varnish in cold weather


So, after wanting to "get into woodworking" for 20 years, I've finally started dabbling a bit. I endured several cold evenings in my un-heated garage in the middle of this pretty cold Illinois winter. I now have a small project I would like to varnish... but the varnish says not to apply if it's below 55 degrees. My unfinished garage has no heat, and won't be above 55 degrees for a couple of months. And I can't varnish in the house because my wife can't handle the fumes.
Do I just have to wait for it to warm up?
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Because you are going to be applying varnish at a colder temp, the varnish you apply is going to 'cure' more slowly than at more appropriate temps. You might be able to circumvent this problem by applying your varnish in thinner layers by diluting your varnish with mineral spirits. Allow to cure for 24 hrs and reapply. The thinner layers will cure much easier at the lower temps than the 'out of the can' concentration. I would FIRST try this on a piece of scrap wood NOT on your project.
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Make an adult decision.
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fyi... wipe on poly @ 60 degrees takes about 4 days to dry without being tacky(at least on the project I just finished). I imagine below 55 degrees, the solvent doesn't flash off. Maybe a heat lamp in an insulated box that is spark proof might work. Wipe on poly's work great, but best @70 degrees. You can experiment on a piece of scrap wood, its better than screwing up your hard work.
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degrees. You can experiment on a piece of scrap

That's the one. Visqueen tent, light bulbs inside for warm, varnish to your heart's content.
Warm piece and finish in advance, apply, then return to heated space.
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dw wrote:

Unless you want it to look like crap, then have to do it over when it warms up.
Now you know why I left the MidWest<G>.
Lew
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What I often do for glue-ups is to bring the pieces of wood inside to warm up, glue it up, put it on the bench, plug in a small ceramic electric heater into a thermostat wired to an extension cord, put it on the work-bench, put the heater under the bench and cover the whole thing with a tarp. I don't know if this will work with varnish, but in the immortal words of the late Paul Radovanic, "If you don't experiment on scraps, you will experiment on your project."
Alternatively, you could try using shellac which is dissolved in alcohol and is not harmed by cold. It just will take a little longer to dry.
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Shellac and lacquer will dry under 55F.
Can you get a construction heater, like a Redi-Heater, bring the temp up to 65-70, shut it off, and do your finishing?
Barry
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I suggest you try some waterborne varnish in the house. The "fumes" are much less. JG
dw wrote:

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Is it insulated? You can get a oil-filled space heater to heat your garage if you've got power. We've got one in our garage to keep things warm out there. (It's connected to the house, but not the heating/cooling system.)
Can you isolate a room of your house? Maybe you can work in there and keep the house from smelling like varnish and still warm enough to dry. We've been polyurethaning floor boards in our garage for a shed and shutting the door keeps the fumes from going all over the house. (It was apparently an outside door at one time. You may have to consider that.)
Puckdropper
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Move to Texas. It was about 75 degrees herei n Dallas today. Unreal! On second thought, don't let anyone know. This place will look like California if the word gets out.
Waiting for a Blue Norther!

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wrote:

Only until July. Then it will be just us, the cactus, rattlesnakes, scorpions and the armadillos.
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On Mon, 09 Jan 2006 06:37:31 +0000, Roy wrote:

Or try Albuquerque. It's been in the 60's during the day for most of the last three weeks. I spent weekend out in the shop and backyard building counter tops. In the sun it was over 65 F. Made it real nice to be working outside. This place is, unfortunately already being invaded by Californians, so the secret is out.
DGA
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dgadams wrote:

When it warms up, let me know.
In the mid 80's today at the old boat yard here in SoCal.
Lew
(A Midwest transplant who will NEVER go back)
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This part of the Midwest is beginning to shut down sawmills and pulp operations because the yet unfrozen ground won't permit harvesting of timber.
If you need hardwood, get in before the shortage is accute.
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Use Shellac and apply with a 'Frenching' pad. It will dry in much colder temps. because of the alchohol solvent and thinner coats. Also makes a very fine finish with considerable labor. Bugs
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