There are so many articles and web forum posts written about how important shop lighting is, and they are all correct.
One of the most vital tools in a hand tool shop is lighting. The saying is true, if you can see the line, you can saw the line. With inadequate lighting, it’s very difficult to accomplish even simple tasks.
Lighting in the hand tool shop is not only important to see your layout lines, it’s also one of the ways you determine how flat or square a board is. Want to know if an edge is square to a face, put a square on the corner, and check for light under the square as you slide it back and forth along the edge of the board.
Raking light shows you imperfections in your surface prep that you may otherwise not notice until a finish is applied.
So, good lighting is important!
Where so many articles miss the mark is what what they consider to be “good lighting”. Any article that involves “dedicated circuits or “running wire” is one I’ll pass on for now. Yes, in a power tool shop it’s best to have your lights on a dedicated circuit. You don’t want a breaker tripped by your table saw to also leave you in the dark, but this isn’t a big worry in a hand tool shop!
With hand tools, I need to see my lines and have the ability to set up a source of raking light easily. A quick trip down the electrical supply isle at the big box store is all I need.
These simple clip on utility work lights work great and they are less than $10.00 each. I’ve got mine fitted with a compact florescent bulb that is a little closer to daylight than the cheap tubes that come in “shop lighting” fixtures you can find at the store.
I’ve got 4 of these over my 8 foot bench and they put out plenty of light. I’ve also got a spare that can be used in a raking position rather easily.
If you are just getting started, grab 4 to 6 of these lights, a plug strip, and a few packs of bulbs. Don’t worry if you don’t have floor joist to clip the lights too, there are many creative ways to get the lights to where you need them. (In my last shop, my bench was against a wall, and I had the lights clipped to a shelf high above the bench.)
Lighting is important, but you can get everything you need from some inexspensive clip on lights, and the best part is, if you ever have to move, the lights fit easily in a box waiting for their new home!
Go light up your shop and GET WOODWORKING!