Difficulties or challenges of a garage workshop?

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Forum topic by Brett posted 08-08-2011 05:27 PM 2609 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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660 posts in 2676 days

08-08-2011 05:27 PM

I’ve only been woodworking for about a year, and am slowly acquiring some power and hand tools. I live in basement-less Texas, so my workshop is in a corner of my garage. I’d love to have a heated & air-conditioned shop, but my wife won’t let me take over either of the kids’ bedrooms, and building a dedicated workshop is not in the cards yet.

I haven’t been doing a lot of work in my garage recently because daytime temperatures are well over 100 degrees (we’ve experienced 37 straight days of 100+ temperatures, with highs near 108 and 109). Needless to say, my workshop is a little toasty, even late in the evening.

What special challenges are faced by garage woodworkers? Do boards tend to warp or split more often due to higher fluctuations in temperature and humidity? Do power tools tend to burn out faster? Do workbenches get out-of-flat frequently? Anybody have any tips or recommendations?

-- More tools, fewer machines.

21 replies so far

View loosecaboose's profile


19 posts in 2652 days

#1 posted 08-08-2011 05:47 PM

I sure hope you get some good responses to this as I am in the same boat. Our heat has not been as long standing here in Kansas, but too many days the garage is a no no place.
One problem I have had is keeping the dust out of the house. I hook up my shop-vac to the sander and table saw and that helps, but I need a stronger vacum. I also have to be very careful about tracking the dust in on my shoes.

-- Tom, Baldwin City, KS

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3607 days

#2 posted 08-08-2011 05:48 PM

me too! It has been hot this summer. In general, I haven’t seen much problem with wood stock, Nothing like burnout due to temperatures (motors are much tougher than that and I don’t stress the hell out of them). But one thing I have been fighting continuously that I don’t ever remember being this bad: rust!

Not only has it been hot in Ohio, it has been wet! And all my tools seem to be suffering from rust. Maybe that’s something you don’t have to deal with. I recently bought some Boeshield (sp?) to see if that will control it better.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2907 days

#3 posted 08-08-2011 05:56 PM

Yeah, it’s hot outside and in the shop. Texas is a big state so you might want to be more specific as to your location. I have the heat but the humidity is not a problem where I am at. I am roughly between Austin and San Antonio. To tell the truth, I am taking a break until things cool off a bit. Unless I move floor fans with me at each station I will drip sweat on my cast iron beds and within five minutes I have rust spots.

As far as fluctuation in temps; I don’t see that much fluctuation that is out of normal ranges Low 80F—High 105F is only 25F difference. I see more change than that in the winter around where I live.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3656 days

#4 posted 08-08-2011 06:04 PM

Two words:

I have one of those little Stanley utility blowers (~$50) that sits on the floor and does a fair job of circulating the air in the shop. Box fans also help a lot.

We have an old Magic Chef dehumidifier that runs anytime the roll-up door is closed. It sucks a surprising amount of moisture out of the air, and seems to keep the cast iron from rusting. Also, when it comes to rust, paste wax is your friend. I buy the big yellow cans of Johnson’s paste wax and keep the cast iron tables on my tablesaw, jointer, lathe, and bandsaw dressed pretty well.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jeff's profile


433 posts in 3188 days

#5 posted 08-08-2011 06:08 PM

I live in North Carolina and heat/humidity and cold interchange with the seasons. One of the biggest problems I face is keeping my own sweat out of my work. This is especially important when I’m finishing a project. I share my garage with other needs and keeping my dust off of other areas is a challenge.
At the moment it’s too hot so I’ve shut my workshop down for a few weeks. Similarly there are a few weeks in winter when it’s too cold.

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3225 days

#6 posted 08-08-2011 06:12 PM

Not sure where in Texas you are, but here on the coast, the only thing I have noted about dealing with the high heat / humidity, is that yes, you do get some lumber movement with the humidity fluctuations. I wouldn’t say machines burn out any faster or slower as a rule. However sweat, which will end up dripping off of you, and on to cast iron surfaces, does cause surface rust VERY quickly, even if you do wipe it right off. Keep your machine iron surfaces well waxed…

IF you can afford to do it, insulate that garage. So far I have my doors, and the ceiling insulated, and the difference is tremendous. A window, or portable unit AC will help as well… Control heat / air infiltration even more with garage door seals / gaskets. Just make sure that you paint those gaskets. UV kills them quickly…

Judging from the temps you are listing, I am assuming you are further north, around maybe Dallas? You have more heat, but less humidity. It’s kind of a wash. I have been averaging over 100 now for almost 2 weeks straight I am guessing. I honestly, am not getting a lot of shop time in. Even with the AC… Takes too long to cool the shop down with the AC, so I haven’t been out there as much. REALLY need to finish insulating…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2907 days

#7 posted 08-08-2011 06:17 PM

I am with Gerry on using Johnson’s Paste Wax. I had been using Boeshield T-9 but it was very expensive and did not seem to be all that effective, particularly with sweat. JPW is cheap, much easier to apply, and appears to be working better than my experiences with T-9.

