Baby, It's COLD Inside

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Forum topic by Kazooman posted 01-05-2017 11:15 PM 679 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kazooman's profile


1144 posts in 2097 days

01-05-2017 11:15 PM

I am finally putting a finish on a jewelry box I have been making. The entire reason for the build was to learn how to make and install the hardware pieces that would lift an internal tray. The box is based on a design in one of Doug Stowe’s books. The hardware was made from 3/16” X 1/2” brass bar stock. I learned a lot along the way and I would do many things differently next time.

As for the finish, I thought a simple satin wipe-on poly would do. This is not going into the Smithsonian. I had a “15% off every thing that fits in this bag” deal at one of the local big box stores and a voucher from a previous rebate program, so off I went. I ended up with a can of Minwax wipe-on-poly. I have used this product before with good results, so I grabbed a cloth and put a thin coat on the box. Two hours later it is a tacky mess.

I am certain that all will work out well in the end, but this will take days between coats and perhaps moving the box parts to a warmer local for curing. It is certainly my mistake not to have read the details on the label, but, as I said, I have used this finish before with great success. The information on the can states that drying times are based on a temperature of 77 degrees F! My Michigan basement shop is currently 64 degrees F. Oops! My bad, but I am curious to know just how many woodworkers have a shop that is maintained at 77 degrees F? I am keeping my living space at 68 degrees F during the day and lower at night.

How do all of you deal with the temperature problem for finishing? My woodworking is a winter activity since I am outside in the warmer months and the humidity swings in summer are a huge challenge. I know many LJs have unheated garage shops, so there must be a good solution to this problem.

8 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3513 days

#1 posted 01-05-2017 11:22 PM

Just hang a light bulb over it and the heat will help the finish dry.

View Kazooman's profile


1144 posts in 2097 days

#2 posted 01-05-2017 11:43 PM

Just hang a light bulb over it and the heat will help the finish dry.

- papadan

Maybe I should get a “heat lamp” and mount it well above the table surface. Right now all I have to add heat to the shop is a unit with a blower and that just adds another problem to the equation with scattering dust.

I have always liked thin coats of wiping finishes because they dry quickly and are forgiving of the fact that I must apply finish in the same space that I cut and sand wood. When this finish cures enough for sanding it will have a lot of “dust bunnies” to deal with.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3513 days

#3 posted 01-06-2017 01:39 AM

Kind of like a heat lamp, I use one of the clamp on reflector lamps with a 100 w bulb.

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2139 days

#4 posted 01-06-2017 02:49 AM

You could also try shellac. For something like that box it would hold up well, and it dries quickly even at temperatures that low. I also noticed that water based topcoat from GF dries well at slightly lower temps. I think because the cold air tends to be dry air, and sucks the moisture out of the finish at a rate that offsets the lower temperature.

The more I try other finishes, the less I reach for poly for anything.

I live in northern indiana, and also finish things in my cool basement this time of year. Its too cold in the garage (shop) to make bench dogs tonight, let alone finish anything.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Kazooman's profile


1144 posts in 2097 days

#5 posted 01-06-2017 02:57 AM

Shellac is a great idea. I have to admit that I have never used it as the final finish coat on any project. Perhaps it is tone to give it a try.

View bondogaposis's profile


4988 posts in 2496 days

#6 posted 01-06-2017 03:56 AM

Something small like a box, can’t you bring it in from the shop? It should cure overnight at room temp.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5094 posts in 2638 days

#7 posted 01-06-2017 12:12 PM

A little moving air will help. Varnish cures by reacting with oxygen, supplying more (moving air) speeds it up…thought the lower temps do slow it down. But 64ยบ is plenty warm for it to cure….slowly. I sometimes put a “brooder lamp” to shine on small stuff to warm them up, seems to help.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View BB1's profile


1181 posts in 992 days

#8 posted 01-06-2017 12:57 PM

Not real classy but I use my living room inside. Most of the time I have some project there getting another coat of finish! I use waterbased poly so no issues with smell. My shop has been as low as upper 30s so finishing outside isn’t realistic.

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