When setting up shop, most of us pay too little attention to lighting. We hang a few fixtures wherever convenient, and hope for the best that the light provided fits our needs. But without proper illumination, fine detail work is lost and shop safety goes out the window. So what should we be looking for in workshop lighting? Experts agree that good quality lights are key for a work station, as well as a balanced combination of overhead and supplementary lighting.
What is considered quality illumination?
Four factors determine the quality of light. These are lumen level, color temperature, color rendering, and glare.
Lumen level: pay attention to the lumen level your light produces. Not all lights the same size, or even using the same style of bulb, produce the same amount of illumination. Nor do they project the light the same. Typically, for most workshops, you want 300 lux for general illumination, 500 lux for machine work, and 1000 lux for close up work. The more task or supplemental lighting you have on each work surface, the more you can reduce your overhead lighting.
Color temperature: All lamps receive a rating based on the color of light they produce. The rating is expressed as a temperature in degrees Kelvin (K). Manufacturers assign names to the temperatures, such as “soft white” (3,000° K), “cool white” (4,100° K), bright white (5000° k) or “daylight” (6,500° K). Some lamps list the name or temperature, while others don’t.
Color rendering: Another rating for lamps indicates their ability to accurately represent the colors of the items they illuminate. We often perceive bulbs that reproduce color better to be brighter, even though they don’t actually put out a higher quantity of light.
- 0 to 55 CRI = poor accuracy
- 55 to 65 CRI = fair accuracy
- 65 to 75 CRI = good accuracy
- 75 to 100 CRI = excellent accuracy
Lamps with a CRI of at least 65 offer the most pleasing light in a shop. As with color temperature, these ratings may not always be listed on lamps, but you can obtain them from retailers or manufacturers.Lamps with higher temperature and CRI ratings typically cost more than run-of-the-mill cool white versions, but perform better.
Glare: If a surface is too reflective or contrasts with those around it, glare will result. Some professionals suggest painting your shop in flat or eggshell-sheen white. If you have natural-wood cabinets, coat them with satin finish, rather than gloss. And what about all those cast-iron surfaces on woodworking machines? Wax these surfaces or coat them with such commercial protectants as Boeshield T-9 to prevent excess reflection.