View Full Version : Better Lighting for Shop Tasks, Like Layout Work

Paul Alciatore
12-08-2012, 02:36 PM
As you may know, I am in a somewhat long process of converting my garage to a nice shop. I am not as well along as I want to be, but I have been doing some metal work there as part of this process. It is a fairly standard, two car garage which measures about 20' x 21' and I presently have six, two tube, bare tube florescent fixtures in it for general light. The level of the light is OK, but I have noticed that this is not really adequate for some tasks, like determining if a punch mark is actually on the cross lines or if it needs to be corrected. Depending on which way I face, the same mark can appear to be high or low or left or right or off at some angle. Optical illusions. I find that I must use a magnifier and shield the part from direct light with my head in order to see exactly where the first punch mark is. I can accept this time consuming procedure for exacting work, but for many tasks where the highest accuracy is not really needed, it is really too much time wasted. A faster procedure is needed.

What I am wondering is if there is some form of lighting that I can use, perhaps at a layout/inspection area, that will minimize this problem. Am I looking at some kind of soft, diffuse lighting? Bounce light? Ring light? Any suggestions? I just read Evan's latest lighting post for his living room or den. Any thoughts about LED strips for the shop.

oil mac
12-08-2012, 02:50 PM
Paul nowadays things seem to me to be in many cases a bit more difficult, Due to (particularly over here in the U.K. ) European regulations etc, where the only light bulbs one can get nowadays are flouroscents, Except occasionally one can pick up the older style filament bulbs
I find that my main shop lighting large flouroscent tubes is a harsh light, & like yourself i find centre dab marks, layout lines etc a little harder to distinguish Maybe a lot of this is due to advancing years
However the light on my big lathe, & over my workbench, i use an older syle filament bulb, this gives a nicer warmer light, which i find nicer to work to
maybe it is only me with a self preference, or can someone explain a more scientific aspect of shop lighting

12-08-2012, 03:50 PM
T5 fluorescent lights are coming down in price

Huge step up from standard

12-08-2012, 04:04 PM
Check out some of the LED localized lighting options, ebay 120961514253, these have a standard ES base to them.

12-08-2012, 05:21 PM
For me, it seems to make a big difference what color the light is, natural sunlight is best but not always available. The fluorescent tube color I liked best used to be called "Daylight", don't know what current designation would come closest to that in the newer T-5 or T-8 tubes. The "Dayllight" color seemed to be much better than "Cool White" and certainly way better than either mercury vapor or metal halide.


12-08-2012, 05:36 PM
If you don't have reflectors your losing a lot of light, it can be as simple as putting some aluminum foil behind your bulbs, if you want some bright light I just bought some LED flood lights mount them as high as you can and it will seem like high noon on a bright sunny day, the color is white/warm white, projected life is 50,000+ hours, max power is 12W, voltage 100/240 50/60 Hz . I used 1 to replace 2 150 watt flood lights. Search on Amazon for LEDwholesalers.

12-08-2012, 05:48 PM
If you scribe the centre lines you can feel the intersection witha fine(r)-pointed "prick" punch - it takes a bit of practice but once you "have it" it makes things a lot easier. If the punch mark is not on the centres it can be "drawn" over to where you want it and "re-pricked".

Once its OK use normal centre punch - check if its OK - if not "draw it over".

The best way to "sight" the punch mark/s is to "sight" them along the centre lines.

This is all "manual skills" such as tool and drill sharpening that have to be"worked at" to "get it" an need occasssional practice to keep theskill level up.

12-08-2012, 05:58 PM
Try doing that with the lights turned off, oldtiffie. I think you missed the point, again.

Paul Alciatore
12-08-2012, 05:58 PM
If you don't have reflectors your losing a lot of light, it can be as simple as putting some aluminum foil behind your bulbs, if you want some bright light I just bought some LED flood lights mount them as high as you can and it will seem like high noon on a bright sunny day, the color is white/warm white, projected life is 50,000+ hours, max power is 12W, voltage 100/240 50/60 Hz . I used 1 to replace 2 150 watt flood lights. Search on Amazon for LEDwholesalers.

When I said "bare bulb" I meant there was no diffuser in front of the bulbs. There is a white reflecting surface behind and partially around them. I don't think the light is insufficient. I think it is too, er, something, perhaps too harsh.

12-08-2012, 06:48 PM
edit: oops, never mind

my only suggestion is that the lighting in the inspection are have high CRI and be diffuse, which helps the brain distinguish features.

