Lightning the workshop

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    lars christiansen

    I have been working with wood over the years, but mainly from a machine/industrial angle.
    A couple of years ago when I knew that I would be able to benefit from an earlier than expected retirement, I started to build my woodworking with hand tools project.

    Then when we moved to a new location, the opportunity of a indoor workshop in the basement presented itself.
    When you say basement, you also say limited light. Mine has a few windows that enables to know if it is day or night outside, but the does not provide sufficient working light.

    From past experiences I know that when the light is needed most for a mortise or delicate sawing I tend to get in its way.

    So I wonder if there are some good experiences and ideas that you would be willing to share?

    To give an insight in the location I add a photo with the room empty except for the workbench that I haver inherited from my father in law.

    Thank you in advance for ideas and suggestions
    Cheers Lars, Lyon, France


    Joris Kempen

    Last Year switched lights.

    4 led panels 40 watt cold white. Gives me always the same light. Day or night.

    This picture is taken right now 22:05 and I can work if it’s full day light.
    Also saves lots of power. Before had 6x 80 watt TL light and was useless.

    Joris Kempen

    And the room is about 5 by 4 meter.

    paul hillary

    Hi, The lighting Joris Kempen has is excellent, its a diffused light, enough to limit the effects of shadowing. best is either cool/daylight. a warm white gives off less light but is used to add a warm feel to a room.

    You can achieve the above with a 600mmby600mm led panel fitting and separately the surface framework. However, that said you could make a wooden frame to fit the light panel into.
    They make them in different sizes, but the square 600s are the cheapest, as they are fit to replace the suspended ceiling tile.

    They are not IP rated against the ingress of dust, I haven’t fitted any for a duration of time to notice dimming due to dust but suspect this will play out as the only disadvantage.
    The amount of heat they produce is also limited.

    The 600` panels cost from £20 plus vat, a branded panel costing considerably more. surface fixings also cost about £20 plus vat you can get the low profile or general type.
    If you want to get a good light over a machine (Laith or a bandsaw) try a warm white 10watt flood light (mounted approx within 1 metre away from the subject. they are easy to mount and come with a flex cable already attached.this is a specific light for a specific light demanding area.
    I mentioned warm white but this is a personal preference as a cool white may be to harch in close proximity.

    Another lighting is LED strips fitted under the underside of a cupboard that is located just above a workbench area.


    See if this helps you:

    My bench area has two 8-foot long runs of fluorescent bulbs over it (a total of 8 four-foot, 32W T8 bulbs) with the bench somewhat centered and parallel to the fixture. I still want more light many times. So, if I were to do it again, I might do even more. It’s also useful to have a light on the bench rather as a task light. I have one on a swing arm that is a round fluorescent tube plus a 5″ magnifier that clamps to the back of the bench. It isn’t quite as flexible as I’d like, but it can hit the area around the vise. If you have holes in your bench for holdfasts or dogs, you can also make a block with a dowel protruding from it that plops into any of the holes on the bench, or turn something on the lathe if you have one. You then grab that with a spring-clamp style lamp.

    I also have a few cheap painters lights with clamps. These are frustrating because the clamps don’t stay put well, but they are incredibly helpful when finishing because they can be put wherever I want to produce glare on the finish being applied, which reveals the coating.

    When you decide what you want, keep an eye on the color rating of the bulbs.

    You’d be surprised how much a coat of white paint all over the shop would help, too.


    ..oh…the ceiling in my basement is 6′ 10″ with open joists, so the painters lights just grab onto the joists. That’s why they can be moved around as needed. So, that idea won’t work if you have closed ceilings. It’s specialized anyway, not general lighting.

    lars christiansen

    Thanks, the picture gives a great illustration of the installed lights.
    I shall surely be looking into led panels, that I no experience of solar

    lars christiansen

    Thanks to all for the suggestions.
    Your help goes well beyond my hopes.

    I shall likely be looking to the led panels which is a choice I did not expect.

    My shop is filling up on all sides.
    It will take some time but I shall post a couple of images when the new lightning is in place.

    Thanks and Cheers

    Nick Puiia

    When I built my shop several years ago, I was using mostly machines. Since the layout was evolving, I wired a lighting circuit with several duplex outlets in the ceiling in the areas I expected to need lighting. I had a couple of fluorescent shop lights at the time that I hung from the joists. Over time, I switched to more hand tool woodworking and built my PS bench. The outlets allowed me to rearrange the light fixtures and add more lighting without re-wiring. I upgraded the fixtures near the bench with LED and used the older fixtures in the lesser used areas.


    My lighting is fairly strong, and from six sources, therefore diffuse, but from the ceiling, as in most workshops. The workshop is small so that the ceiling width is only similar to its height in the direction normal to the bench.

    The result is that although the front (vertical) face of the workpiece is well lit, the top face is always much brighter. This is even more so when I’m standing in front of it. Therefore seeing a line on the front face, especially close to and parallel to the top face (e.g. when planing) is difficult.
    My pupils contract to make the top face acceptably bright, which makes the front face appear darker.

    I’m sure that the problem has become worse with advancing age, though I’m only 65 yet.
    Trying to position ground level work lights doesn’t work well in a small workshop.

    I have found two ways to improve things.
    1. Wearing a white(ish) apron makes a surprising difference, by reflecting light on to the front face more than the top.
    2. When I need to see really well I use an led panel velcroed low on the front of the apron, driven by a battery in the pocket. The panel is made up from the flexible 12v led strips which are widely and cheaply available, e.g.

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