Wintertime Woodworking

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Make your wintertime woodworking even more pleasurable and stress-free.

Winter in the shop is when I get my best woodworking done. I have time without interruption to work long hours on specific tasks. The holidays have passed and the long winter nights are setting in. My wife has fewer evening chores for me to attend to and grants me my time alone in the shop. I don’t have the distraction of various home improvement projects begging my attention. I can slow things down and really think projects through. Quality work is the end result. There really is no place I would rather be after a taxing day at the office than in my drafty shop feeding my old Franklin woodstove and contemplating the joinery of this leg or that box.

Wintertime woodworking calls for a different strategy when it comes to project assembly and finishing. I do all of my cutting and sanding in the shop. The projects go in the basement to be assembled and finished. The moisture difference between the shop and my basement can play havoc on assemblies, but in my experience this is rare. This represents itself in the occasional warping of a door panel or twisting of stock. The few problems I have had with this were easily fixed, and all in all, it is a small price for me to pay to practice woodworking in the winter.

I don’t have heat in the shop 24 hours a day and I’m not yet convinced I want it. It would probably make my insurance agent happy if I updated my heating system. The time or money to do this just isn’t there. To be honest there is something about the occasional shiver telling me it’s time to feed the stove that I like. Maybe this is my personal connection to a simpler time and way of life, who knows. I know that I like the shop and my wintertime woodworking the way it is.

I have picked up some tips along the way that I want to share with those of you who are in a similar situation. The peace of mind knowing that you are not creating any hazardous situations with a wood stove in the shop will make your wintertime woodworking even more pleasurable and stress-free.

  1. Use common sense with flammable materials. I store all of the mines in the house, away from any direct sources of heat or open flame. I properly discard any older cans and containers if the chances are that I won’t be using them again. Don’t store anything too close to the stove that may catch fire. Don’t try to burn loose sawdust.
  2. Even in the wintertime, a shop needs ventilation. Install some kind of ventilation fan in your shop. You can install an exterior shutter type cover for it on the outside so that when it is not in use, the shutters close. Anytime you are doing any hand or machine work that is going to cloud up the shop, this should be used.
  3. Use the point of activity dust collection systems. This can be as simple as an old fan with a furnace filter taped to it. Make sure that your tool dust collection systems are in proper working order and that you have plenty of ventilation.
  4. Your woodstove and stovepipe/chimney should be cleaned often. Inspect it often. If I’m lucky, I will spend 10 hours in the shop a week. This means that I may clean the stovepipe 3 or 4 times in the season. That may seem like a lot, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. I have it down to a science so it only takes me about 20 minutes to clean it.
  5. NEVER LEAVE THE SHOP UNATTENDED WITH A FIRE IN THE STOVE.

Oh, that cutoff box I mentioned? It is full of expensive hardwood cutoffs mostly caused by my woodworking mistakes. While pursuing your wintertime woodworking, reduce the amount of expensive kindling next to your stove with a copy of “Fixing Woodworking Mistakes”. We all make them and there are some great ideas in this book on how to fix them.

Keep warm,

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