Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 11:14 UK

Carpenter develops wood allergy

Dan Hill
Dan Hill worked as an investment banker for nearly eight years.

A banker quit his 80,000 a year job to live his dream of being a carpenter - only to discover he has developed an allergy to wood.

Swansea-based Dan Hill, 32, swapped his City career at an investment bank in London for a perfect country life-style making exclusive wooden furniture.

But just weeks into his new vocation, Mr Hill was covered in a red, itchy rash and his eyes were streaming.

Doctors said he was suffering a rare allergy to dust from the wood shavings.

Mr Hill said: "I was gutted. All my friends thought I was mad giving up my city job and I felt really silly.

"After all I had given up everything to become a carpenter I find out I'm allergic to wood.

"I decided I wanted to do something creative rather than just sitting behind a desk - something more worthwhile with my life.

I was quite heartbroken and dismayed when I realised I had an allergic reaction to the wood
Dan Hill

"I had been fine just pottering around on my own but it all started to go wrong when I was doing it all day.

"I making my first professional piece - a workbench for myself - out of African hardwood when I started to notice this red rash all over my hands and arms.

"My eyes stung all the time and were really sore. They were always red and puffed up and it was really unpleasant.

"I was quite heartbroken and dismayed when I realised I had an allergic reaction to the wood."

But Mr Hill refused to return to London where he had worked as an investment banker for UBS for nearly eight years.

'Not that common'

He stayed in Bideford, Devon, learning his craft with an experience carpentry tutor - trying to cover-up with gloves, face mask and cream to stop the allergy.

He said: "I wasn't going to give up - I had already committed myself to carpentry - so I continue working despite the allergic reaction. But it could be pretty miserable."

Then Mr Hill, who was born on the Gower, Swansea, started using Welsh oak wood instead of African hardwoods - and realised it was one type of wood he isn't allergic to.

Civil engineering graduate Mr Hill decided to move to Mumbles, Swansea, to set up his own workshop - and getting plenty of supplies of Welsh oak to carry on with his carpentry dream.

He said: "I realised it was the African hardwood that was causing the problem but now I'm fine with the oak."

Mr Hill is now working brother Steve, 29, in their own company NewRedFurniture - with no regrets.

William Smith, of the Allergy Test Centre in Henley on Thames, said: "It's not unheard of for people to be allergic to just one type of wood but it's not that common.

"Most of the wood allergy cases we treat here are caused by the dust from sanding or carving wood."

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