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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

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