View Full Version : Favorite type of shop lighting?

Paul F
10-14-2005, 07:19 PM
My shoe-box of a shop has one overhead flourescent, one incandescent bulb arm-light over my workbench, and one attached to my lathe.

I'm finding myself increasingly intolerant of dark spots where I'm trying to work...

So.. one home shop guy to others;
What kind of lighting (flourescent, incandescent, compact flourescent, 20,000 watt halogen, etc) do YOU prefer to work under?

I'm cheap, but I don't have a very big shop (about 8'x16'), so I figure the time is about here to re-do some lighting!

Appreciate any thoughts!
Paul F.

10-14-2005, 07:29 PM
I went for the adjustale track lighting in the shop. I have about 10 lights in the ceiling and 5 others. All are the compact florescent lights.


Al Messer
10-14-2005, 07:31 PM
Well, I'm in about the same boat as you. I have a Fluorescent fixture over my lathe, a high intensity flexible lamp behind the lathe, focused on the headstock area, another fixture over the drill press, and a 150 Watt Incandescent bulb over the work bench where I lay-out stuff and file in the vise. Down at the other end, there is a Fluorscent fixture over the Bench saw and another over the wood working bench. I wish that there were still more!

10-14-2005, 07:34 PM
My 20' X 40' shop has 6 single-tube 8' flourescent lights. Still need spot lighting on the lathe & mill, plus for close bench work. I could stand a bit more general light, especially as my eyes get older.

My wife's 20' X 40' wood shop has 15, single-tube 40-watt lights, with a bit lower ceiling. Again, the general lighting is good, but she has additional lighting over her lathe.

Flourescent lights are probably the best bang for the buck, both in initial purchase and operation costs.

10-14-2005, 07:39 PM
I do my fastest work when something catches fire. Maybe it has something to do with the firelight, maybe not.

10-14-2005, 07:45 PM
Look out for banks being refurbished in your High-Street.
They refurbish banks every five-TO-eight years.
all the old lighting is dumped .........get in there and ask them for it before they get too far into the work.
the lighting they are chucking out is usually low energy expensive stuff plus emergency lights.....it all goes in the skip/dumpster.......be quick and ask for it.. you will get it for nothing .
I have the lighting from two banks in my two workshops.

all the best.......mark

3 Phase Lightbulb
10-14-2005, 07:45 PM
I installed 4 dual flourescent lights (8 total flourescent lights) in my shop (around 20x20 sq/ft). It's plenty of light. If I need super light, I have a couple of those portable 500watt hallogen lights but they emit so much heat, I'd never want to use them in the summer.


10-14-2005, 07:57 PM
Hi All,

I use Troffer fixtures everywhere. These are the 2' x 4' fluorescent fixtures that drop into acoustic ceilings. Each has four 48" bulbs. One 16' x 20' shop has two full rows end-to-end along the 20' dimension (five fixtures per row = 20 bulbs). This shop has a low ceiling, about 7' 8".

The other 16' x 20' shop with a higher ceiling has similar fixtures but suspended from chains in the working areas, plus four 8' single fluorescent fixtures higher on the ceiling.

And many accent lights spread around. I prefer the 60-watt flood lights in cheap fixtures on flexible arms. You can do the same thing with halogen bulbs, but they run awfully hot.

Leigh W3NLB

10-14-2005, 08:00 PM
I'm with 3Phase on this one - I use the twin-tube florescent fixtures that go on sale at Home Depot now and then. I have a little high-intensity halogen (cast-off from my wife's office) behind the lathe, pointed toward the headstock. The florescents are great at putting a lot of light around when you have enough of them, but the cheap ones I use have equally cheap ballasts. If the ballast goes, the fixture is essentially totalled.

For localized light, the 1000-watt halogen tree is like standing under the Sun, but it throws mean shadows.

I've started using the little florescent "incandescent replacement" jobs you see at Sam's and Costco. They last forever if you don't bash them, and they put out a lot of light for cheap. They often take a minute or so to fully "warm up" and produce full light, but I have never had to replace one. Much less glare than an incandescent, too, IMHO. Got one of them on the Bridgeport, and it works great.

10-14-2005, 08:02 PM
Favorite type? BRIGHT! In my downstairs shop which is about 10 x 12' I have 4 dual flourescents with super bright bulbs and a number of spot light over the tools themselves. Just the flourescents are over 30,000 lumens. I can almost get a tan. The only problem I find is if I stay up late in the shop it really screws up my sleep cycle.

charlie coghill
10-14-2005, 08:16 PM
My shop is 32X40 with a 10ft celing. I found a number of used 8ft. flourescent lights for $5.00 apiece.

