How does cold weather affect my woodworking?

Q:

I’m setting up my shop in Ontario, Canada. The shop is insulated and has a wood-burning stove, but I won’t be able to consistently tend it. How will these temperature shifts affect my woodworking?
—Peter Roberts, Toronto

A:

Congrats on the new shop, Peter. Here are some ways that cold impacts your woodworking.

Glue-ups and finishes require additional drying time. Most glue and finish manufacturers recommend that the glue, finish, air, and surfaces all be above about 50° F. (That’s 10° C, in your neck of the woods, Peter.) So, if you’re not able to maintain that temperature in the shop for the duration of the application and drying, consider bringing the project into the heated house (preferably into your well-ventilated basement) for those operations.

With cold weather comes dry weather. In the winter, your project wood will experience its most shrunken state. When the big thaw comes, that wood will start to expand with the increased moisture. Account for this in your projects by leaving extra expansion space in frame-and-panel assemblies, tabletops, and drawer reveals.

And because your wood-stove-heated shop will alternate between cold and warm, watch out for condensation on your tools. Protect your cast-iron surfaces with a rust protectant such as Boeshield T-9 or Empire TopSaver.

Once you've warmed your shop, a baby-bottle warmer speeds the process of warming chilled glue, above. But it's best not to let your glues and finishes freeze at all.

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