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Old 09-21-2012, 09:03 PM   #1
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


I've been wanting to build a desk and I was putting it off till it gets colder as it was too hard working in the garage in the summer when it was +30 in there as I'd be sweating way too much. Problem is, this year we went from +25C outside temp to around zero without any transition, so that kinda broke my plan a bit. I was nailing some wood today and it just shattered. I screwed it, and it went better, but I'm just wondering if I build something then when I bring it inside will it warp and overall deform? Or am I safe to build anyway? In the garage it probably hovers just above freezing so any moisture in the wood is not frozen per say, but it's close to being there.

I'm using spruce 2x4's and plywood (pine? I think?) nothing fancy.

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Old 09-22-2012, 04:37 AM   #2
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


Humidity is probably more a concern than temperature. Your winters are like ours and they can be dreadfully nose bleeding dry. Static electricity jolts are strong enough they actually sting and are visible even in daylight. I have seen beautiful grand pianos crack when moved from Southern climates to Chicago in the winter. Doors on antique homes I have worked on and could barely get open in the summer rattle in the winter.

Hard to say if that is what cracked your wood. It sounds like it may just be really dry to start. To be safe, regardless of weather, you should get in the habit of pre-drilling it if you have more and whether using screws or nails.

Obviously if your garage is really cold you are not going to be wanting to work out there anyhow. If you can stand the temp, I would think about a humidifier if you can enclose your workspace for it to make a difference. I would certainly bring your projects in loose fit, let them acclimate, and glue and tighten the fasteners inside if you can.

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Old 09-22-2012, 09:21 AM   #3
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


There are ways to prevent the cracking you described.

Temperature has little hinderance and effect on the wood cracking, imo.

One way to NAIL without cracking/splitting the wood is to dull the pointy end first.

Another way to prevent is by nailing/screwing in the board where it has the least grain.

The last one in my books is drill a pilot hole for each nail/scew.

Oh finally, the last one - I promise, is get a nail/staple gun. This beats hammering and screwing any day.

Hope all this helps your project and answered your question.

Ps. Rub the nail/screw in your hair during the cold seasons before putting it in the board. The grease from your hair acts as a lubricant for the nails/screws.

Last edited by oodssoo; 09-22-2012 at 09:24 AM.
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Old 09-22-2012, 01:45 PM   #4
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


Good to know, not sure what the humidity is out but my guess is that it's starting to get dryer. It's 44% in the house now. Usually stays around 50%. It's been raining non stop for weeks so that's probably helping somewhat. The wood has been sitting in the garage for a while so maybe it's just dry. The garage is not sealed or insulated though. A nail gun would be fun, maybe I should indeed consider one.

If temp is not much a concern then think I'll go ahead with it. It's actually optimum temp for me to work in as I don't sweat so much. I will predrill everything and use screws.
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Old 09-22-2012, 01:57 PM   #5
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


Hey Red Squirrel,

How far along are the colours up there at this time. The trees are just starting here. Some are still very green, some are about 1/3
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Old 09-22-2012, 04:28 PM   #6
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Is woodworking a bad idea in freezing temps?


This was taken August 26th.



Oddly, not much has changed since. Maybe a tad more leaves on the ground and the ones in the trees are slowly changing color, but trees don't seem to be changing color very fast this year. We had one year where everything flash froze so fast the leaves never actually fell off trees, they just died in place. It was weird and we wondered what would happen in spring but they fell then as new ones grew.

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