So I could choose where I wanted the light, I installed 20 of the two tube lights on three circuits. The shop is well lighted as is but I also have a 4 foot fixture over the lathe and one over the mill.

As the ballest go bad I replace the whole light with a new one, just as cheep as finding a new ballest.

It has been about 12 years ago that the lights were installed and todate I have replaced about 4 fixtures and have one that needs replacing now.

10-14-2005, 08:42 PM
I think you need both types of light. Flourescents are good for general coverage, but you need the shadows of the incandescents for depth judgement. Mine are a series of those cheap old 'student lamps' and a bunch of holes (or holders) all around the shop. The switches go out eventually, and they get pretty hammered and gooped up in the shop. I used to buy new switched sockets, but I've had good luck at garage sales finding the whole lamp for 2-3 bucks.

10-14-2005, 08:54 PM
Mark made a good point about banks although I wouldn't hang around waiting for throw-outs. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif Go to your local school district maintenance shop. I have about 25 2-bulb eight footers and four 4-bulb four foot fluorescent fixtures. Got them all for $10 out the door!

They look and work like new. I think they came from a remodeling job on one of the campuses. Check around. If all else fails, you can get 2-bulb fluorescent fixtures at Home Depot for $8.

A word of caution- Don't overload your light circuit.

10-14-2005, 09:04 PM
I use electronic ballast, dual tube fluorescents from Home Depot. They are bright and are free from hum and flicker.

The fluorescents prevent specular glare off metal, which is harsh on your eyes but as Gizmo2 mentioned, you may want incandescent lamps in spots where you need a slightly sharper perceived image. Den

10-14-2005, 10:01 PM
On the same subject, what is the best method to dispose of used flourescent tubes? I seem to have accumulated a dozen or so at this point.

3 Phase Lightbulb
10-14-2005, 10:13 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JCHannum:
On the same subject, what is the best method to dispose of used flourescent tubes? I seem to have accumulated a dozen or so at this point. </font>

I just got rid of around 10 long ones by putting them into a garbage bag and lightly tapping/breaking them until the bag was small enough to put into a small cardboard box. Seal up the carbboard box with tape and toss it in the garbage.


10-14-2005, 10:15 PM
I have plug-ins on the ceiling so when a 4 foot flourescent craps out I get another one, hang it and plug it in. I was planning on putting in some 60 watt bulbs to kill the 60 cycle hum that makes me feel weird (well, weirder than usual http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif ) at night but never got around to it.

About getting rid of tubes, just wrap them up in a couple of layers of newspaper (Like rolling a really big doobie) stick it in a big trash can and smack it with a hammer. No mess...

10-14-2005, 10:22 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JCHannum:
On the same subject, what is the best method to dispose of used flourescent tubes? I seem to have accumulated a dozen or so at this point. </font>

Here in our area of Fla we just put them out at the curb with the garbage.

No matter where you go, there you are!

Hal C. , www.teampyramid.com (http://www.teampyramid.com)

10-14-2005, 10:41 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JCHannum:
On the same subject, what is the best method to dispose of used flourescent tubes? I seem to have accumulated a dozen or so at this point. </font>

When I get a new lamp I save the box to put a batch of old bulbs in. Then I break them in the box. In the old days I put them in plastic bags before breaking them, but the pieces are sharp and some manage to escape through the bags. Not such a problem with the box.

One shot with an airgun through the cardboard can sometims break all the bulbs at once. Otherwise, it's a job for the hammer.

10-14-2005, 10:46 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Paul F:
What kind of lighting (flourescent, incandescent, compact flourescent, 20,000 watt halogen, etc) do YOU prefer to work under?

I use fluorescents, an average of one 4-foot 40-watt bulb per 11 or 12 square feet. Incandescent lights on the machines, and anything I can cram close enough to the inspection microscope.

Rich Carlstedt
10-14-2005, 11:03 PM
The rule of thumb for machine shops is one Watt per square foot for general lighting.
(spot lighting yet needed)
For precison work without spot lights, two Watts per foot are required.
These are Flourescent numbers and "assume" the walls and ceiling are white or a very light color for reflection, and that the fixtures are 8 to 10 feet from the floor.
So called "Low Energy" bulbs must be calculated using the actual wattage they consume when doing the above.
I say this, because a lot of 4 footers are NOT 40 watts, but are 32 !.( 8's are 60 !)

your 8 x 16 could use either 2 eight footers or 4 depending on spot requirements !

10-14-2005, 11:08 PM
There are very large differences in the output of various 4' bulbs. Some may be twice as bright as others and usually cost more too.

