Baby it's cold outside!
I live in New England and it’s that time of year most of us hate – winter. Temperatures are falling, heating bills are rising, and if you are like me shop time becomes quite difficult. My shop is an unheated, un-insulated detached garage. That makes woodworking a big challenge 5 months out of the year. I have a lot to do and can’t afford to take 5 months off, so I have to get creative if I want to get it done. In order to prep my shop and my projects for winter work, I like to do the following:
1 – Bring all the glue and finish inside before freezing weather takes its grip. The first time your freeze your glue or your cans of finish, they need to go to the trash. That can be costly.
2 – Get your shop clean and organized. It’s going to be cold out and you are going to be cold. Optimize your time working instead of avoiding clutter and searching for tools.
3- Be prepared to glue inside. I set up a table in my basement where I can do my glue-ups. Glue just isn’t going to bond adequately in cold weather. Additionally, make sure you allow your pieces to acclimate from the cold before you start smearing glue on them.
4 – Be safe. Long sleeves and power tools do not mix. Bulky jackets, gloves, and power tools spell a quick trip to the ER. I try to plan the bulk of my power tool operation around the weather. There are a few days a week where I can bare being in short sleeves long enough to get the bulk of the job done, and throw on some layers when I am doing other tasks such as layout, measuring and hand tool work. In addition, be careful using tools that create a lot of vibration (sanding, jigsaws etc.). The colder it gets the more prone to repetitive stress injuries you can become.
5 – Plan accordingly. Because my basement isn’t well ventilated, I don’t have a great place to apply finishes. I try to focus on small pieces where the amount of finish applied isn’t going to create a lot of fumes, or I focus on shop fixtures. My plans for this winter are to create a workbench, some shop cabinetry, and maybe a veneer/marquetry press. Since I am worried more about protection than appearance, I will apply a natural oil finish outside. If any touch-up is needed, I can do so in the warmer months.
Don’t let old man winter get you down! Sure, spending a solid weekend out in the shop is still a few months out, but there is plenty one can do. The constant parade of pieces and clamps from the shop to the basement and vice versa is a hassle, but it sure is better than covering the cast iron, locking the doors, and calling it a season.
If you have any other tips, feel free to leave them in the comments!