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Those old kits can make you sick - Mansonia

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When I asked a question earlier I mentioned that the wood might be Manzonia (according to to the parts list in my older Artesania Latina Bluenose II kit) I received a message from John Garnish.  I think there may be others who should hear about this wood.


John wrote:

Your post rang a warning bell.  I am editor of the newsletter of our Society of Model Shipwrights, and one of our members recently sent methe attached note.  


Mansonia sounds pretty nasty - you may like to look for an alternative, which could also be easier to work.  Personally, I'm a great fan of apple and pear, but you could try cherry if you want some grain to show.


This note was was from John Wheeler a member of the Society of Model Shipwrights in UK 


( Edit 8:35PM:: I've posted the contents below as an alternative)

I hope this information is useful.




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Can't open the attached PDF file - get a message it is not available "to your account". Is this a protected file?


What's the issue with mansonia? Health issue? or ???  I've built a lot of Artesania Latina kits over the years and never encountered any obvious issues with any wood they supplied. But then I'm not sure which kits contained mansonia and which did not.

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It may not be a bad idea to use a dust mask when sanding ANY wood...just to be safe.  I have oft heard that ebony can be very toxic.  Personally, I have reactions to boxwood.  When I forget to use a mask I get all wheezy and have respiratory issues for a few days.

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32 minutes ago, Jack12477 said:

Can't open the attached PDF file - get a message it is not available "to your account". Is this a protected file?


What's the issue with mansonia? Health issue? or ???  I've built a lot of Artesania Latina kits over the years and never encountered any obvious issues with any wood they supplied. But then I'm not sure which kits contained mansonia and which did not.

 I've just pasted in the article so we don't have to figure out what's wrong.



Which wood is that? Are you sure? A warning tale by John Wheeler

Over the Christmas period I have re-started work on a project which has been on “hold” for a while – my Zuiderzee Botter. It was originally an Artisiana Latina kit, bought many years ago while on holiday in the Netherlands.

One of the problems of building from a kit – especially a kit where all of the instructions are in Dutch or German – is that you have to understand how the kit makers would approach the various challenges of creating their model. I went back to the parts list to find out which bit was which on the plans and found the parts numbers I was looking for – brilliant!

Next to the description I noticed a “material” column which had the word “Manzonia” next to my pieces. In fact, “Manzonia” was next to lots of pieces.

The word rang a bell. I looked at the pieces – the wood was gorgeous. I had bought and used wood just like it over many years. My first kit had called this wood ‘African Walnut’, but a quick look on the web told me that this wasn’t African Walnut – it was indeed Mansonia or Manzonia.

Mansonia (also called Bete or Ofun) is a dark greyish colour and is finely grained. It ‘works’ well and can be drilled and sanded to thin sections. It can be polished and looks very fine as masts and spars. Indeed, its colour and strength mean that it is almost designed for model making. But something still nagged – something that I had seen in the past...

I looked the wood up on the Internet Wood Database ( an invaluable resource). Under Allergies and Toxicity it said this:

Mansonia is on the short list as one of the worst wood species in terms of toxicity and commonness of allergic reactions. Mansonia has been reported as a sensitizer, and though the most usual reactions simply include eye and skin irritation, the wood dust can also produce a wide range of other effects, including nausea, giddiness, sneezing, headaches, nosebleeds, infected splinters, and asthma-like symptoms. Additionally, both the bark and heartwood have been found to contain cardiac poisons, which can cause heart disorders.

Now, I have asthma and I had found it really getting me down over the holiday. Indeed, instead of getting out and about, I had stayed indoors to do more modelling - which included cutting, and sanding pieces of mansonia. Even if there was only a slight chance that this dust had aggravated my condition, this was serious. I did not want a stay in hospital because of something I had done to myself...

I immediately removed all the mansonia scrap that I had built up and carefully wet-dusted and hoovered the entire room throwing away the hoover bag at the end.

I looked up modern kit contents to find out which woods are included today. No- one includes mansonia and it is difficult to buy it even over the internet. Presumably, no-one wants to take the risk of supplying it. But I know that I had bought extra pieces from a show only a couple of years ago – again wrongly labelled “Walnut”. (I also looked up other toxic

woods. Many of these (like Yew) are quite potent, but are unlikely to be used by model makers for various reasons.)

In other words, there are fairly large stocks of this wood still in circulation and if you have a personal stock of wood that you have collected for projects in the past, there is a good chance that you have some mansonia kicking around in there – especially because it has often been mis-labelled by suppliers.

While it can be worked safely, this does include precautions that most people would find impractical (facial respirators, professional quality dust removal, gloves, etc). It is interesting to note that the Health and Safety limits for hazardous wood dust is 5mg (5/1000ths of a gram) per cubic metre of air.

I am in the process of removing all mansonia from my model and rebuilding with other (safer) materials.

If you want to check whether you have mansonia in your stock, then the best guide is the colour. Mansonia is an even greyish colour with a close grain whereas walnut tends to be russet and brown with a greater variation of shades. (As always with natural products, there is variation and there are a range of types of walnut.)


There is a lot more information on toxic woods and how to deal with them at:




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I wonder if we can trust parts lists or not? I'm sure the printed instructions might not be revised even if the manufacturer sourced a different variety of wood for some parts.  The kit that initiated this thread listed the wood as Mazonia but when I look at the colour that the Wheeler doc shows I don't think my wood matches it.  However a google image search for mansonia wood shows examples that are in fact much redder.  


I'm going to take the safest way out and discard this bit of wood rather than keeping it around and wondering.


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Allergies and wood seem to go together.  The best advice was above:  Wear a face mask to filter the dust (paraphrased).  Ebony is nasty but boxwood has issues also.  Dust by itself is bad for your lungs.   If you've applied paint or a finish to the wood and then need to re-sand it.. definitely wear a mask.


Also.. any nut wood can induce serious problems if you are allergic to nuts.  Walnut comes to mind but there's others also.

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