1. Check for Toxicity
Don't burn poisonous woods!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I've seen people talking about wanting to burn oleander.
That's a poisonous wood.
When you burn it, oleander puts out toxic fumes just like poison ivy does when you burn it.
Nooooo thank you!
You can check wood toxicity charts and tables online.
Most of those charts don't show whether a certain wood is safe to burn. But they WILL tell you if the wood is poisonous or if the dust from sanding is toxic.
And those are great guidelines to follow.
Here's a chart on wood toxicity and allergens that I found helpful.
Ask the search engines...
Ask your favorite search engine, "Is it safe to burn [this] wood?" or, "Is [this] wood toxic?" and just replace [this] with the wood you are considering.
I found it interesting that when I searched about maple, I got hits saying it's toxic to horses... but nothing about it being toxic to humans.
(By the way, maple is definitely on my list of the best wood for woodburning. I just wanted to see what came back when I searched it.)
Usually this kind of search brings up topics about what is safe to burn in your fireplace or firepit.
As a general guide, if it's safe for the fireplace or firepit, it's generally safe for your studio.
But that leads me to the exception...
Watch yourself for reactions
I know pyros who are allergic to pine. Yes, common pine (which is a royal pain to burn if you ask me, but I still use it from time to time).
I've heard horror stories about people who had terrible reactions to sappy woods being burned.
Watch for headaches.
Watch for rashes.
Watch for allergic reactions or any other sign that you might have a sensitivity to whatever it is that you are burning.
Stop immediately if you notice any of those things.
No hobby is worth sacrificing your health.
What if you don't know what kind of wood it is and can't search for it?
Mmm that makes things a bit more tricky.
Let's say you come across a downed tree in the neighborhood or a random piece of wood in your grandmother's craft collection.
How do you know what kind of wood it is?
If you can ask a wood expert. That could be helpful...
...but how many of us know a wood expert??
Personally when I come across a piece of wood that I want to burn and I don't know what it is, I simply test it out.
Before I burn, I look for signs of chemical treatments or finishes.
As I burn, I watch myself for allergic reactions, headaches, or other signs that I'm sensitive to it.
When it comes down to it, YOU have to use your best judgement.