Handling the Heat

Handling the Heat

Last week, Chris wondered about your strategies for staying cool in the shop during sweltering summers. Many of you offer ideas! – Editor

“My shops are in the basement of the house, so summer heat spells are no problem. The main shop has a duct coming from the heater/AC unit. The other shop has nothing. My shops are in two different rooms in the basement. One has the workbench and all the cutting and smoothing tools. The other is my lathe room. I guess I sort of have a third room that is my finishing room. It is the shower in the basement bathroom that does not work, so I put the finishes on the projects in there. Summer is a little tough, as finishes do not like to dry in there when it is really humid out.” – Tim Lange

“Having had a lot of birthdays now, I dislike the heat — it makes me melt. But now, as I have for some years, I can still work in my un-air-conditioned shop. I have two ceiling-mounted fans that are fairly large and move a lot of air. My shop is 32 x 48 ft., and its entire floor is concrete. I refer to it as my ‘cool’ sink, as opposed to a heat sink on a computer CPU. I go back and just get in, don’t leave the door hanging open or open any windows. We also have been having mid-90s here in southwestern Ohio, but nighttime temps fall back into the 50s and 60s overnight. The lower temp allows all of that concrete to cool, and in the early morning, it could already be in the 70s, but I HAVE to wear a light jacket — it’s pretty chilly in there. I bring everything I need for the day and don’t go opening anything to let the heat in. I can stay back there on any day until 3:30 p.m. or so. Then sometimes it starts to feel warm, and I head back to the A/C in the house. Plus, it’s a good time for a nap. My shop has standard 2×4 construction with batt insulation and R-49 in the ceiling. It’s tight enough that it takes a while to get it heated up, and I think the fans and the air they move really help a lot, too. Sunny days are worse than overcast, but I can always get to mid-afternoon before I feel warm — never hot or burning up like I am outside. Just don’t open anything to invite the heat in. That’s my recipe, and I hope it works for others.” – George West

“I crack the garage doors, put a floor box fan in front and draw in the cool night air and vent it out through the roof. When I get up, I close the doors, shut off the fan and that keeps the shop coolish until about 10:30. I will turn on a fan and circulate the air if I need to. But I do have an advantage here in northeastern Colorado where the humidity hovers between 40 to 60 percent. I am building the Adirondack rocker in the June issue now. Thanks for your help!” – Paul Felz

“Since I live in the Pacific Northwest, heat is not the biggest problem I have. Humidity is. Winter and summer, my shop never gets below 35 percent relative humidity, and it’s routinely 68 to 80 percent! Today, it’s 63 outside but nice in the shop. It’s the winters that are hard for me. Below about 45 degrees, my hands start to hurt (frostbite as a teenager), and I have a tiny pellet stove to heat a thousand square feet that’s got a 10-1/2-ft.-tall ceiling. So perhaps that’s your problem … you live in the wrong place! Okay, just kidding, but there a lot of woodworking types around here, so you’d have plenty of company.” – Steve Kendal

“I use a floor fan and quit when the temp in there reaches 90 to 95F with high humidity.” – Ronald Repp

“If you learn to work with hand tools and get rid of the machines, life is good!” – Bob Leistner

“I have the fortune of what I call ‘free’ air conditioning. I keep my shop closed when spring comes. It seems that the cool floor from winter keeps the shop cool into July, staying in the lower 70s. Eventually it gets warm and then I must open it up. The same holds true for winter, however. If I’m working in the shop every day, I leave the heat on. But if I’m not, I shut it down. Then that cold concrete floor works hard to fight the furnace and it’s harder to keep it warm.” – Terrence Greenwood

“A couple years ago, I discovered the heat was bothering me more than it used to. I would wait for low-humidity days or get done early before the heat of the day built up. Then we put central air in the house, and I found myself in possession of several window A/C units looking for a home. My shop was the first place to use one. I keep it set to 80 degrees on economy mode. This keeps the temperature reasonable and I can quickly drop it a few degrees when working. It’s nice to be able to use my shop year-round. Now a topic to deal with in a future ‘Weekly’ newsletter is sharing shop space in a garage with a car that brings in heat in the summer when not wanted, and excess moisture with rain and snow dripping off the car, adding to too-high humidity levels that encourage rusting tools. Any suggestions to solve these issues? I know — build my dream shop!” – Christopher MacDonald

“So, your shop is hot? Sorry, not sorry. Down in south Texas, it’ll be between 95 and 110F until November. My METAL roof shop is only bearable with four ceiling fans and a big whole-house attic fan that I mounted vertically, pointing directly in front of my table saw. It blows a stiff breeze that keeps me cool and just blows all that sawdust out of the shop. My shop ceiling is 13 ft. high, and upstairs is another 12 ft. that keeps my lumber just like if it were in a kiln and stops that heat from traveling down. Once ‘winter’ gets here, we can be in there all day. Have fun!” – Mario Barrera

“In my shop in South Carolina (with no A/C) I worked with the garage door wide open and with an old large attic fan blowing out through the window on the opposite wall. I did get quite a bit of work completed. Now, I have been in Virginia for two years and had to have a shop built (essentially a detached three car ‘garage’ with no room for cars). Needless to say, it has a mini-split for heating and cooling.” – James Thorp