They will usually have a lumen rating on the bulb or sleeve.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 10-14-2005).]

10-14-2005, 11:55 PM
I use a separate student incandescant lamp for each 5 foot bench in the shop. The mill when in use has the lamp from its bench and the lamp from the lathe bench next door shining on the table.
They cost about $25 aud but are often on special at the superbarns for $15.
I find the warmth of the globes keep some of the chill out of the shop. In the end its how much light do you need.

10-15-2005, 12:09 AM
I use high efficiency cold weather ballast ten footers. Very bright. Cold weather coming nice if the lights actually work. I also have lighting on every machine in my shop 200 watts on the mill and 100 minm on my shaper lathe sander and so on and so on. I spent more initially on my lighting but havent replaced even a buld in 12 years no ****. They are nice.

10-15-2005, 07:29 AM
My shop is divided into three sections, One for woodworking, one for metal working, and the other has a CMM for automotive checking. The wood shop which is 30 x 26 has 24 - 4 bulb flourescent fixtures. I have close to 5 watts per square foot but I wired two bulbs on each fixture to one switch and the other two bulbs to the other switch. When I turn on one set of lights plenty of light to do work. If I want to operate I flip them both on and it looks like a supernova. All the walls 11.5 feet high are white, with drop ceilings. I do have seperate lights for the lathe, mill, bandsaw, and grinders in the metal shop. I probably have another 75 fixtures left that I need to get rid of.


10-15-2005, 08:34 AM
Flourescent tubes have a drop of mercury in each one--something about making the electricity flow thru the tube. Be very careful about where you break the tubes or you will have to decontaminate your shop for mercury at great expense.

Your Old Dog
10-15-2005, 09:11 AM
I read a post last week by Frank Ford with a direct to lighting he uses for photographing his guitars. I'm in the process of building a variation of that for over my welding table. It will hang on 4 eyebolts and be moveable to my photo studio when needed. It will have 8 100 watt bulbs of the new energy efficiant spiral flourescent/incandescent type bulbs that generate 100 watts of out put for 23 watts input. I'm building up reflectors covered in aluminum foil around them to redirect errant light to the target. My welding table is the hardest place for me to see because I never get to work with new steel but old rusty stuff !! Thanks for the pics Frank, hope to have it done this weekend as construction is already well underway. (four flourescents over the workbench light the other end of my 14 X40 shop.)

I'm hoping that some of what Evan says about staying up late because of brightness works in my shop too. I crash and burn early in the evening during the fall/winter months.

edited to add link:

[This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 10-15-2005).]

10-15-2005, 01:34 PM
Instead of foil reflectors look into the new compact fluorescent PAR 38 flood light bulbs. I bought a couple the other day and I'm stopping to pick up some more this afternoon.

Tim Mehner
10-15-2005, 02:30 PM
My shop is 30'X 50' and I have 12 - 8' dual tube flourescents. It's plenty bright in there with all of them on at once.

[This message has been edited by Tim Mehner (edited 10-15-2005).]

10-15-2005, 05:42 PM
Well here is my 2 cents....I use whatever is cheap at the time,I have several 4'floresent,some incandescentfor close work,lathes, mills,track lights over the surface grinder(no shadows) and halogen for the special places where good light is needed,weld areas,etc.

The tame Wolf !

10-16-2005, 08:49 PM
I've one more tidbit to add about this subject. If you dangle a flourescent, say 7' directly over the work areas, you need some way to protect those sharp sheet metal corners on the cheap fixtures. Some of those sticks of pipe insulation that are split lengthwise can be slipped over those sharp edges. Learned the hard way doing gun stock refinishing!

10-17-2005, 12:03 AM
Im suprised that no one mentioned the flicker that one gets from a flourescent light. If your machine operates at anything close to 60 RPM, the shaft will appear to stand still.
Incandesent bulbs are recommended for rotating machinery. Doug

J Tiers
10-17-2005, 01:00 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by doug931:
Im suprised that no one mentioned the flicker that one gets from a flourescent light. If your machine operates at anything close to 60 RPM, the shaft will appear to stand still.
Incandesent bulbs are recommended for rotating machinery. Doug</font>

Probably not mentioned because it really doesn't happen. Have you ever seen it? Or have you just heard about it?

Fluorescent tubes are different from teh arc lights that the legend is from. Arc lights COULD strobe saws etc, because they were instantly on and off.

The arc on a tube is used only to excite the phosphors on the inside surface of the tube. The response of the phosphor smears the time of the light out so that the strobe effect is insignificant.

