It’s been a tough couple of weeks if you are a fan of celebrities. The King of Pop Michael Jackson passed. ’70’s sex symbol Farrah Fawcett passed. Kung Fu and Kill Bill actor David Carradine passed. TV pitch man Billy Mays passed.
And, the one that brought back the most memories for me was the passing of the long time Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon. When the news broke, the memories of he and Johnny Carson came flooding back. Johnny and Ed ruled TV’s late night airwaves for decades, bringing laughs to insomniacs around the world.
One of the best parts of the show was Ed’s call, “Heeere’s Johnny!” Doc Severinsen and the band would belt out the Tonight Show’s signature theme song, and Johnny would emerge from behind the curtains to peals of applause.
That’s when Johnny really got into it, starting with his monologue. My favorite jokes were the ones where the audience got involved. For instance, during the summers, Johnny liked to talk about the heat in Los Angeles. His joke would start like this:
Johnny: It was so hot today…
Audience: HOW HOT WAS IT?
Johnny would typically pause for a second with a mischievous smile on his face while Ed and the audience chuckled, then deliver the punchline. Some of the most famous were:
- It was so hot, I saw a robin using potholders to pick up a worm.
- It was so hot, I saw a dog chasing a cat… And they were walking.
- Burger King said, “If you want it your way, cook it yourself.”
- Chickens were lining up outside of Kentucky Fried Chicken to get plucked.
Now that we are in summer, one of Johnny’s lines could easily be, “I saw a woodworker in Florida melt.” It’s hot in my shop. I mean really hot.
My shop is in an attached two car garage. There is no insulation above in the attic, and the garage door isn’t insulated, either. Which means that the sun beats down, and the temperatures spike in the latter part of the day.
How hot does it get in the shop? Well, a thermometer out there this past weekend registered a cool 94 degrees F. It wasn’t too long into my work session that I was drenched in sweat from my the top of my head down into my squishy shoes. That’s no way to treat a woodworker!
My first – and only – line of defense for the first few years of woodworking was a box fan I had picked up at a mega merchandising store. I put the fan in the back of the shop blowing toward me and the bench. It did move the air around and provided a little bit of relief. There were only two problems with this plan. First, the box fan stirred up tremendous amounts of sawdust and planer shavings. Secondly – and most important – it really didn’t do much to cool me off. It was blowing the hot, humid air around. Since the very humid air wouldn’t allow the sweat to evaporate, I just ended up gasping for breath.
In those years, I absolutely had a woodworking off season. I would race to finish my projects by the middle of May, and then I would start again in late September when the humidity and the searing heat would start to back off and the fan became more effective.
One year, my wife told me to get in to the car and took me on a surprise trip. “Where are we going?” I kept asking. She drove silently with a big grin on her face. When we pulled into the Home Depot parking lot, I had an idea of what was going on. We headed straight for the area in the store where the air conditioners were on display.
That’s where we found this little portable unit. The boys used to call it R2D2, after the droid of Star Wars fame. It’s a clever system that didn’t require me to make any modifications to the shop. It plugs in to a 110 volt outlet and has a vent which exhausts the hot air through the window on my side garage door. There is no condensation drain on the unit – apparently, the condensation is evaporated and sent out through the same exhaust port.
This unit has served me well for the past four years. I can turn it on before a shop session to get a head start on cooling the room for me.
Now, while it does cut the edge off the ferocious heat, it’s only an 8,000 btu unit. It does struggle during the heat of the day to keep up with the tremendous heat gain. However, if I turn the AC toward me, and I also use the box fan, I can get it to cool me more efficiently.
Is this the ultimate solution to my climate control problem? No way. That 94 degree F reading was just as I turned the AC unit on, and all it managed to drop the temperature to was 88 degrees F. I would definitely love to get my hands on a larger AC unit, even if I had to run a 220 volt circuit to serve its needs. I’m sure I could also insulate the garage door to help hold some of the cool air inside the garage. That will be work for another day.
Right now, I just have to remember to work more slowly, take more breaks and drink plenty of water and – if it’s a long shop session – Gatorade.
Ultimately, I could I could try working after the sun is down, which would limit the heat gain in my shop.
But that’s when I’m busy watching late-night TV…