How cold is it?

I moved to Florida from Maryland 18 years ago.  In fact, by the end of this year, I will have lived in Florida longer than I lived in my home state of New Jersey.

Does that make me a native Floridian yet?

I’m not sure about the time requirement to be considered a Florida native, but there’s another sure-fire test you can use to determine that I have become one – how I tolerate cold.

Now, in most Florida winters, we get a few days of blustery weather that brings some cool temperatures calling.  Those days may struggle to get to the 60’s Fahrenheit and can dip into the low 40’s and maybe the upper 30’s.

However, this year has not been typical.  Since New Year’s Day, our temperatures have been well below average.  In fact, we have recently broken the all time low maximum temperature record this past weekend.  The last time our area saw temperatures this cold for this long was back in the late 1980s.  We are currently running an average of 17 degrees lower than average for the month of January. (Just a note:  This cold stretch has already broken records — with nine consecutive days colder than 60 degrees. The last recorded stretch under 60 degrees for the Tampa Bay area was seven days in 1956)

No, these temperatures are not New York, Chicago or Detroit cold.  They are not Minneapolis, Toronto or Stockholm cold.  And, they are certainly not Calgary, Moscow or Duluth cold.

But, it’s safe to say that in my home, built to withstand long periods of high temperatures, it’s colder than a well digger’s posterior.  It’s colder than part of the thoracic anatomy of a witch. And, yes, it’s cold enough to freeze the spherical objects off a brass monkey.

I had this great weekend of work in the shop planned.  I was going to plow through a few projects that have been sitting on the bench for a while and bring them to completion.  So, I started my shop day by dressing in clothes that don’t normally get pulled out of the closet.  I put on a pair of work jeans, two pairs  of socks and my boots.  I layered a T-shirt, a thermal woven shirt and hooded sweatshirt over that.  I even put on a warm hat I had to buy on a trip to Maryland one February a few years back.

Come heck or high-water, I was going to do some work in the shop.

That’s when I took my first step out.  It was bracing.

My shop is normally so hot and humid, I easily move from tool to tool with little or no trouble.  Sure, I end up squishing in my boots from time to time, but no big deal.  I know how to handle the heat.

But, the cold was so different.  Parts of me started to ache shortly after I started working.  My hands and shoulders were not used to these kinds of temperatures.  I wanted to get a reading on how cold my shop was, so I went inside to get the oven probe thermometer.  This sucker has a tremendous temperature range. It  can read the internal temperature of a roasting leg of lamb and can also tell the temperature inside your freezer.

I plugged  in the probe and turned it on.  The reading fell fast, eventually settling at 50 degrees.  That’s funny, since the outside temperature never rose above 44 on Saturday.  Brrr…

I discovered some interesting things about the shop in the cold.  For instance, neither the Titebond III or especially the bottled hide glue flowed freely.  In fact, I got to the point where I had to put the bottled hide glue inside the house and let it heat up so I could apply it to a project.  And, once I was able to coax out a bead onto the wood, it gelled so quickly that I had to hustle to get the mating piece pressed into place before it thickened to a taffy-life consistency.

As I puttered around the shop, rubbing my hands together to try to get them warm, three thoughts crossed my mind.

  1. I developed a new-found appreciation for everyone who works in cold climates.  While the air conditioner in my shop makes it more comfortable in the summer, y’all must agonize over heating choices in order to just get into your shop.
  2. As cold as it is in Florida, I’m still looking forward to a warming trend later this week, pretty much ending this record-breaking cold snap for the Sunshine State and bringing us back to more seasonable temps.
  3. When your shop is that cold, there’s nothing wrong with calling it a day early and coming inside.  Working in that kind of cold is one heck of a distraction, and it’s probably better to just get out of the shop.

Once I was out of the shop, I got back inside and warmed up. But, did I stop working for the day?  Heck no!  I went to my other favorite work room in the house and got busy. There was a refrigerator full of food to cook, and I spent the rest of that day making chicken stock, a pot of soup and a pot roast.

Hey, it helped to keep the house warm!

15 thoughts on “How cold is it?”

  1. I’ll have to get a thermometer out in my Northern Virginia shop. Recently bought a small electric space heater for the garage, which I find keeps my one-car garage heated well enough – altho I estimate that means it is broaching the 50s!

  2. Hey, Rog, don’t laugh. Look for higher prices on oranges, strawberries, tomatoes and other winter produce. This has been one of the coldest cold snaps on record here. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to move to Florida!

