Winter & the Workshop

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Forum topic by Sprung posted 10-18-2014 02:43 PM 1302 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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94 posts in 1715 days

10-18-2014 02:43 PM

Earlier this year my family and I moved to southwest Minnesota. Previously, in North Dakota, I had a basement workshop, so I was able to work year round.

I now have a garage workshop. It’s a one car garage, attached to the house, not insulated and not heated. After 6 months, I’m finally getting the shop fully set up and it’s starting to get pretty cold. It was 50 in the shop this morning – not too cold for me to work in, but too cold for glues and finishes – and it got me thinking of the months ahead, when it’s only going to get colder.

Next year I might be able to have a gas line run to the garage and would be able to have heat out there next winter, but that leaves me with at least one winter to deal with.

I’ve made the hard decision that, for this winter, my woodworking out there will be very limited – probably next to nothing. I will be moving my lathe into the basement, so I’ll be able to do some work on that and maybe expand my meager turning skills, but I’m primarily a flatworker and have a number of items of furniture on my upcoming projects list and wouldn’t mind trying to tackle a few of them this winter.

I’m thinking that I’ll probably spend a little time here and there out in the shop, as the temperature allows, and do some power tool work here and there and then take the pieces into the basement, let them warm up, and do things like final sanding, gluing, finishing, etc there.

But the biggest thing I’m worried about is how the cold will affect my machines and tools. Anything I should do to prepare my tools for the winter, especially knowing that in a month or so they won’t be seeing much use for a while? It gets cold up here too – often below 0. I’m sure that for about 4 months I will be spending barely any time in the shop. At least I don’t have to contend with having to get a car in there!

Any other tips for continuing to do some work in an uninsulated and unheated shop?

-- Matt, SW MN,

10 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4986 posts in 2492 days

#1 posted 10-18-2014 02:55 PM

When we moved here 5 years ago, my stationary tools sat in our garage through the winter until I could get the building that was to be my shop gutted and finished (on the interior, building was here). No problems at all, though I was worried about the car being pulled in and dripping all that snow water all over the place…things came through with no damage/rust/or other problems. You might want to wax the cast iron surfaces, but otherwise I wouldn’t worry. As for the finishes, true enough waterborne finishes take some warmth, but shellac, lacquer and even oil based varnish (read this) can be applied in a fairly cold shop. Can’t help with the glue ups, though….you need heat for that as well. Good luck with your endeavor!

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

View rantingrich's profile


372 posts in 1344 days

#2 posted 10-18-2014 03:17 PM

If your table saw and others with cast iron top are going ti sit idle all winter you might want to canister cleaning them real well the spraying them with a thin coat of Shellac then a couple cot as of wax.

And you can still occasionally use them they just won’t have that slick velvety GLIDE one gets with just wax.

-- Rich

View TravisH's profile


579 posts in 1934 days

#3 posted 10-18-2014 03:28 PM

My shop is insulated and I work out there about all year but switch to more hand tool use and am far from making anything I consider “quality” stuff. End up making lot of smaller stuff and a lot of the stuff that seams to be featured in the swaps. I had some tools that didn’t do well with cold weather. I typically try to keep the shop in the 30’s as that was a temperature at which my hands weren’t cold. I usually ran a portable buddy or two. Last year I bought a kerosene heater in case of a power outage and use it in the shop. I was able to get it up to mid 70’s in the shop with no problems even with temperatures in single digits and I believe even negative. If I work out multiple days the shop will manage to retain heat over the night (teens outside and my glass of water in the shop still drinkable).

For tool use I usually will warm the place up and let the equipment warm up a little (couple hours while I clean up, sharpen blades, chop a mortise, etc….) I wax all the cast iron and keep it all covered with blankets and never have hand any real rust issues. The worst time of the year for me is leading into spring (sometimes fall) as these type shops in my opinion as that is when temperature fluctuations and humidity cause the most sweating issues with my tools. I can open the doors and the shop is 20 degrees cooler than the warm humid air outside, I will crack the door and let it slowly equilibrate now. I definitely plan at the next house to have climate controlled space for my hobbies.

Glue ups I do indoors. Finishes I have done inside but these are all small projects and nothing was sprayed.

View mudflap4869's profile


1736 posts in 1458 days

#4 posted 10-18-2014 03:59 PM

I installed a small wood burning stove in the shop and set a large fan near it. That spreads the heat around and keeps it above freezing when I am working. I placed an over the commode metal shelf unit behind the stove and heat the wood I am using on it. I also have an old toaster oven for heating smaller parts and drying glued and painted parts. It is not set above 150 degrees so it doesn’t burn things as long as they don’t touch the burner. Warm wood is a pleasure to work with in cold weather.

-- Still trying to master kindling making

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


4727 posts in 2350 days

#5 posted 10-18-2014 04:31 PM

The machines should be fine, just take rust preventative measures. They don’t like being used in sub zero weather but will be fine sitting there. Why not take advantage of the down time to insulate the garage? Then you’ll be ready to go when you install a heater and will be a more enjoyable place to work in summer as well.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Holbs's profile


1867 posts in 2028 days

#6 posted 10-18-2014 10:16 PM

have you considered using a torpedo heater for temporary purposes? it helped me during my first winter in my un-insulated, un-heated garage. I later added simple R-19 in the rafters which added even more of a cozy feel. The following year, I just slapped in a UDAP60 ng heater. it all has to start somewhere. torpedo heater is a strong consideration to start with.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29226 posts in 2337 days

#7 posted 10-19-2014 12:39 AM

Cold is tough to deal with. There is a certain amount of “suck it up,but times when it’s physically impossible. I have a special room for glue and finish. It’s the only way I can keep going.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Sprung's profile


94 posts in 1715 days

#8 posted 10-19-2014 01:07 AM

Thanks, everyone, for the input!

Unfortunately I can’t insulate the garage, as much as I’d like to and have already thought about – we don’t own the house. Maybe next year I’ll be in a better position to talk to the owners of the house about coming to a deal on insulating the garage.

I’m going to look into what I might be able to use to heat the garage this winter, but my wife just might have to come to terms with the fact that the honey-do furniture builds are just going to have to wait a little longer.

I apply Johnson’s Paste Wax to things every month or so, and will obviously continue to do just that for rust prevention.

At least my wife is letting me inhabit a small corner of the basement (about 10’ x 6’) with my lathe, a table, and a few other small tools, haha! She knows how stir crazy, ornery, and stressed I can get if I don’t get therapy in the form of shop time…

-- Matt, SW MN,

View Holbs's profile


1867 posts in 2028 days

#9 posted 10-19-2014 10:45 PM

i’m unsure of your financial status, but my 2 car garage took $170 for insulation R19 batt rolls. You could slap up R19 or even R12…something in a 1 car garage for this winter without hurting the wallet too much. Staple it up and then if you move, take it back down.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View Woodmaster1's profile


959 posts in 2586 days

#10 posted 10-20-2014 02:11 AM

I insulated my shop with r30 on the ceiling and r19 in the walls. I bought a 50,000 btu BigMaxx NG heater this winter and had the son in law run the gas line. I have had a chance to run the furnace this week and it works great. I keep it at 55 degrees when not in use and 65 degrees when working. I will let you the increase in the gas bill in a couple of months. My shop is a 30 X 33 detached garage. I used a 35,000 btu kerosene heater in the past before insulating it took the chill off but if used a lot it can be expensive.

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