This is getting old

A few weeks ago the excessive cold this winter was annoying. Now, it has become positively disruptive to working in the shop.

At the beginning of the month I whined about the Polar Vortex and its freezing effects. Back then, the weather guys kept calling it a cold snap, and continue to do so. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the word “snap” describe something that happens fast and is then gone? Yeah, I thought so.

Here we are three weeks later and where I live we’re still having nights with temperatures dropping below zero. We had a “warm up” yesterday (weatherman’s word, not mine) with a balmy 19 degrees. I noted in that earlier blog that my shop had dropped to a new all-time low of 33.6 degrees. Not bad considering the outside temp was minus 16. But the continued day-after-day cold has made the average ambient shop temperature more around 30. I have a small shop heater, but it can’t handle that. Worse, my fingers just won’t work right in cold, which forces me to work very slowly and cautiously.

I’ve been compensating as best I can. Since my shop typically never gets below the low 40s, I leave glues and finishing stuff out there year-round, but this winter I’ve been forced to move much of those supplies into the house. A major finishing project I had to do was impossible in the shop, so I not only brought the piece inside to warm it up, I ended up staining and finishing the entire thing on my dining room table while my wife was at work. (Don’t tell her.)

I’m still getting some work done out there but it’s not easy. Without warming things up a bit first – a process that, as cold as it is, takes my little heater long time – machines work weird. Drive belts are stiff, grease in bearings and gears is thick and sluggish, and the fluorescent lights are struggling. The gearing was so stiff on my band saw’s height adjustment that I had to warm it up with my wife’s hairdryer to get it to move properly. (Don’t tell her.)

Fortunately, this Sunday is Groundhog Day. With luck, that furry rodent will bring us all some good news and we can begin our steep climb out of the worst workshop winter I can recall. Hopefully before my wife notices her hairdryer is gone.

A.J.

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