Preventing Freezables from Freezing in a Cold Shop

“Do you have any suggestions about how to keep the water bath for my water stones from freezing in my shop during cold nights? I heat the shop only when I am working, so it gets below freezing some nights. I have brought the stones indoors for now, but this is very inconvenient.

I have thought about adding some alcohol to the water, but I’m not sure how this will affect the stones. They are King Ice Bear stones (Japanese).”

Submitted by: Scott Bigler

WWGOA Editor Response:

Instead of adding alcohol, or even antifreeze to the water, try making a small heat cabinet in your shop. This can be done by putting an incandescent light bulb in a cabinet. You’ll be surprised how much affect this can have. (I used to hang a light bulb under the hood of a 1972 Ford Fairlane to help it start in the winter.) Start with a low wattage and make certain the bulb isn’t touching anything. You’ll have to experiment to determine how many watts you need for the space you’re keeping warm. A friend of mine uses a 60-watt bulb in an old refrigerator to keep his finishes warm.

Thank you for your question.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

Got a woodworking question you need answered? Comment or Email us at editor@wwgoa.com

Discussion
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47 Responses to “Preventing Freezables from Freezing in a Cold Shop”
  1. David Gray

    I use an aquarium heater for a 10 gal tank. When the weather is warm it will turn on and off.

    Reply
    • Hans

      The only problem with an aquarium heater is that they actually rely on water to keep them from burning up. However, a small terrarium heater would be an excellent alternative!!

      Reply
  2. Mike

    If you have a refrigerator in the shop you can put it in there. Refrig. Stay around 40 degrees.
    Thanks

    Reply
  3. Murray Bennie

    A 60w incandescent lamp in a small insulated enclosure will easily maintain above freezing temperatures

    Reply
  4. Delvaughn

    I see you and other people on TV always have the table saw fence to the right of the blade. Is this a safety issue or just personal preference?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello. Most right handed people prefer to use the fence on the right of the saw, as it allows you to feed stock more easily. Some left handed woodworkers move the fence to the left.
      In terms of safety, there are advantages to having your fence on the opposite side of the blade from the direction that the blade tilts. So, for a left tilting blade, if you are making a miter cut it is safer to have the fence on the right side of the blade so that the work piece is not trapped so aggressively between the blade and the fence, which can create a dangerous kickback situation.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  5. Daryl Peters

    Depending on how cold it actually gets, using salt water may be an option also.

    Reply
    • Hans

      Salt Water is not recommended as it only lowers the freezing point a few degrees & is EXTREMELY corrosive.

      Reply
  6. Winslowpal

    I would consider something like a thermostatic controlled immersion birdbath heater, or pet water heater. Saves building a cabinet or changing location or habitats. Of course, if you have several things to keep, your needs will change.

    Reply
    • Hans

      The only problem with submersible heaters is they are bulky and would inhibit a permanent mounting in the cabinet. However, they make several types of terrarium heaters, from mats, to small stones, etc. These will not overload when dry (A submersible if exposed to air can overheat/crack) & can be mounted flush to the floor, wall or ceiling of the cabinet. They generally have an internal bimetal or adjustable thermostat.

      Reply
  7. Chris

    I like your idea how to keep things warm but what are we going to do when we can’t get incandescent bulbs anymore????

    Reply
  8. John Bertin

    Try adding an aquarium bubble stone or two in the water. Moving water doesn’t freeze unless it’s extreme cold conditions. I remember boat wells in the canals using them successfully.

    Reply
  9. Julian

    John Heinz (look him up on YouTube) did this very same thing except he hooked up the bulb socket with a thermostat so it wouldn’t be on 24/7.

    Reply
  10. Harvey Jones

    I use a 40 watt bulb inside an old metal coleman cooler.
    I attached a porcelain fixture to the inside wall with a cord running out to a socket. It keeps it very warm.

    Reply
  11. Kent Despain

    My neighbor burnt down his house using a light bulb to heat a cabinet in hi garage.

    Reply
  12. Terry Hughes

    I had a similar problem with my thickness planer-the rubber rollers would get too hard in the cold to pull stock through. I made an insulated box, wired it up with a 60W incandescent bulb and a thermostat set at about 15 deg C. After that, the planer worked fine, and only my feet froze!

    Reply
  13. Michael

    If it’s just the water stones why not just take them home? They are small enough to be portable aren’t they? If you are talking about all the other things that could freeze in a shop like glue and other chemicals you could put them all in one place and do the light bulb trick or just use a heating pad set to the lowest possible setting. You could also use a coffee cup warmer if you are just worried about the stones. Put the stones in a conductive container like a metal pan and put that on top of the coffee warmer.

    Reply
  14. George Fordyce

    Another way is to take a larger body of water like a 5 gallon pail or larger and put it and the things you don’t want to freeze inside of an insulated box. It takes longer for all of that to freeze and as long as the water in the larger pail is not frozen it will keep the temperature above freezing in the box. That is what they used to do in root cellars to keep produce from freezing.

