poly in cold garage

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Forum topic by mtx77 posted 11-26-2012 10:12 PM 1466 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 2253 days

11-26-2012 10:12 PM

I’d like to poly a project that im going to stain (oil)....but the unheated garage is getting cold in late fall in NH. I dont know how cold the garage gets at like 4am, but im guessing 50s and below. Ive never poly’d anything, but I read its too cold for poly to cure normally.

Any advice? I read that you should store the poly & project inside so at least everything is warm when applying, which makes sense. I can leave the garage/house door open to get some heat out there but my bedroom is a few feet down the hall so I cant leave the door open overnight because of fumes. Will wipe-on/spray poly cure faster than brush on? Can I just give it extra time to cure out in the cold? Or something like leave it out in the garage for a day or 2 then bring it inside to cure the rest of the time? I dont know if most of the fumes go away when just the surface has partially cured.

Money’s tight, xmass is coming…but if a cheap $50 elec heater is really the only option ill do it, and any recommendations would be great. Its a 1 car garage thats insulated so once its warm it stays that way for a bit.

11 replies so far

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2288 days

#1 posted 11-26-2012 10:19 PM

test on a scrap piece of wood is the best idea to see if it works in the cold

-- Joel

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2802 days

#2 posted 11-26-2012 10:21 PM

If the garage never gets below freezing you should be ok. My shop is only heated when I work in it, and it gets a lot colder than 50. I’ll admit in the dead of winter I’ll bring the projects in the house, but that’s because my shop is unattached and will freeze come winter.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3205 days

#3 posted 11-26-2012 11:12 PM

I read a study once, I believe it was in Fine Woodworking Magazine, where they pointed out air circulation had more effect on drying than temperature. IE: a cold room with good circulation might be better than a warm room with no circulation; within certain ranges of course.

If that’s the case, an inexpensive space heater, like the little ceramic type that blow warm air might do the trick. They are usually less than $25. I had to use one once to get some epoxy to cure and it worked great.

But, whatever, jap’s suggestion to do a test makes a lot of sense.

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3795 days

#4 posted 11-26-2012 11:18 PM

I think the big deal will be the time it takes to cure. Poly cures via a chemical reaction, if I recall my chemistry, the rule of thumb was reaction times double for every 10 degrees (F) of temp. increase.

-- Joe

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

333 posts in 2282 days

#5 posted 11-27-2012 12:06 AM

I live in NE too and when I need a good cure with the special glue stuff I tent my projects using $2 painters plastic in the unheated basement (~50 F) and put a couple old incandescent lights under it. It gets up high 70’s under the tent.

A tent doesn’t improve circulation any and I haven’t done this with poly.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View JAAune's profile


1854 posts in 2551 days

#6 posted 11-27-2012 05:25 AM

One big issue is that blushing can occur when the temperature is low. I’ve run into that issue when finishing with shellac below 50 F.

The approach I used to get around that problem was to keep the can of finish sitting in a bucket of hot water. I just applied light coats of thinned finish and it dried without a problem as long as the water was still warm enough to keep the finish at a decent temperature.

-- See my work at and

View Viktor's profile


466 posts in 3653 days

#7 posted 11-27-2012 10:19 AM

Do not use open coil heater in the vicinity of drying poly even if it is a small item. When the fumes contact red hot coil the stench is unbearable and suffocating. Same for open flame (stove, gas water heater, etc.).
Could you finish it outside during the day when its worm? It will be dry to touch in couple hours.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3157 days

#8 posted 11-27-2012 12:22 PM

I’d suggest a wipe on mixture(1/2poly1/2ms) If it’s that cool it is going to be a little stiff to apply right out of the can.
I also would consider Daves idea of a tent. That also would help keep airbourne dust down.

-- Life is good.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5230 posts in 2727 days

#9 posted 11-27-2012 01:15 PM

If the piece isn’t real large, you could buy a heat lamp and let it shine on the wood. Normally called “brooder lamps”, they use an infrared bulb of maybe 175 watts, and do a good job. Heck, even tenting the thing and putting an incandescent bulb of 100 watts or so (if you can find one) will keep it warm enough to cure….but it may take longer.

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

View mtx77's profile


24 posts in 2253 days

#10 posted 11-27-2012 09:58 PM

If the sample doesnt cure right and it needs to be heated, dont heat up the entire garage, heat up a small tent. Thats a really great idea, dust is a prob as well out there. I have an old tv out there that i stopped using because in the summer it’d heat the entire room. I didnt even think of using it till now.

These are all great suggestions, by far the best woodworking forum!

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

333 posts in 2282 days

#11 posted 12-01-2012 12:47 AM

It occurs to me if you try the tent to be careful not to let a slight air movement blow the plastic onto the wet poly. You will want to frame it carefully.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

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