There is also a green tail to the light. This gives a green streak to the movement, as if the smeared-out pulse wasn't enough.

If a flourescent tube's light makes you think something is really not moving, probably you took too many funny little pills when you were young http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

As far as the lighting, I used to use those $8 "Lights Of America" double tube shop lights. They buzzed and flickered too m uch, and I got some decent ballasted lights (made in USA, btw) that have been fine. No buzz. Also no strobe effect.

Thought about some incandescent "task lighting" but haven't put in any. Most all my incandescent is "compact flourescent" anyhow. 60W light and 9 watts input.... can't beat it with a stick. Some of the bulbs have lasted 8 years.

BTW, do not use "cool white" tubes, or if you do, mix it up with some "warm white" tubes. The cool white is the very worst at making your eyes (mine anyhow) feel like they are being sucked out of your skull.

[This message has been edited by J Tiers (edited 10-17-2005).]

10-17-2005, 01:57 AM
I sprang for the high dollar T-1 fixtures from the Depot and they were worth every penny. They don’t buzz or flicker, are quite bright, and the bulbs seem to last forever.
I also have task lights at several of the machines.

Your Old Dog
10-17-2005, 07:06 AM
J Tiers, returning to my basement engraving bench with a coffee in hand I noticed how much more inviting one end of my bench was over the other. Incandescent bulbs are much more comfortable to work under when doing close up work. I affixed a porcelan shade to a heavy duty microphone mount, put a 150watt bulb and a diffusing scrim over that (scrim mounted to a womens crochet hoop and held in place by folding paper clips to the shade) It makes the definitive high quality light for extended closeup work as it has no shadows and is easy on the eyes. Flourescents hurt my eyes and gave me a headache after awhile.



[This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 10-17-2005).]

10-17-2005, 11:27 AM
You don't get any flicker off of T8 bulbs. Which is what I use over the bench and lathe area. Over each I have two four bulb 4ft. fixtures, PLENTY of light. I want to add two more over the mill. If you place the lights correctly over the bench you get no shadows. The center line of the lights should over the front edge of the bench. NOT behind you or directly over your standing location.

10-17-2005, 12:34 PM
My favourite is a plain 60W incandescent flex-neck type which I fixed on a magnetic base. Goes anywhere, but usually lives on the DP. Holds the chuck key too http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

10-17-2005, 01:03 PM
nobody has HID lights in their home shop?


that's what I'm upgrading to! (someday) A good all weather bulb. I used to use them in an environment chamber that went down to -20 degF.


J Tiers
10-17-2005, 01:21 PM

I guess I don't get headaches from fluorescent bulbs, so I don't worry about it... If I were to use ONLY "cool white" then I might get some effect.

It takes so many incandescent bulbs to equal one fluorescent fixture that I just don't like the heat and energy waste.
As far as the strobe effect on rotating objects, here is how to find out if there may be a problem......

Stand away from the light source, maybe 25 feet or a bit more.

Now look to one side of it, and "swing" your view past it quickly, without trying to focus on anything.

If it will "strobe" things you will see it as a series of dots spread out as you swing your view past it.

Many new cars have LED brakelights which you will see as dots in "normal" driving mode, but which become constant when brakes are on. Many red lamps on radio towers, and new types of LED traffic lights will also show up as dots or dashes.

If you see the dots, it means the light source is pulsed, with definite on and off times. That sort of source, which includes some LED based lights, may indeed have a strobe effect and are not good for use around rotating machinery.

Fluorescent bulbs dont seem to do it.

10-17-2005, 04:29 PM
When I feel like getting really bright in my shed, I get a big bucket of blacklight paint and slosh it everywhere, then turn on the blacklights and disco ball and start groovin' http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

Your Old Dog
10-17-2005, 04:37 PM
J Tiers, actually I drew those as regular incandescent bulbs in my drawing but am in fact using the flourescent style that is supposed to give you 100W for 23W consumption so will have 414watt consumption from 18 bulbs at 1800 watt. They are pricey at $7.00 each so will have 126.00 when all are installed. Should make a nice diffused light similar to what Frank Ford uses on his guitars. I'll have these wired to two banks so I can just use half power when I want to.

10-17-2005, 05:31 PM
I use Metal Halide fixtures along with 800ma T12/HO lamps with -32º ballast. I was in the sign and lighting game for a long time.

