CA Glue and “Smoke” Alarms

In last issue’s eZine, a woodworker asked “Why Did CA Glue Set Off My Smoke Alarm?” Insight on that issue came from another reader who – not coincidentally – works in the smoke and fire alarms industry.

“I work in the electronic fire and security industry and can shed more light on the reader’s question. Smoke detectors, for home use, come in two forms: photoelectric and ionization. Most installed are ionization devices (primarily because they are cheap to build) and, in non-tech jargon, monitor air for ‘combustible particles’ or particles in the air that can support combustion. Photoelectric types monitor for ‘obscuration’ or smoke-like conditions in the air.

“An open glue container, such as CA glue, along with air movement – such as a woodworker moving around the project with clamps or tools – will promote the glue particles into the air, which would be detected by the ionization detector.

“Needless to say, no ‘smoke detector’ type device is a good choice for a woodshop. This should be replaced with a heat sensing detector to prevent future alarms.” – Lee Bernardo

We also heard from another reader who had an alarming experience with something he wouldn’t have originally put in that category. – Editor

“I was shocked to find that soft, punky wood will also generate clouds of toxic white smoke when mixed with CA glue. Fortunately, I was in an open garage with the fan running and had a chance to get away from the fumes. I had never encountered this problem before.” – Ed Amsbury

Other woodworkers have encountered this phenomenon as well; when Michael Dresdner addressed it in the Q&A section of a previous print issue of Woodworker’s Journal, here’s what he had to say: “Fumes are quite common with all brands of cyanoacrylate and can be triggered by several things. Fortunately, the fumes, like those from cut onions, are annoying and irritating to mucous membranes but not particularly harmful. In fact, they become inert once reacted with tears or saliva. “ – Editor

Thoughts on Composite Lumber

Another reader had some further insight on the discussion, also in last issue’s Questions and Answers section, about using “Composite Lumber for Woodworking Projects.” – Editor

“Trex and other brands of composite material are a mix of primarily polyethylene waste and wood waste extruded into its final form. PE and close cousin PP family of plastics are extremely hard to bond. Typically, they’re welded together with melted plastic. I’m not sure polyurethane adhesive would give acceptable bond unless there is a lot of contact area. The scuffing for epoxy is, as mentioned, needed to give tooth for a mechanical bond since you’re not going to get a chemical bond to PE. The flame treatment is a poor man’s plasma treatment to activate the surface and change its surface tension. The flame or plasma isn’t to melt or heat the surface, so keep the flame moving. Also, it’s a temporary effect, so if it’s been more than, say, 30 minutes, retreat it before bonding.

“Since it’s extruded, mixing and melting the PE and wood waste, then pushing it out of a die in the final cross-section shape, a thicker stock is going to be a lot more expensive. Not just more material, but the extrusion rate (feet per hour) is going to be a lot slower (more expensive) to get the heat out of the thicker section.

“As for epoxy and bonding real wood, a sanded surface for tooth wetting both pieces with epoxy to get some penetration warm (80deg) mix will help thin it out. Then, mix a filler like wood flour (not sawdust; more like dust from your sander) to thicken the remaining epoxy.  Apply to one side of the joint, then clamp and allow to cure. This will give you the strongest joint. Don’t clamp with excessive force. I’d probably shoot an email to West, MAS, System3, etc. and ask them if this would be a good approach for flexy substrate like Trex if you’re looking for a structural bond.” – Carl

A Lucky Reminder

In response to the question in Rob’s editorial about woodworkers’ lucky traditions, we heard this story. – Editor

“I love your eZine and always enjoy marveling at some of the projects shown in the readers gallery. I have a very lucky tradition. Years ago, I was using a Triton table saw (which has a regular circular saw clamped upside-down under the table). The saw had a Velcro® strap around the trigger to allow the saw to be turned on via a remote switch. Well, I needed to do some freehand cuts, so I took the saw out of the table, and while balancing the saw on my thigh (blade down), I plugged it in. I was wearing a pair of loose canvas shorts with my leather key wallet and a hanky in my pocket. he saw fired and instantly cut through my shorts. Luckily it grabbed my hanky, which caught on my keys, which, in turn, jammed the blade before any damage was done to my leg. Needless to say, I wore those ‘Lucky’ shorts for years to come, complete with gaping hole where the pocket used to be. Every time someone asked me why I wore those shorts when working in my shop, I always replied that they made me think twice before doing anything stupid.” – Michael Potter

Still More on Food Bottles

And, this reader had a non-food bottle solution in relation to a previous discussion on homemade glue bottles. – Editor

“My personal favorites, in order, are hair dye bottles and dish soap bottles. Neither are food, or would be mistaken for food easily.” Darwin Feakes

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