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Shop Lighting

Shop Lighting
By Bob Filipczak, Online Editor: Woodworkers’ Journal

We didn't think there would be much to talk about on the subject of shop lighting, but we were very wrong. This forum thread started with a simple question about fluorescent lighting versus halogen lighting in the shop. Which, he wondered, was the better option.

There was a small contingent who preferred halogen light because it didn't flicker and provided brighter light than fluorescents. There was some talk about the buzzing of fluorescents, but that went off onto a tangent about ballasts (part of a fluorescent light fixture) and the price of fixing them. The one interesting fact that came out about fluorescents and the ballasts is the heat that they can create where the bulb meets the fixture. That's apparently why you shouldn't mount them directly to a joist or other flammable surface. So if you ever wondered why they hang fluorescents from chains, this might be a clue. One participant actually worked for a shop that burned down because of faulty ballasts on a fluorescent light.

One pro-halogen woodworker wrote, "I use almost all halogen in my shop. It has two bulbs in each light fixture and it works well for all the lighting needs I have. It is very bright and leaves very little shadow effects due to there being two lights in each fixture. I have several fixtures that are targeted at different areas-- bench, table saw lathe, etc."

There were others who mentioned that halogen lights produce hot spots. But for the most part, the woodworkers in the forum all seemed to use some form of fluorescent lights. As the discussion progressed, however, it became clear that all fluorescent lights were not created equal. Some generate warmer light in the red end of the spectrum and some of the more expensive fluorescent have a cooler light in the blue green end of the spectrum. One wrote, "I personally prefer 'color corrected' flourescents, with a 3500 to 4000 kelvin rating, especially in areas used for finishing. They cost a little more (big surprise) but are much closer to the lighting your work is likely to be seen under when finished." We didn't consider the finishing angle of lighting, but it makes sense that this would be an important consideration for your shop at that stage of the work.

The best advice came from someone who seemed know his stuff. He wrote, "Being a former physicist, I'm down with the spectrum stuff and I went with the corrected temp fluorescents in the entire shop and one halogen unit over my detail bench to give me strong lighting where I need it the most." Others echoed the idea of a mix of both fluorescents and halogen lights for best affect.

(c) 2002, Woodworkers Journal. All Rights Reserved.