Also, maybe you need better quality tubes. what's the cri and temperature of your tubes? It should have a 3 digit number somewhere on it, like 841 = 80+cri ,4100K

12-08-2012, 06:52 PM
Perhaps at least part of the probelm is "old eyes" with the remainder of the problem in large part being not being able to admit it or do something (eg "spend money") about it.

12-08-2012, 07:55 PM
I recently fixed an 18" adjustable Luxo (you, know with the articulated arms and springs) fluorescent on my bench. Is it ever great to have; being able to position the light depending what side/angle you're trying to see is SO much better than relying on stationary overhead light

12-09-2012, 02:59 PM

For general shop lighting most people need around 30fc (foot-candles) of illumination. Normally the most economical approach is to provide this light level over the entire shop and then supplement the main lighting system at the machine tools to provide 50-75fc. For bench work/layout, it not unusual to see 100fc and above depending on how critical the work is. For general shop lighting, consider a T5-HO lighting system for excellent energy efficiency and high color rendering ability.


Rich Carlstedt
12-09-2012, 11:19 PM
With Modern LED's and compact fluorescents, I don't know the answer.
But having worked in die shops most of my life, The following is a standard to guide you.
For normal shop lighting, you want one watt ( from a standard fluorescent ) per square foot with white walls and white ceiling.
This will give good overall lighting, but require spot lighting on machines sometimes, or at the bench .
If you want lighting with no spots, use 2 watts per foot as a guide. We had this at work and did precision grinding as well as close layout.
My shop is 23 x 23 which is 523 sq/ft and I have nine 8 foot fluorescents ( 540 watts) and use spots on occasions.
White walls and ceiling are critical !

12-10-2012, 12:39 AM
One trick I have used while hand drafting (MANY years ago) was to have a small light off to one side and about 8" to 12" above the surface. I would sight the shadow of the pen and the pen tip to meet at the point I wanted to hit. Put the shadow tip on the mark and bring the pen down to it.

Since I am left handed, I would mount this light on my left. You probably will want to mount it to your right.


12-10-2012, 01:15 AM
I was going to suggest a sort of led ring light which would be placed over the spot to be pricked, laying flat. The light would graze the surface from all around. It might show up pencil marks and/or cross scratches without feeding too much light back towards your face. Just an idea.

I have the same problem. I have a steel post on a stand, and a 1/2 inch plate welded to the top of that as my 'inertial support device'- something to resist a hammer blow like an anvil. This is where I make my punch marks. It's placed about as close to a fluorescent fixture as you could get, so there's a ton of light falling on it- but I'm constantly moving about , trying to find a position where I can actually see what I'm doing. There's a pair of 10x reading glasses that I use there, and that sure helps.

My coming solution to that problem (don't actually know if it's going to work out yet) is to make myself a lit and magnified prick punch. What I'm hoping to get is a view mostly all around the point, with a focus at the point- don't know if I made this clear or not. What I want to see in the lens is a 360 degree view of the tip, but not including the shank. I'd like to be able to get this view from the side, but if I have to look down from the top I'll be ok with that.

Back to the ring light- I don't know if the stark white light is any better for showing detail than a warm white light, assuming an equal level of illumination, but I do know that white led light can be pretty harsh- especially if your face is right in there. What I don't know is what effect there might be from running them on ac- they are going to be turning off and on 60 times a second, which could be a strong factor in the harshness.

Well, there I see another project- a small ring light that can be laid flat on a surface, powered by a wall wart. Hmm- ring of lexan about 3/8 thick, inner hole chamfered all the way and polished, leds inserted from the top, near enough to the edge of the hole that they shine directly onto the chamfered surface, light diverges out horizontally but not upwards-

Maybe not good- maybe the light has to shine down on the spot from about a 45 degree angle- hmm. Maybe the angle of the chamfer has to direct the light at this angle, and the ring has to stand above the surface a bit- hmm. Do you look at the spot through the top of the ring, or underneath it- hmm. I'm thinking a ring with a hole about 1-1/2 to 2 inch diameter, on legs to keep it about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the surface. The ring would have a handle coming off one side so you could set it down near a corner and it would still sit properly.

Sigh- I need some device like this, but I don't need another project right now.

12-10-2012, 02:39 AM
Buy lots of $20 dual T8 reflector units. Put em end to end in rows, about 6' apart, wire them on 2 circuts so you have 'bright' and 'damn thats bright' settings.

Overkill? Maybe, but they are the one tool you use every second your in the shop, Why cheap out? Its not like its very expensive.

T5 are nicer, but much more expensive.

The big thing to invest in will be spending another $2 per bulb (over the cheapest bulbs) to get nice daylight spectrum ones. Don't cheap out and get grungy orange bulbs, you will hate them. Nice light makes your mood in the shop a lot better.