Also watch out for the phosphorus when your busting up old lamps... you do not want that fine dust that in your eyes. If you need to dispose of old lamps around the shop. Make your self up a shatter tube. Take a length of pvc pipe 2" dia. and glue a cap on one end... on the other glue threaded clean out on. Then drill a 1/4" hole at mid point on tube. Take a piece of 1/4" rod 48" long put a round nosed point on the end and piece of 1" dowel fitted to the other as a grip. Place a lamp in along with a 5/8"x1" bolt with nut on it. Cap end insert rod and pop tube duct tape over hole (you can put a rubber stopper in hole first ) and give it a few shakes like your using a post ponder. Insert next lamp. Turns them into small manageable piece that fit nicely into a lined can. A lot cheaper then a trip to the eye Dr.

10-17-2005, 05:44 PM
I have all the overhead florescent lights.
but am reading here about this other anomaly .......people saying you should have an individual tungsten light ...as well on each machine.
Just visited my local Aldi store and they have a special offer on pocketed halogens.
something like 7 of them for £4.99.
this includes the transformers etc.
I could make holders/boxes for them.
what's everyones opinion on these, they are small about 2 inches across.
do you guys think they will make-up for what the fluorescents lack ..........or otherwise.
all the best..mark

J Tiers
10-17-2005, 10:40 PM
Disposal of fluorescent bulbs?

I box them up, and take to the HazMat disposal folks.... there are three free days in fall and three in spring.

They take dead lead batteries dead NiCds, insecticides, solvents, paints, oil, most anything normal. No ammo, no explosives. No smoke detectors or other radioactive waste items either.

There are SOME benefits to living in larger urban areas.

10-18-2005, 02:19 AM
I have a mess of dual 4 footers, and a few incandescents like table lamps. I like to use one warm white and one day-glo tube per fixture. I find that's comfortable over long periods of time. I made a mistake a few days ago and bought some cool white tubes. Put two in one fixture. What an eerie cold eyestrain type of light that is by comparison.

The incandescents I have I don't use much. There's one on my DP, but it doesn't work very often. But there's something interesting about incandescents. They generate heat, enough to keep a machine from rusting when the humidity is high. Because that heat is inside the shop, it supplements the heating in the building. I doubt that I'd see any difference in my energy costs even if I left a few 100 watters on all the time. None of that heat generated goes up a chimmney either, so it's hard for me to discount the use of incandescents because of their inefficiency.

I can say that now because the furnace is cycling on and off with this colder weather. Probably in summer I'd want to go with those compact screw-in fluorescents- I don't mind that light, and it's truly non-stroboscopic.

By the way, I did experiment using fluorescent tubes with a high voltage pulse generator many moons ago. I got a pretty good strobe effect out of it. I have (or had) a picture taken with a film camera at night of my buddy jumping through the air. Several nice clean pics of him on the one frame.

10-18-2005, 02:30 AM
I like it bright, as I said. Helps the old eyeballs focus better.


Your Old Dog
10-18-2005, 07:05 AM
Evan, they make something like sunglass style frames now for O/A weldors. Don't know if you've seen them but they offer more protection than ordinary sunglasses for really bright situations!

Friday nights when the weather is nice I like to step into the backyard, plant my finger in my naval, lean back and contemplate the heavens. Any chance you could power down if the weather looks good?

10-30-2005, 11:46 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by hoffman:
I was planning on putting in some 60 watt bulbs to kill the 60 cycle hum that makes me feel weird (well, weirder than usual http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif ) at night but never got around to it.

That means the stereo / TV isn't up loud enough. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Your Old Dog:
Incandescent bulbs are much more comfortable to work under when doing close up work.</font>

Agreed. I've found in the office I work in that the "pure white" tubes give me a headache after working under them for a few hours, in the shop I've mixed the "pure white" tubes with the "natural" tubes for general lighting and it seems to help prevent the headaches.

Haven't figured out the detail lighting yet; before I bought the fluorescent fixtures ($5.99 at the local OSH) the sales guy was trying to sell me on some 600W over head halogen lights... I guess he doesn't have to work under them on a warm California night or pay an electric bill. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//rolleyes.gif

10-31-2005, 10:59 AM
Sylvania Pentron 4100K 54 watt each bulbs. Low energy use, very bright. 4 in a reflective fixture. You can buy them in double fixtures as well. I have had regular flourescents and those vapor lights in the shop. Light color and quality stunk, and electricity use was high. These are at 20% use of electric of the vapor lights with the big old 9 inch bulbs, 30% of said electric of the flourescents. Light quality is ten fold better, color definition way beyond expectations. No dark spots. Initial cost probably twice a flourescent fixture, life span.....I have yet to change a bulb one year later, and I have 24 of these 4 bulb fixtures. Like this so much I have two "dual bulb" fixtures in my garage. Like having a new garage (or better yet, finding out where all the crap was in the old garage so I could clean it up properly).