Keeping Warm?

This little blue-flamed wonder added months to my woodworking season during many cold Minnesota winters.

The other day I was out in the shop blowing a summer’s worth of dust off of my furnace filter. Call it the Minnesotan in me, but I’m already hunkering down and getting ready for much colder days to come. I guess it’s one of those instinctive things you do when you’re used to winters that last from sometime in October to past the fishing opener. You make sure the heat is ready to go.

I take my furnace for granted. Although I leave the heat off when I’m not working, my little forced air furnace can bring the temps up from the mid 30s to a balmy 62 in about 15 minutes flat. It’s a wonderful luxury, and it isn’t much bigger than an air conditioner.

Years ago, when my shop was a one-car, then a two-car garage, I wasn’t so lucky to have that furnace. I used the little blow torch heater you see above. It runs on a 20-lb. propane tank, and I relied on it for many years. I went through countless tanks of propane. Having an open flame in the shop never put my conscience at ease, but at least I could keep warm without wearing too many layers. And, provided I kept a fresh source of air coming in, the fumes weren’t too bad. I made do, and it served me well.

Before that little jet engine heater came along, winter woodworking was much more brutal. I’d basically dress for ice fishing and head out to the garage. The wind coming off the table saw blade was so cold it would make my fingers go numb. In and out, in and out of the house I’d go to warm up and let the fog clear off my glasses. When the temps dropped to zero or below, that was it for woodworking.

Now, a closed combustion chamber furnace lives near the ceiling of my shop and keeps things downright toasty.
Now, a closed-combustion furnace lives near the ceiling of my shop and keeps things downright toasty. It's every bit as important as any tool in my shop, come winter.

Winter can be a great season for woodworking, provided you don’t go hypothermic in the process. How do you keep warm in your shop during the cold months? Wood-burning stove? Propane heater? Some sort of electric solution? What do you recommend, and what have you shucked for a better way to keep from freezing?

Post a comment and tell us how you’ll keep those shop fires burning this winter. You might have the very solution another woodworker needs who still dresses for ice fishing before firing up the table saw.

Catch you in the shop—and do stay warm!

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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