibly obtained wood, I am reluctant to buy from sellers outside of well-established and known vendors. I am highly unlikely, for example, to purchase any wood from auction sites, such as Ebay, because of uncertain sourcing and documentation, as well as the potential, even likelihood, of material being misidentified in order to achieve a higher selling price.
However, due to the commercial scarcity of some woods, resorting to auction sites such as Ebay or Etsy may be the only way to obtain some desirable domestic, or in some cases exotic imported, species that are not routinely commercially harvested. The potential risks of buying in these marketplaces have to be balanced against the desire to work with a specific species of wood. That is inherently an individual decision.
I also realize that many, if not most, wood workers do not have endangered species lists memorized, therefore I think it worthwhile and important to do even a small amount of research before purchasing any lumber, domestic as well as imported, to be certain of the potential impact you are having, even in a small way, on threatened or endangered populations. This information is easy to come by and takes only minutes to locate through any Internet search engine, including those you can access on your phone as you are standing in the lumber yard or store. Unfortunately, you simply cannot count on a vendor to tell you a product they are selling is endangered.
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 significant difficulties while working with Red Elm.
My Personal Experiences:
I’ve written about my experiences with Red Elm in the past (this post serves to bring the article into standard format) and I continue to feel the same way as I did then. Red Elm requires a great deal of work and effort for a fairly plain wood and I don’t think it is worth the effort with all the other really excellent and beautiful turning woods available on the market, especially some of the exotic imports. I made these bowls because I had the wood and I hate to just throw decent wood away but I would much rather have spent my time working with something more attractive and reasonable.
The two bowls measure 5″ x 3″.
All major cuts were made using the Easy Wood Tool system on my Robust American Beauty lathe, although I do use Robert Sorby bowl gouges for light final passes before sanding. Forward chucking was in a Nova Chuck, while reverse chucking was done using a Nova Chuck with Cole Jaws. Sanding was with Gold and Green Wave sanding discs from Packard Woodworks. Final finish is Odie’s Wood Wax.