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Cutting Oil Fumes

Should I be breathing them?

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James Hall 326/02/2021 20:44:00
51 forum posts
11 photos

Loadsa steel to remove machining a blank arbour to make an adaptor for a non-standard chuck. Cutting happily away with an indexable cutter amidst great clouds of fumes from hot cutting oil in a not-too-well-ventilated workshop. Now I love the smell of hot cutting oil, second only to that wonderful combination of hot oil, coal smoke and steam from a loco, but common sense says it's probably bad to be breathing it.

Thoughts or advice please - a couple of centuries of machine tools must have come up with some evidence on this.

Cheered up by nice new Tshirt from No.1 son for my 72nd Birthday.img_0962.jpg

not done it yet26/02/2021 20:48:47
6445 forum posts
20 photos

Thoughts: not good to be inhaling any smoke

Advice: improve ventilation? Cut dry? Flood cooling?

The T- shirt: I LIKE it.🙂

jon hill 326/02/2021 21:30:22
106 forum posts
18 photos

Ive been thinking about the same problem myself, although I where a p3 gas and fume respirator as a temporary stop gap.

Long term I am considering building an extraction hood, perhaps using a bathroom condensation fan and pipe out the window or perhaps small chimney. Not sure what the neighbours would think with burnt engine oil smoke blowing about!

Jeff Dayman26/02/2021 22:49:46
2189 forum posts
45 photos

An extractor fan as mentioned is a good idea. I have a reclaimed from scrap bath extractor fan and ducting to a window in the downstairs workshop, and it works well to keep cutting oil smoke or solvent fumes at bay.

Great T shirt! where did No 1 son find that?

Denis O'Kane26/02/2021 23:06:45
4 forum posts

At my age I don't worry about it.

With traffic fumes etc!

jimmy b27/02/2021 04:29:39
742 forum posts
42 photos

I bought a decent bathroom extractor and use that when using a lot of cutting oil, works a treat!


Thor 🇳🇴27/02/2021 05:13:37
1438 forum posts
41 photos

Inhaling cutting oil fumes is not a good idea, an extractor fan as suggested by others is a good idea. I usually cut dry when using carbide tipped tools, except may be for the finishing cut or when cutting difficult materials.


Colin Whittaker27/02/2021 07:02:09
128 forum posts
16 photos

Life expectancy of retired professional engineers by discipline used to show that chemical engineers had the earliest deaths presumably due (in the old days) to the use of the nose for chemical identification.


Speedy Builder527/02/2021 07:02:10
2454 forum posts
196 photos

As an apprentice at Weybridge, we used to pass through the heavy machine shop (Undercarridges and engine beams etc) on our way up to the canteen - loved the smell of that thick brown neat oil the food wasn't too bad either!

Hopper27/02/2021 08:35:55
5505 forum posts
137 photos

No need to use cutting oil with carbide tooling in a home workshop setting. If the swarf is coming off blue, it's all good. Too many red sparks flying about mean you could slow the rpm down a bit to preserve tool edge life. I avoid the stinky stuff for all except screwcutting and parting off, both of which I do with HSS. With carbide I would not bother there either.

Dont know of any specific health risk in cutting oil fumes but in an unventilated workshop I would give it a miss on general principle and the above lack of necessity -- and the pong.

Chris Evans 627/02/2021 09:08:49
1978 forum posts

As a young toolmaker I spent years operating a "Keller" copy milling machine. The cutting oil used was a mixture of Lard Oil and Paraffin. (lard oil is tallow based)

I survived but given that any fumes or dust are an irritant I try to avoid them.

fizzy27/02/2021 09:51:09
1827 forum posts
120 photos

I recently had a very bad experience with cutting fumes. Having run out of my usual parafin based mix for milling ali I resorted to using what I had to hand, Kerosene (It stopped the cutter from clogging-just about). There was a lot to mill and there was a lot of smoke. After about half an hour I realised that I could no longer concentrate and had a bad headache. I got out the workshp - felt terrible. An hour later was back to normal. Lesson learned, quite scary at the time though.

Tony Pratt 127/02/2021 10:26:58
1767 forum posts
10 photos

Just ventilate.


SillyOldDuffer27/02/2021 10:36:26
7714 forum posts
1705 photos

Depends on how concentrated the fumes are, how long you breath them, and what your personal sensitivity is. Sensitivity is a tricky one because Mr Delicate has no problem because he feels ill quickly and runs away, while Mr Insensitive feels fine and gets Emphysema shortly after retiring.

Health issues are unlikely in a well ventilated home workshop because exposure to fumes is occasional and brief. But anyone regularly breathing in lots of smoke, fumes or exhaust gases should take steps to reduce the risk. Ventilate and extract mainly, maybe a mask.

Smokers should be aware that breathing fumes through a lit cigarette massively multiplies the risks. It's because passing fumes through a flame breaks them down chemically, not necessarily for the better! Before Health and Safety Phosgene poisoning was surprisingly common because sucking the fumes from a common degreaser (Carbon Tetrachloride) through a fag converts it into an exceptionally toxic poison.


Nigel McBurney 127/02/2021 11:16:24
947 forum posts
3 photos

Why use cutting oil,lot less problems with soluble oil, years ago there were where i once worked over a hundred auto lathes going llke mad all day,there was no real objectional smell or much in the way of fumes,as the lubrication was cutting oil and lots of it in full flood and did not get hot ,plus very little if any carbide in those days.Its not a good idea to use cutting oil in small quantities on red hot chips.

Howard Lewis27/02/2021 13:08:14
5562 forum posts
13 photos

With Carbide, run dry, The tip should be quite happy until the chips come off red.

Either that or use flood coolant. Intermittent coolant supply can lead to cracking of the edge.

In general, don't inhale the fumes, and ventilate the shop, ideally with a fan to promote airv movement.

That's my 2 pennorth


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