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Workshop Appliances with Cecil Rogers


Bench Lighting  - Workshop Appliances by Cecil Rogers

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We all know that natural light is the best light to use.

A workbench snuggled up to a huge, north facing window would present the best light throughout the day.

The Problem

As I get older, I get blinder (it really is a word). We all know that natural light is the best light to use. A workbench snuggled up to a huge, north facing window would present the best light throughout the day; natural light where harsh shadows would be minimized and light would be as consistent as possible.

Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances get in the way. My current shop is a one car garage with a west facing garage door. There are no windows, so natural light is only available through the garage door, and it is minimal until after noon. As the sun clears the house, things change. Natural light becomes very harsh. This isn't so bad when planing a board, but it becomes as unusable as total darkness when trying to cut dovetails, or do layout work, or any number of other tasks.

Now, keep in mind that I'm not a physicist who can tell you the difference in wave length between UV and infrared. I'm not an ophthalmologist who can tell you about rods and cones or how the human brain interprets visible light. I'm not an industrial engineer who can tell you the optimal angle for lighting a work area.

I'm not a lighting expert of any kind. It is way beyond the scope of my abilities to teach anyone about the intricacies of light. What I am is an aging, amateur woodworker. I simply want more light where I need it, when and how I want it, and that I can control as I "see fit." When it comes to lighting in my shop, it's all about me.

The Benefits

Necessity is the mother of invention. I didn't invent lights, but I have lights. What I've discovered over time is that lights can be a great great asset AND a pain in the keister.

General lighting adds increased visibility. Directional lighting can help eliminate shadows. Raking (very low angle) lighting can help in showing flaws in surface prep. Certain types of light can aide in color selection when finishing. However, lighting mounts can get in the way. Moving and positioning lights can interrupt work flow. Lights can cause as many annoyances as they solve problems.

So, here are some ideas that I've come up with to help myself in the lighting arena. These are ways to mount lights such that they stay out of the way, but offer light when, where, and how I need it. I'm sure there are others, but these have helped me... Maybe, they will help someone else.

My first, um... fix

We've all seen the reticulating arm desk lamp assemblies designed to swivel at two points (typically the lamp can and mounting fixture) and extend or retract on a hinge point. They range in price from a few dollars at the discount stores to a few hundred, depending on options and vendor. Mounting options are usually limited to either a heavy pedestal to offset the weight of the fixture or a screw bracket that's attached to the edge of the desk.

The brackets are far too small to attach to a 5" thick bench, and the pedestals tend to take a lot of bench space.

But, these lamps are very inexpensive and offer a viable solution. And yet, I hate this lamp. I have a "sense" that one shouldn't help top off a land fill with things that are still functional. It's the only reason I still have this lamp. Oddly though, the cheap versions of these lamps seem to hold up as well as the high dollar versions. That's a shame, too. I'd love to be able to justify throwing this thing away.

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