It has been COLD. Very cold. Cold enough that my shop, which is semi-insulated and heated solely by one medium sized woodstove, has been operating at 50 degrees or less, and that only after having the stove going full tilt for a few hours.

Since the temperature when I get into the shop in the morning has been well below freezing (I read the temperature at -10 on multiple occasions) it has made getting things done a bit more difficult.

Some of the problems you will run into when dealing with below freezing temperatures:

-Wood gets brittle. Expect more splits and cracks, checking etc than usual

-lubricants for things like lathes, drill presses, etc get gelled up, and need to be heated to some degree before you use the machine.

-Lack of humidity causes rapid shrinkage in wood freshly milled

-Metal shrinks slightly, causing some planes and fine instruments to act peculiar.

-Finishes and glues freeze, ruining them in many cases

-Operator extremities seem to move sluggishly. i.e, my fingers were not nearly as responsive as they should be.

All of these add up to a much more challenging work environment, but they are all surmountable.

Some of the tricks I use to overcome these barriers:

-keep a moving blanket warm at all times. Use it to warm up smaller pieces of wood before working on them.

-stack wood to be milled or just after milling a few feet away from your heat source.

-Leave a light in your finish cabinet. it helps a lot more than you might think. I have a metal finish cabinet, and put two work lights in it, one on the top, one on the bottom.

-clamp work that you would normally hold in your hands while doing things like drilling, making small cuts, etc. It takes longer, but if the wood is cold enough it can shatter and explode; you don’t want to be holding it at that point.

-Check all machines before every use. lubrication, square, height, etc. I have found that a 40 degree difference overnight/morning/noon, etc means that my machine setups are not the same as they were when I left them.. I had little issues with things remaining square, but height and position did change.

-build a little more expansion into the work you are doing. If it is that cold, and that dry, your work will swell more than it would otherwise. Bear that it mind while building your furniture.

-Finish small amounts at a time. Much like heat and humidity, dry cold has an effect on finishes. I find that finishes tend to dry quickly, but cure slower in this sort of weather. these means more cure time needed, making dust free time go on forever. . .

Since I was working in the cold dry, I had to do something to remind my of my favorite weather, hot and humid. Luckily, a customer ordered a Humidor from me, and I got that all finished up during the worst of the weather.

Just a small 15-ish humidor, made from curly cherry. And, a few cherries carved into the front to go with the cherry lumber used.

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2014-01-25 23.45.09