In the heat of the moment

This is the hottest, most humid summer I can remember in years. The relentless heat this summer has affected my woodworking, and probably yours, too.

As you may know from my blogs last winter, I bought and installed a gas heater in my shop, a converted two-car garage. I work in shirtsleeve comfort most of the time, but this heat wave has been exceptional. Hereís how Iíve been coping, or trying to anyway.

My shop is off the kitchen, with a small laundry room connecting the two. Iíve been leaving the kitchen and shop doors open, and have placed my shop floor fan in the laundry, directing cool house air into the shop. This has helped to mitigate the heat somewhat, keeping the shop about five degrees below outside temperature. Further, since Iím blowing house air into the shop, itís somewhat less humid, which also helps. (Of course, this also means an increase of woodworking dust in the house but that canít be helped.)

But when itís in the mid to upper nineties outside, that five degrees still means itís near 90 in the shop on some days. Iíve got rusty handprints on every cast iron tool. Sweat drops have literally raised the grain on some of the stuff Iíve been working on, and sanding dust sticks to sweaty skin like dry rub on a barbecued chicken. Everything in the shop has that summer-camp stickiness to it. The humidity is affecting anything that needs to dry properly. And itís been so uncomfortably hot that Iíve started making errors in my work. Still, Iím up against a book deadline, so work out there I must.

The access to our attic is in my shop ceiling, so at night Iíve been pulling down the attic steps, allowing the heat buildup of the day to rise up and out of the shop a bit. Of course, since the concrete floor and the bricks on the outside of the house hold heat well into the night, it helps only a little Ė maybe a couple of degrees by morning Ė but itís still better.

So how are you handling this unusually brutal summer? You guys with air-conditioned shops have it made, but what about the rest of you?

Let all of us know what youíre doing to make the hottest summer in decades a bit easier to take in the shop.

Till next time,

A.J.

COMMENTS

  1. Chris wrote:

    Being in central Texas, I know what hot is… my shop has very high ceilings, and garage doors in front and in back… open them all, turn on all my fans… and I still sweat.

  2. Don wrote:

    I’m in the northeast corner of WA state – and we live in the woods (real forest – not concrete jungle). We get into the low to mid 90′s during the day and the mid 50′s at night. Around 8pm each evening we open up the windows on both ends of the shop. We put fans exhausting air out the windows at one end and turn them on med. setting. By morning the shop is around 65 degrees. The other thing is our shop was built using SIP’s – structured insulated panels. The eve walls, 4.5″ thick, are R-30. The gable walls , 6″ thick, are R-36. The ceiling has 24″ of insulation making it around R-50. The building is extremely air tight making for maximum daytime temps in the shop of about 75 degrees. We also have a metal roof which reflects a LOT of the sun shine away. Many people have commented that the shop feels like it’s air conditioned – which it is not.

    In winter I use radiant floor heating and keep the shop at a comfortable 68 degrees with a monthly electric bill of about $160. That includes running all my tools and heating the building.

  3. Christopher Cozad wrote:

    I, too, have re-purposed my 2-car garage for a higher aspiration than housing automobiles and lawn tools. Applying additional insulation to the overhead doors helped to control the ambient temperature, but did nothing to prevent the humidity from re-coloring my polished cast-iron surfaces a lovely shade of orange, re-shaping once straight boards into pretty curves, and shortening my work window to hours I was certain would aggravate my neighbors. A trip to the local home center and an afternoon of hot, sweaty work changed all that. I invested in a portable air conditioner (the type that comes with a flimsy duct intended to vent hot air out a window). I drilled a hole through my garage wall near the ground to the outdoors and vented the air conditioner via a combination of plumbing and dryer vent parts. After wrapping the supplied flimsy duct with insulation and duct tape and running a clear tubing from the moisture drain plug to the out of doors I discovered, much to my amazement, that I a, able to achieve 70 degrees on all but the hottest, muggiest of days. And all for less than $500! My electric bill went up a nominal amount, but I would gladly pay more for the benefits I have realized.

  4. Anthony Hillman wrote:

    Since I am a woodcarver (decoys mostly, so my work isn’t large very often), I take stuff to the beach to hand carve and sand. No pun intended. Not if the humidity is high. This has been a slow summer anyway….. Early morning,mwhen my shop is cool, I bandsaw out any birds that are required, roughing out the bodies with a hatchet. I always have a number of projects in various stages so I can carry something into the house to work on. No heavy work there, just the all important details and step outside to hand sand once in a while. My main material is Atlantic White Cedar, so high humidity really makes the wood cut and sand differently. If night time temps are above 72 with high humidity, I turn on the air and work in the house as much as possible.

  5. Gene Kelly wrote:

    Here in Sacramento, California, our typical Summertime temperatures are consistently in the mid 90′s to 100 and occasionally up to 110 degrees. However, we are having mostly Springtime weather, mid 80′s to mid 90′s. That along with our typical 40 percent humidity. Usually in the middle of August I have a difficult time even stepping into my shop but this year it is a pleasure to work out there.

    I am actually not trying to rub salt in your wounds, I am only pointing out the unusual weather patterns that we are all experiencing this year.