“When I had my shop built (30 x 40 x 12 ft.) I had it very well insulated and I have two ceiling fans — one pulling up and the other down to force air circulation. If it gets dire, I also have a large barn-type air mover. Even after a week of 95+ temps, the interior never got over 76, which with air movement is warm but livable.” – Rich Evans

“I’m lucky enough to have a mini-split A/C in my shop. Drops the temp to around 80 or so. I’m so glad I’m able to make items like these salt and pepper grinders.” – Tracy Novak

“My garage workshop has front and back doors. When both are open, a natural breeze is created except on the calmest days. The other plus is the bugs fly straight thru!” – Mike Materia

“After having spent 45 years as a union construction journeyman wireman, being able to step outside under an old oak tree to cool off and take my own sweet time to get something done, this is a piece of cake. (Sawdust on sweat cake.) Actually, I keep a sweatband wet in the cooler and another on my neck covering the arteries feeding the top of my head. (Notice I did not mention brain. 45 years twisting wires left almost no brain.) I also keep wet shop rags to place on my wrist to cool the blood there. We worked outside regardless of the temp, just not in the rain — rain and electricity do mix, but the results are not good. I also have a collection of fans running in the shop anytime I am there. They go on first, even before the lights. I am not complaining and not bragging either. It is just the way it is. Oh, I almost forgot — always wear some kind of sweatband to keep the salt out of your eyes. Thank you for your ‘Weekly’ e-mail and wonderful magazine. I read each, cover to cover. Keep up the good work.” – Charles Tubbs

“Down here in south Texas, high heat is normal. I sell on Etsy, so I’m busy all year. I have a day job (though I do work at home), which means my only chance to work is in the afternoon. I just keep the cold drinks handy and soldier on. I don’t have any A/C, so I open the garage door and the side door and turn on my RIGID fan that blows on my back. There’s usually a breeze until we get to August, so there’s some comfort. If it gets too bad, I have a 36-in. fan I got from Home Depot, and I use that to either blow air on me or try to suck the hot air out. I do have a large screen that I pull down over the garage door opening. It has UV screening on it. My garage faces the afternoon sun, so the screen really helps to reduce the heat from the sun beating down. But when the air temperature is 100 degrees, the temperature in the garage will approach 100 too, so there really isn’t any escaping it. A/C would be nice, but I can’t imagine what our electric bill would be trying to keep the garage cool, in addition to the house.” – Robert Hancox

“Living most of my life in the Texas Gulf Coast (Houston) area, I have always felt as though I was used to the heat of summer. As I have gotten older, I realize that I had gotten ‘soft’ to the heat and humidity, and I am not used to it now! I feel your lack of comfort and probably smell like it also. Today was part of the general heat wave that most of the East Coast and other parts of the country are experiencing. It only got up to 96 degrees, but our ‘feels like’ temperature did get to 103 degrees with little to no wind. My shop is my refuge and my ‘staying busy’ place, and with temperatures like this, even the mornings and early evenings are uncomfortable and I am only able to spend parts of an hour in a given day. My compromise is to open the garage door, blow as much hot air as possible out and sit at my bench. I don’t dare to use any power tools, and I am even cautious to not cut any wood due to the humidity. So far this summer, I have managed to rearrange most of the drawers with tools and other essentials. I also have used time to plan my next projects. Anything to be in my ‘happy place!’ In a few months, I will have some productive time making stuff. I am fortunate to have my garage/shop face south, so winters (which you might call fall temperatures) I can crack the door and use my space heater without any problem.” – Almer Engle

“I have no need for any cooling or heating in my shop. My shop is in my four-car tandem garage (1,000 sq. ft.). My home is located on a hillside, and my garage shop is 80 percent underground with an insulated garage door. Never gets over 73 degrees in summer and never under 55 degree in winter with 2 ft. of snow outside.” – Carl Billups

“When I built my shop, I wrapped it in Styrofoam SM, used 2×6 walls filled with fiberglass batts and R-40 loose cellulose in the ceiling. Of course, vapor barriers sealed everywhere as recommended by Enersave. I use a ceiling heater in winter, but the rest of the year it stays comfortably cool almost always. Was even good during our recent heat wave here in Nova Scotia.” – John van Veen

“In College Station, Texas, I can stay till about 11;00 to 11:30 a.m. in my garage/shop and then go in for the day. Come back out about 7:30 p.m. sometimes. Heat index is 105 today, at 3:00 p.m. CDT. Mondays are now clean-up well days and moving the shavings. Other days are turning and sawing days. Have to plan the week better over the next few months, which is not a bad practice. During the afternoons after a morning of woodworking, I read and plan for designs of next year’s projects in the cool A/C of the house. These (projects) usually start in late September or October.” – Skip Landis