    Reply
  15. Mark Burnham

    I live in an old house ( hard to heat ) and my shop is in the back of the house. I have an old refrigerator with a very low watt incandescent light bulb in the bottom where the crisper (rotter) was. The bulb is only on when needed and when I’m away I use a timer with multiple on/off settings I keep thinking of putting an old baseboard heater thermostat in side but I haven’t done it yet. This system has worked for years without problems it can get as cold as 30 below Celsius where I live although this is less common these days. If the power goes our don’t open the fridge.

    Reply
  16. Tyler Marriott

    I built a small 5×8′ room in one corner of my shop. Fully insulated including door and light, and equipped with a small ceramic thermostat heater. During non use the “liquids room” never goes below 45 degrees.

    Reply
  17. Dick Ownby

    I have the same problem with my glues. I built a wooden box with a light bulb. A little complicated but works great. Powered a 120v/12v transformer, used a regular house thermostat to power a relay to turn the bulb on and off. Set the thermostat at minimum and it keeps my glue at about 50 degrees. The box is about 8″ X 12″ X 10″ deep with a hinged cover for easy access. Bulb is 40W. All of the electric parts are mounted in a covered metal box fastened to the wood box to prevent accidental exposure to the electricity.
    Everything is available at the hardware store except the relay which I bought at the heating and air conditioning supply outlet.

    Reply
    • Bill Johns

      I did the same as Dick Ownby but it is now more difficult to find incandescent bulbs to heat it with.

      Reply
  18. Donald E Long

    nobody talks about prepping bowl blanks before putting them on the lathe is there something I’m missing .when I turn my bowl around it’s like I have to start all over again getting it round I have a full size lathe not an expensive one but better than the 1942 Delta double D that I started with 4 years ago can you help me out?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Donald. I assume that you are using a chuck since you are talking about turning the bowl around. If you do a good job of mounting the bowl onto your chuck, you shouldn’t have to touch the outside of the bowl after the turn. I normally sand the bowl completely before turning it, so that it is done, and in the event that it is slightly off when I turn the bowl, it doesn’t really matter because I’m only focusing on the inside of the bowl. If you are dramatically off and the imbalance is preventing you from spinning the bowl as fast as you’d like to, then I’m guessing that you are not getting the bowl seated properly onto the chuck. The ends of the chuck should bottom out on the base of the bowl. In other words, you should not be able to see any of the tenon exposed. If you are using a recess instead of a tenon, that’s fine but be sure that the ends of the chuck plates are bottomed out in the bottom of the recess. Push the bowl onto the chuck using a single point of contact in the center of the bowl to be sure that it is properly seated. If you are using this approach you should find that the bowl is nearly perfectly centered when you flip it around.
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  19. Bill McMullen

    I am building kitchen cabinets with melamine particle board. I am using cherry for face frames etc.For the cabinet ends I am thinking of using solid cherry 1/4″ thick panels as a veneer and would like to know about fastening to the melamine. Can I use contact cement providing the melamine is well scuffed? Or should i purchase cherry plywood for the job and still use contact cement or any other ideas?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Bill. Fastening 1/4″ solid cherry to a melamine board will cause the cherry to buckle and crack as it attempts to expand and contract. You’ll need to cut your veneer to no thicker than 3/32″ to avoid this situation. You could attach your veneer using contact cement after scuffing the melamine.
      Here’s an article on veneering that might help:
      https://www.wwgoa.com/article/veneering-wood-part-1/
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  20. Jerry Boudreau

    How about using a small birdbath heater if it will fit, or water pipe heating tape around the container. They both are thermostat controlled so they only come on when it gets below freezing.

    Reply
  21. Lebron

    I took an old non working refrigerator, cleaned it up, installed a thermostat used for controlling baseboard heaters and a 60 watt bulb. Ample room for all my stains, glues, paint etc. cost less than $25

    Reply
  22. Rejean Poisson

    To increase the performance of this “warming cabinet” and lower the needed bulb watts, stick some rigid insulation all around the cabinet (including under and over it), inside or outside, depending of the cabinet size and available space, like it is already done inside the walls of a refrigerator. Be certain to never store any explosive or flammable material or liquid (spray cans, etc.) since an incandescent bulb contains a nude electric wire that is heating (source of fire). I also recommend to protect the bulb with a screen designed for this purpose.

    Reply
  23. moucon

    Winter tests your resolve, that’s for sure. I have the same problem – shop only heated when I’m in there. While all the suggestions here are good, I’m really nervous about leaving anything electrical hooked up and on when I’m not around. If you go with the light bulb in a box/cooler/cabinet/wherever idea (which will work) just be sure it’s on an arc fault breaker or outlet. True story I had the power cord to an AC adapter fail, arc through the rubber insulation, and catch a carpet on fire. Had I not been standing there it would have burned the house down. An arc fault breaker would have stopped it instantly. I bring my glues and anything else water-borne, including wet stones, inside when I leave the shop. I have have a closet just inside my house door, and I’ve organized a “tote” that makes it pretty easy. Everything that could be harmed by freezing stays in the tote.

