Overcoming the cold workshop.
QMy garage workshop does not include a significant heat source or a dust-collection system. So it’s cold much of the year, and what little heat the shop does hold dissipates quickly when I open the overhead door to clear the air. What tips can you offer for working in a cold workshop?
ÑBrian Gard, Jeannette, Pa.
AUntil the budget allows for a furnace, Brian, try these tips for improving your comfort, safety, and woodworking results:
Place anti-fatigue mats where you stand frequently. They provide insulation from cold concrete, as well as cushion.
A heated jacket makes a lot of sense if your cordless-tool platform includes one. (Most “professional” brands do.) And wear thin, pliable work gloves with rubberized surfaces for improved grip. Just remember to avoid wearing gloves or bulky clothing when using machinery that could grab them.
Store glues and finishes in a warm environment until you need them. Though best applied at room temperatures, glues and finishes can be used in cold temperatures above freezing when you play it smart. (More on that in the next two tips.)
Before gluing boards, it helps to warm them. And, if possible, bring the clamped assembly into a warm space for faster drying.
Adding the appropriate thinner to cold, oil-based finishes can help them flow better. And remember, cooler temperatures drastically increase drying times. Finishes that tend to dry faster at any temperature include wiping varnish, shellac, and spray lacquer. (Lacquer will dry cloudy if it’s too cold, however.) For any finish, a little air circulation will speed drying, even in the cold.
When in doubt, try the finishing method on test pieces before applying finish to your project. If you can’t obtain satisfactory results on the test pieces, do the finishing inside your house using a product, such as shellac or a water-based finish, that doesn’t put noxious fumes into the air.
Heating a space can cause condensation on cold surfaces, and unvented portable propane and kerosene heaters contribute moisture (and dangerous carbon monoxide) to any environment. So keep the tops of cast-iron machines coated with a good protectant. (We like Boeshield T-9.)
Adding insulation and sealing air leaks will improve the effectiveness of a small space heater. Just a few added degrees can greatly enhance your comfort and results.
Plastic electrical cords become stiff in cold weather, so choose portable power tools with pliable rubber cords.
Cold can sap concentration and decrease finger sensitivity, so shorten your work sessions. Make it a habit to regularly warm up, grab a hot drink, and enjoy the journey!
Have a question? Drop us an e-mail. askwood@ woodmagazine.com