Low cost shop lighting

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Forum topic by Robinson posted 01-13-2011 09:08 PM 4221 views 1 time favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Robinson's profile


52 posts in 3666 days

01-13-2011 09:08 PM

All of my old shops were always a hodge podge of lighting with an abundance of bad shadows. My current woodshop that I am building up is different. When I tell people about my simple cheap lighting they claim it will not work. Please don’t tell me that it won’t work because it IS working. The main room is 24’ x 36’ and most of it is a cathedral ceiling (off white) with a large ceiling fan in the peak. The fan has a 4 bulb fixture attached. It which is rated at 60 watts per bulb but back when that building was part of our house we only kept 40 watt bulbs in it. When I started on the shop I just bought four 150 watt equivalent CFL’s and screwed them in place of the old 40 watt bulbs. The CFL’s only draw 42 watts each so they are well within the fixture ratings. That was to be just the beginning of a much larger lighting plan. Surprisingly 90% of the time that is the only light I run. Note that I am old enough (68) that I need good light to see detail well. I never dreamed that they would light that room that well. I do want to install 4 more, one at each extreme corner of the room just to keep me from working in my own shadow. Note also that in spite of some misguided notions that the CFL’s DO NOT have a fluorescent flicker…
So for 336 watts (8 CFL’s) I can light that fairly large room extremely well.
I know guys that don’t think that they can afford a decent table saw but will spend a thousand dollars lighting a small shop. I would be willing to spend a lot more to get good lighting if need be but it just isn’t necessary. Since I am not Tool-man Tim Taylor I don’t feel the need to have bragging rights on having the most overkill. :-)

-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

13 replies so far

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4148 days

#1 posted 01-13-2011 09:10 PM

This is pretty simple:

If it WORKS, then it works !

Me? I’d like to snatch a piece of the SUN, and put it in MY shop :-)

-- -- Neil

View benfullohell's profile


14 posts in 3665 days

#2 posted 01-13-2011 10:06 PM

light tunnels and fiber optics are other good alternatives though they only work while the sun is out, they cost NOTHING to run.

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 3667 days

#3 posted 01-13-2011 10:29 PM

My shop has two light bulbs (but two large, floor-to-ceiling windows) that make working past sundown almost impossible. Cramming a whole lot of CFL lumens out of incandescent wattage numbers sounds like a great idea.. I just need to rough in some more electric out there

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View HorizontalMike's profile


7910 posts in 3888 days

#4 posted 01-13-2011 10:45 PM

How about some pictures of your shop?

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4081 days

#5 posted 01-14-2011 12:04 AM

I just like to look at pictures, too.

View Robinson's profile


52 posts in 3666 days

#6 posted 01-14-2011 02:21 AM

I can’t take pictures in there, the lights are too bright. ;-)
OK, maybe not. I too like pictures of shops but usually prefer pictures of shops that are less of a mess than mine. :-)
I’ll be taking some soon. I just got started back on setting it up a few weeks ago and it was down to narrow paths through all of the stuff carried in there. It is starting to look pretty fair now except for that complete Western boot rebuilding shop I have stored in one corner (one machine is almost 10’ long)... And that piano… And a lot of surplus wood shop machinery… Other than that it is shaping up OK… :-)

-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

View Damage Inc.'s profile

Damage Inc.

41 posts in 3843 days

#7 posted 01-14-2011 04:06 AM


I’ve got 4 of these in my garage and they put out an amazing amount of light. They are a 105 watt bulb with the equivilant of 400 watt bulb in light. I think I paid about $25 per fixture.

View newbiewoodworker's profile


668 posts in 3801 days

#8 posted 01-14-2011 09:44 PM

I have a simple Shop light over my workbench. It lights up the entire half of the room. There is another T-12 Shop Light affixed to a beam in the centre of the shop… It doesn’t do jack… dispite being higher rated bulbs… Before it was just that single “doesnt do jack” one, and a single, bare, 60w-100w bulb… also, worth less than the carton it came in…

So I would just get a couple of those $20 Home Depot Special, T-8 ShopLights… Even in a Concrete, light absorbing, room, it does just fine. I do need to add another one on the door end of the garage… not bright enough… lol… thats bad when your Mitre saw is back there… Matter of fact… I may hang the drop light there for now…#Goes down the the shop#

Here is the light I use… I think…

No special bulbs, just some Phillips ones.

-- "Ah, So your not really a newbie, but a I betterbie."

View kalapolo's profile


63 posts in 3663 days

#9 posted 01-15-2011 04:54 AM

I have some of those run of the mill Home Depot lights sitting in the garage that we pull out when we start the vegetable seeds indoors. I think I might be installing those permanently soon to get rid of the current gloom in the garage!

View Resurrected's profile


671 posts in 3666 days

#10 posted 01-15-2011 05:10 AM

I’ve got billboard 120 watt flourecent light. ( Blinding) Not too entirely expensive at about 70 installed. I’m in the shop nearly every day and my E-bill has never got bad. Do what you think is best for you.

-- Who can I block now???????????????????????

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3945 days

#11 posted 01-15-2011 05:28 AM

I have had 8ft flourecent fixtures. Bulbs too expensive, hard to haul in a car.
Then I put in double 4ft flourecent fixtures. Bulbs and fixtures don’t last. Flicker.
Just for a test I replaced one of those fixtures with one of those daylight 150w equivalent CFLs. More light for less watts, but they do create a bad glare IMHO.
Finally I read about 300w equivalent CFLs. Home Depot has them for ~$20. They are the largest light I think you can get for a standard base fixture. Don’t require the “mogul base” of a true 300w incandescent. I put one of those over my TS. That is one nice light. Not so compact; about the size of a foot ball, but very nice, non glaring,warm light. They draw about 68watts I think, so not bad at all.
Francis, A couple of those 300w CFLs, one on each end of the shop, might be all you need to add.

View bdjohns1's profile


43 posts in 3666 days

#12 posted 01-18-2011 06:11 AM

Crank49 – I use one of those right above my router table in a cheap clamp fixture. Does a great job. My shop is somewhat undersupplied from an electrical perspective, so freeing up wattage for my tools is a win, especially since with small kids, most of my work is done after dark when they’re in bed.

-- Ben - resident cheese whiz.

View Robinson's profile


52 posts in 3666 days

#13 posted 01-19-2011 10:06 PM

Crank49 -
I’ll look for those… I have a corner in the mechanics/metal shop that is a bear to light and when I work in that corner I would have time for it to warm up to full light. I might also want two in my finishing room (if I ever get it finished) :-)
I also have one barn/stable that is mostly lit with one light up in a loft and that might be a good answer there.
I don’t consider $20 all that expensive as long as it does the job.
My earlier high cost comments were prompted by some guys on an email list that were spending $400 each for extremely high wattage industrial lighting fixtures in a couple of rows in a pole barn for working on old tractors. I’m sorry, that is just over kill. Actually I didn’t mind them spending that much. No skin off of my nose. Just them later whining about the other tools and things they couldn’t afford… Duh!!! Eight $400 lights are $3200… Not counting a big power bill.
Different strokes. :-)

-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

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