    Reply
  24. Harlan Updegraff

    A low watt bulb in a small cabinet it great idea. I would add a auto temp plug to the mix. When the temp gets down to a low temp, the light will come on. This way one can turn the switch on in late fall or early fall and it will come on and off as required. Great for storage of glues also.

    Reply
  25. Zeke

    I have so many cans of stain, varnish, and paint that used to freeze and get ruined in my shop in Idaho in the winter. I finally set up a dairy-barn heater set to keep the shop at about 40 deg F. Makes it much easier to heat up when I want to work, too. I have not even seen a difference on my elec bill, and since it has a topover safety switch, even if a cat come in and knocks it over or something, I can feel relatively safe.

    Reply
  26. Ftanck Gingras

    Hi, I have 2 questions. 1) I’m looking to buy a router table. What would be a good choice ? I will be using it a lot. Cause I would like to make a business out of woodwoking. Some sale-person tell me I should by a route table with a router and some other tell me to by juste the table (I’m confuse). I would like to know what kind is the best for precision work because I like to do inlays. 2) I would like to know what 2 or 3 jigs are mentitory in a workshop, and (if possible) how to make them. Thank you and have a great 2019!

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello. For your router table I would suggest not buying one that is packaged with a router. Choose the components that you want and put them together. If you buy a router lift, just be sure that it fits in the opening of your router table.
      George built a base for his router table and purchased thetop: http://amzn.to/2slMBaZ. His router lift, which is the important mechanismthat you need to make adjustments above the table, is an older version of this: http://amzn.to/2vfh3G0.

      If you want to buy a turnkey router table setup, I would suggest considering the following:

      Freestanding router tables: https://amzn.to/2FIdl8Yor https://amzn.to/2CiRKVd

      Benchtop router table: https://amzn.to/2I7yrTB

      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  27. Joe K

    This is an excellent idea for your glue and your tool batteries as well. Neither should be allowed to freeze.

    Reply
  28. James M Becker

    I converted an old chest type freezer into a worm cabinet. I set it on end drilled a small hole for a cord and use a 15 watt bulb to keep everything in it warm to about 55 to 60 degrees. even keeps ear muffs warm as well as glues paint etc. warm. also I put small batteries in it to keep them from discharging early.

    Reply
  29. rick

    they make a thermostat for pump houses that kicks on at 38 or 40 for a light or milk house heater. works very well and is inexpensive

    Reply
  30. Tom Shawley

    I use to work up north during the winter we kept welding rods and freezables in a large refrigerator with a 100 watt bulb. It would sometimes drop below 0 deg.F it would stay around 90 deg inside and it was outside setting,

    Reply
  31. Brian Mason

    Up here in Canada the simple solution (not a pun) is Windshield washer antifreeze…good to -40 in either scale.I use this all of the time in my tile saw when I am on the job working in a cold garage. It stays liquid overnight ready for use in the morning. I imagine it has lubricating properties too for sharpening.

    Reply
  32. Wayne Kingsbury

    I have a Monitor Kerosene Heater in my very large garage of 1,032 sq. ft. (L-shaped). With the thermostat at its lowest setting of 46 degrees (Fahrenheit), nothing ever freezes during the coldest months and tools stay rust-free (for the past 13 years). Cost runs about $200-250 per year for kerosene delivery by truck.

    Reply
  33. Mark Bristow

    I used a 40 watt light bulb in my dog house it had clear plastic plyable strips on the entrance. The water bowl sat right next to the entrance. It never froze no matter how cold it got. I even placed a 25 watt bulb in it for the same effect. Now the lightbulb was placed in the ceiling of the doghouse. Now this wasn’t your normal doghouse. The insides was finished with insulation and drywall. The ceiling was 3 foot high the bulbs made it warm and toasty in there. The strips of plastic overlapped each other.

    Reply
  34. Mark Bristow

    My shop stays at 57 degrees in the winter and 75 in the summer. That’s if it is 90 outside. With having just one vent in it.

    Reply
  35. Hans

    I see a lot of suggestions for a light bulb or aquarium heater. Aquarium heaters can burn up if they’re not submerged. Incandescent bulbs are going to be very difficult to get soon enough. The best option is a Terrarium heater that is designed to work dry, not get so hot that it will burn something & comes with a built in thermostat. For $11 you can get a 6″×12″ 7watt mat that will heat a cabinet nicely. If you’re concerned that it will not be enough heat, obtain 3/8″ to 5/8″ foam insulation board to line the cabinet. It is cheap & effective. 7watts will be next to unnoticed on your electric bill & the adjustable thermostat will cycle the unit when not needed. They are designed for a long life & at $11, will not break the bank. This leaves you with more time to purchase tools or unique, specialty woods!!!

    Reply