  6. Keith July wrote:

    I heard on the news this morning that this is the hottest summer Michigan has ever had, at least since they started keeping track, back in the late 1800′s.
    My work schedule has changed, I’m doing the bulk of the shop work in the early morning and after dinner. There’s always plenty of office work so I can stay busy during the heat of the day. I also add a few days to my delivery dates. It seems as the days get hotter the work goes slower.
    I considered getting a refrigerator for the shop.You know the ones that have two huge doors and a jumbo freezer. Not for drinks but to have a place to sit and cool off when the sawdust gets so thick on my arms that I can’t bend my elbows.
    Keith

  7. Dan Walters wrote:

    Back when I lived in the south, we had an attic fan. This was about 48 inches in diameter and mounted in the ceiling. It drew the air from the house and blew it out the attic vents. I suspect that this would work in your shop.

  8. PutnamEco wrote:

    When I’m relegated to working in the shop in this heat, I start before sunrise to take advantage of the cool morning air and try to finish my morning by about 10 or 11. My work area becomes unbearable then. I try to keep myself busy until about 4:30-5 until the heat of the day passes and then continue my work until about 9.

  9. d scott wrote:

    If you have a window in your shop you can buy a ac/heat unit to help.

  10. Joseph Ransmeier wrote:

    Hi A.J.,
    It’s been really hot here in Asheville, NC as well. Shop temperatures have been in the high 80′s and we’ve even seen 90 or 91 a couple of times. I have a small air conditioner in the office which really helps for doing paperwork or checking something on the computer, but the shop has been just plain hot. We run an exhaust fan in a window continually and have an evaporative cooler that helps some. It doesn’t appreciably cool the shop temperature, but it sure feels cooler if you’re in the air stream from it. You have to fill it up with water daily, but it’s probably our greatest help. Lately one of my shop mates has been putting our large floor fan by the front door and blowing cool morning air in untill it gets hot outside. Too bad we can’t store up some of this heat for Fall & Winter!
    Best wishes, Joseph

  11. John Eugster wrote:

    Funny that this would be your subject and it came today! Here in Las Vegas we’ve hit that monsoon season just the past couple of days and even though it won’t last, when it’s 105 and 45% humidity in my uncooled shop it’s downright miserable. The problem I had today is with the wood swelling up due to the moisture. I’m currently working on a couple of bar stools, angled mortise and tenon joints and all. I fit everything last week and today wanted to assemble each stool so I could do some accurate measurement for the grid work and foot rest. All of the joints that fit so well then had to be forced — hated that! I thought of trimming them to fit but with my luck, when I assemble the stools next week the humidity will be back to 7-8% and they’d fall out! Know what you mean though about having to wipe off the sweat and oil/wax things to keep them from rusting! I don’t have any type of cooling or fan in my shop. No room for it and find the blowing dust get’s somewhat annoying. In the winter I need to use a propane heater when doing glue ups. All in all, I find I just put up with it, complain about one extreme or the other and get as much enjoyment out of my woodworking as possible. Being a one man shop in a slow economy means I can go inside to do paperwork once the temps top around 100+.

  12. Rich Farwell wrote:

    Well, gosh. Not sure how to say this, but I don’t think my shop gets over 65deg any day of the year. I wear flannel shirts and a down vest to work almost every day. In the winter it’s in the 50s.

    I’m on the central coast of California. Usually there’s a marine layer (fog) that blocks the sun 1/2 of the day during the summer. I know I shouldn’t complain, but I do — wishing it would warm up just a little bit.

    Of course, if I wanted to sweat as you are, I could go 17miles inland where the average summer temp is in the 80s-90s.

    Actually, I heard that in this area, this has been one of the coldest summers on record.

  13. mark fields wrote:

    I am one of the lucky ones with a separate building for my shop; however, my room air-conditioner is taking a beating, and, although the humidity factor is way lower than some other shops, it’s still so hot that it has a hard time keeping up. I’m very glad that when my shop was converted, I decided to insulate heavily. Still the conditions I have are preferable to a non-airconditioned, “camp” stickiness that you described. I do know it keeps mistakes coming. Good luck and remember, it’ll be fall soon. Mark

  14. Bob wrote:

    Dust Collection – Exhaust units/fans for the dust… Today that is a must for a number of reasons. Continous Air Movement is mantatory. [Fans Everyhere] Moisture can’t be helped. Add a dehumidifier at night to dry out the room and contents. Never run it with airborn dust, it can ruin a dehumidifier quickly.

    Take 15 minute breaks for liquids, every 45 minutes works at 90′F and above….it reduces the amount of sweating and gives you time to re-think a project under less stress. Business is up and folks want it done yesterday….

    Remember to change that T-shirt every so often. Once saturated it is nothing more than a soaked rag that drips all over that project and nice shinny steel working surfaces.

    Come’on Winter !!!!
    Bob from Norhern Indiana..

  15. WAYNE BISHOP wrote:

    I HAVE A 30X40 SHOP IN VA. KEEP TWO HUMIDFIERS GOING WHEN WE ARE NOT IN SHOP. COVER MACHINES HELPS KEEP THEN FROM RUST.WHEN WE COME IN WE TURN AC ON AND TURN HUMIDFIERS OFF.

  16. Monte Glover wrote:

    Here in the suburban area of Chicago it is not so much the heat but the humidity. You just drip all over every thing and the finishes do not set up right.
    Air conditioning is definitively coming next year.

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