BTW, my shop is a free standing 24×30 garage with an 8ft long roof vent. Highest shop temps this summer 109F (just once), but shop temps hit +100F daily. At least I am in the country away from those city heat-islands.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2676 days

#8 posted 08-08-2011 06:25 PM

Which part of Texas? The hot part…..

Actually, I’m in Fort Worth, which isn’t always the hottest part, but this summer it’s been plenty hot.

I have a pole-mounted fan that helps a lot, but I still have to keep the sweat from dripping on my work. I haven’t noticed rust problems (yet), but I’ll try some of the suggestions you guys have provided.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Gary's profile


9330 posts in 3426 days

#9 posted 08-08-2011 06:45 PM

Northeast Texas here….plenty hot. 114 in the shop yesterday. I have a 40X50 metal building with 12’ roof. Not fully insulated yet. I don’t care for air conditioning, just air moving. But, with these temps, it’s like being in a confection oven. Got to work early in the morning to get anything done.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2621 days

#10 posted 08-08-2011 07:19 PM

thankfully i have been able to avoid most of the heat problems in the summer. usually in seattle the worst is a few days in august where its 90. i do have problems with the late summer rains since i do a lot of work outside but as longs as i have to have a canopy over me and dont let the wood get wet its not a problem

right now my biggest issue is electricity (well my lack of it) for my machines i have to have an extension cord running from my house and lighting is all done with a battery system. i wish i could run a power line to my shop but it would involve have a new breaker installed in my house so i just cant afford to to have real lights in my shed. in fact my next project is installing solar panels to relieve this issue which means i can finally have lights without having to worry if my batteries are charged enough to last the night.

as for weather my biggest problem here in seattle is winter. since my shed isnt heated often times i cant work in it if its too cold (numb hands + power tools = really bad accident waiting to happen) Because of all the rain i cant keep my hand planes or anything with high carbon steel in the shed or else it will rust away into mush. the other problem i have is storing my lumber as i still havent added on to my shop so usually it winds up in my house in the winter

also space is bit of a problem since i am basically doing full sized projects in a 10 by 10 barn

as with many of you i do have an issue with dust. i have passive dust collectors on my saws and my planer usually piles it up outside where i can shovel it away but my combination sander is notorious for coating everything in dust so i usually wear a respirator when im using it.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2676 days

#11 posted 08-08-2011 07:43 PM

emart, hand tools don’t make as much dust as power tools. :)

Seriously, though, the dust associated with power tools is one of the reasons for my growing interest in hand tools. Iif I were doing woodworking a business, there’d be no question about using power tools (despite the need for dust collection, respirators, etc.), but for one-off projects at home, I enjoy using hand tools whenever possible.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3034 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 07:52 PM

Central OK here, Way too HOT!! even with a fan blowing & the doors open, I still only get about an hour of fun before i go cool off. As for winter, Wood burning stove.

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3152 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 08:13 PM


I’m in Grapevine myself. I do indeed feel your pain. As a teacher, the only time I have to do major projects, like my kitchen renovation, is during the summer. Because of this, I will begin the process of insulating and cooling the garage shop very soon.

In the meantime, get a shop fan of good sized power. Open both doors of the garage to increase circulation…I learned that it’s much more comfortable, in conjunction with the fan, to have both doors open.

Humidity isn’t a problem here as far as wood is concerned. Sweat is…dripping on the table saw, jointer, hand planes, etc. Definitely use paste wax to protect them and reapply as much as possible. To clean and buff out the table tops, I like to use my random orbit sander (hook and loop type) and fold shop paper towels into quarters…just put the sander on it and you’ve got an easy buffing machine. Of course if the surface rust is bad, you’ll want to use some wet/dry sand paper and some lubrication (WD40). I use 220 grit. Works wonderfully.

Without heat proofing the garage, one of the best things to do is have other work surfaces. I tend to use my table saw as a sanding/assembly table (bad habit which arises from necessity in a small shop area) so I’m trying to work out in the shade as much as possible. Likewise, I use a scrap sheet of plywood on my table saw when I just HAVE to use it for such tasks.

Doing these things, I do tend to sweat through my shirt pretty fast, though the body does get used to it after a week or two. Good thing I have a refrigerator in the shop…drink cold water!

-- jay,

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2621 days

#14 posted 08-08-2011 08:18 PM

@ brett i actually have a lot of hand tools as well including a variety of hand planes a froe, an adz and a lot of chisels which i do use whenever the situation calls for them.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View helluvawreck's profile


31019 posts in 2860 days

#15 posted 08-08-2011 08:20 PM

It’s been pretty dang hot and humid here too. However, I don’t have air conditioning in the machine shop or my office at the plant so I’m kind of use to it. I have a fan that I set up behing me in my shop at home and it works pretty well. I usually manage to work in my home shop at least 7 hours on Saturday and 7 hours on Sunday every weekend. I track in dust too. It’s just part of it.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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