“I live in New York, so we are kind of sharing the same hot and humid weather. We are packed together here in the Big Apple, with tall buildings blocking any chance of a cool breeze and people packed tighter then sardines in a can. I have a small basement workshop in my house; being halfway below ground helps keep the temperature a little more tolerable year-round. What I found that helps a lot is a small dehumidifier; It takes a while, but it compresses the air and removes the humidity. I have to empty the on-board tank daily in the morning, but this little thing works better than any A/C that I’ve tried in the past. Another plus is that it can roll around the shop to cool off where I am, rather than try to cool off the entire shop. It also costs less to operate then an A/C would. If you can’t keep cool, at least have cool thoughts.” – Mike Canavan

“Living in deep south Louisiana, where humidity levels soar all summer long and heat indexes routinely exceed the century mark, a well-ventilated or climate-controlled workshop is a must, and neither of which I have, yet! I’m currently crammed in a garage with little to no available workspace except to roll my equipment outside into the driveway. IMO, woodworking requires attention to detail and to the obvious, moving blades. In short order, I find myself dripping with sweat from all pores, which becomes a real distraction and a safety risk. Because of that, I generally put most projects on hold until the cooler fall temperatures and lower humidity levels prevail. As I alluded to earlier, I’m addressing my heat and humidity dilemma by planning a dedicated space for woodworking. I’m currently designing a dedicated woodshop and plan for it to be climate-controlled to give me unlimited days to make as much sawdust as I wish.” – Rob Wittmann

“I am in the Sacramento area of northern California. We regularly have a smattering of 100+ degree days here, starting in June and rolling through August. In those extra-special years, those 100-degree days sometimes go well into September. The good news is, they are usually clumped in a few days here, a few days there, with temperatures dropping in between. On those days, the shop opens early in the morning and usually closes up around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. But that is because we are usually blessed with a nice breeze in the morning, even on 100-degree days. For instance, today it is supposed to be 100 degrees with 13 percent humidity, and tonight it will drop to 65 degrees. In the shop, once it hits about 1:00 or so, the breeze stops, the air gets hot and it is time for a cool drink of some kind. The biggest advantage here is our lack of humidity. Having traveled across the USA a great deal, I know what you are going through, and I do not envy you at all.” – John Burbank

“It’s always worse wherever one is at any given moment. Reminds me of that Hee-Haw song, ‘Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.’ Here in the Midwest, it’s always hot and muggy this time of year. Rain, while the garden appreciates it, just makes it worse. And then there’s the ‘skeeters eating us alive. As for the wood cutting, only the absolute necessities happen now. Yesterday, I ventured out to make a couple of cuts on some scraps to attach a front to a cabinet. I could have filled a bathtub with all my sweat. It was misery but it had to be done — or so the wife told me. I figured it had been six months without it, so what was the rush … well, I was wrong as usual. I just finished a missive to the sisters about my childhood rememberings. Included was a section on how hot it was then and how there was nowhere to run to cool off. Very few had air-conditioning then. How spoiled we are now. So, I for one vote to stay out of the garage and let the wood sit until fall…or until I get a hankering once again or I’m told of something else that’s an emergency. Stay cool, all.” – Randy Gleason

“I’m lucky: my shop is air-conditioned. I recommend it to everyone!” – ca.johnston

“I’m in the same boat, so I am interested in what other folks do to cope. I tend to drink cold beer, but that puts a stop on the power saws.” – Bob in Milwaukee

“I’m under this Mid-Atlantic heat dome as well. I do have an A/C unit in my shop, but the ‘Finance Minister’ complains about the electric bill, so I use it as little as possible. I’ve experienced a difficult issue with rust on my tools in past years because my shop sits in the woods. I’m pretty much required to run a dehumidifier May through October. This helps considerably with the rust but also helps with the creature comfort issue. 82 degrees at 40 percent humidity is downright pleasant compared to what we’ve had outside for the last two weeks. Afternoon naps help as well.” – Gregory Harmon

“I’ve never ever been a fan of heat. What to do? I declare ‘summer snow days’ when it gets hot like this. Heat kills more than cold, so if we can call off the music for a cold stormy day, why not put the lid on it when it is too damned hot? That’s what I do. I’ll come out when it cools off. Plus, a long time ago — back in the 1970s — when I had to be in the shop to make a living, my uncle told me I should get an air-conditioner unit for the shop. I complained about how much that would cost. In his wisdom, he reminded me that a $10 dollar bill would cool the shop pretty well for a day (1970s money, remember) and followed by asking me how long I’d have to work to make that tenner. Not long, of course. So, he was right. I’ve had A/C ever since, and it pays — not only in comfort but also in productivity.” – Tim Inman

“I live in southeast Texas, and our summers are always 100+ degrees. My first shop was a 1,000-sq.-ft. motor home garage, and it wasn’t air-conditioned. It had a large rollup garage door, a couple of windows and a standard door. A relative gave me an old attic fan and I mounted it in a cabinet with casters. It moved a lot of air and, with the doors and windows open, it kept the shop a least bearable. I moved 20 years later, and I built a new shop with central air and heat. I love my new shop and enjoy working in it all year-round. Besides being more comfortable, I have fewer problems with wood movement and finishes.” – Richard Hicks

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