  3. Ha! I regularly work in my shop when it’s only about 30° inside, and less than that outside. My little kerosene heater doesn’t do much to cut the chill–I use it mostly to warm my hands and posterior every now and then.

    Up here in the North–Wisconsin, for me–you learn to do your gluing and finishing indoors. Anything not involving liquids I still do in my garage shop, though.

    On the other hand, if it is over 85° and humid, I can’t do any work in my shop without getting soaked in sweat and getting it all over my tools and wood. I guess it’s all what you’re used to!

  4. So, Tom, it was cold in Florida. And Las Vegas (according to my office manager who just got back from vacation there). Not to mock you, because I do know how relative temperatures are (having gone to college in the frozen tundra), but it was in the 20s here on Long Island this weekend.

    I started by working on the cedar siding of my house. Wearing 4 sweatshirts and a jacket wasn’t enough when my frozen block plane sucked the life out of the three exposed fingers on each hand sticking out from my framer’s gloves. I then moved into my garage (where I brilliantly ripped out the insulation last July and haven’t been able to re-install it yet). I set up a second space heater, got the ambient temp up to about 55 degrees, and continued assembling my table saw.

    A productive weekend squeezed out of the frozen wasteland.


    p.s. – In reverence to your frozen glue, I keep my bottle of Titebond II on the floor, right next to the space heater I leave on low to keep the whole place from freezing.

  5. I have to agree with Justin I live on the western slop in Co and I have to do all my Glue ups in the kitchen (momma usually get to eat out on those nights), and the rest is done out in the garage. I have a space heater that gets it up to about 40 when it is 0 – 10 out side.

  6. I live in central CT, and my shop is my two-car garage attached to the house. Although it’s well insulated and parasitically receives some heat that’s lost through the wall of the house, this time of year the temperature in there hovers around 40°. I use a small fan-driven ceramic heater to warm up the space when I plan to be in the shop for more than a few minutes at a time. By the time it’s reached 50°, it feels positively balmy and I will have taken off my sweatshirt. If I’m doing something aerobic like flattening a board with a hand plane, I’ll end up rolling up my sleeves. I find it much easier to get used to the cold than the heat. Hot humid weather makes me positively sick to my stomach. It really does boil down to how your body has acclimated. The only thing that the cold induces that I find annoying is the inevitable runny nose!

  7. I’m appreciating my basement shop a little more after reading these posts and comments. 🙂

    Here in Central Virginia, we’ve had a pretty long spell of mid-30s for daytime highs, but the temperature reading on my big-honkin’ dehumidifier hasn’t gone below 59. The furnace doesn’t seem to leak any heat, and the radiator pipes are snug in their asbestos wrapping (cough!), so I have to chalk up the “toasty” temps to the natural insulation of a real (not walk-in) basement.

    It does get pretty hot down there in the summer. But I figured out a sneaky trick this last July. I just de-couple one of the AC ducts leading to a floor vent in the living room (which we don’t spend a whole lot of time in anyway). The duct drops down to a convenient location; I’ve got it rigged so I can swivel it 180 degrees, and it’ll pretty much put a cool breeze on my neck at any of my stations. Which helps. A little.

    I have to remember to close the actual vent upstairs though (close the hole); my little 500 CFM DC system just isn’t…well, I won’t make that mistake again. LOL

    But thank heaven for the big-honkin’ de-humidifier! I keep my stock down there too, and in the summer, without any abatement, an old Virginia basement turns into a swamp. I imagine in Florida you need AC and REALLY big honkin’ de-humidifier wherever you store your stock.

  8. The blogger is doing well, Mike. Thanks for giving me a little perspective on the temps! 🙂

    I was hoping to get back to WIA this year… I hear it’s going to be in Cincy..

  9. I find that anything lower than 20F, wood doesn’t behave the same. It will chatter and kick and tear – anything but cut cleanly. I think this is because the moisture in the wood freezes.

  10. Hey Tom, I’m ready for Florida after living here my whole life in the Adirondacks in upstate NY where it hasn’t gotten above the 32 degree mark in the last 60 days, figure if I can take a steady diet of -20 with continuous ice and snow then I can deal with 90+ and continuous sunshine, its been so cold and expensive to heat the shop I gave up. How long did it take you to adapt? Ft Meyers area looks ideal.

  11. It didn’t take too long to get used to no longer shoveling snow or dealing with driving through it. You get accustomed to it very quickly! 🙂

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