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Last update 01/27/2013

Shop Lighting Done Right

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This is the place that I spent much of my time, researching and developing induction heaters.  The good ones go to Fluxeon.  The bad ones.  Well...  My lab ain't the neatest place in the world :-)

A major problem that has been getting worse since I'm not only getting older but also am a diabetic is that of having enough light to see by.  I've purchased a series of LED and incandescent lamps on flexible arms.  I purchased an LED illuminator for my head visor.  Still I could not get enough light to do the finer things like poke around on a 0.5mm surface mount chip. 

I was prowling around (my favorite place to buy lighting products) when I just "happened" to go to the high wattage CFL page.  (man, I hope that URL holds.  They reorganize ther site often enough to make embedding hyperlinks hazardous to your 404 health!)  I was right in the middle of a tedious task trying to work with a large 0.5mm pitch surface mount part when I decided to fix the light problem once and for all.  Like they say, there's no kill like overkill :-)

So I ordered 6 of the model SP105-50-MED 105 watt (NOT watt equivalent!) lamps.  I also ordered a high bay reflector FE-R100-UR to put on the lamp right over my work spot.





This is what I came up with.  5 "used car lot" lamp sockets arranged on a pair of tensioned type THHN 12 gauge conductors.  This is a photo of the lights off (my little Canon has a real good flash!).

And with the lights on!  The camera really doesn't do the scene justice.  It had to stop its lens down so tight to get the correct exposure that the total brightness can't be fully appreciated.

Here are some details of the installation.

This is the "used car lot" socket I spoke of.  I call 'em that because long strings of lights for used car lots and Christmas tree lots can quickly be assembled using them.  In the center of the area where the wire passes through is a brass pin that punctures the insulation and makes contact with the wire.  The piece above the wires rotates 90 degrees and snaps into place, forcing the pins through the insulation. 

A variation on this socket has a screw top that screws down to force the puncture.  They work just as well.  These are simply what my local hardware store had.


This is a view of the static end of the suspension.  The eye bolts are threaded into the wood at an angle so that they both can penetrate the same stud and space the wires the proper distance apart.  The yellow pieces are electric fence strain insulators.  About $3 for 50 of 'em.

I used split bolts instead of cable clevises simply because I have a large box of 'em.  Cable clevises would work just as well.  Note that the wire is NOT bare so the clamps are not hot.  Nonetheless I'll tape 'em up when I get the time.

This is a photo of the tension end.  The springs and other hardware came from a medium weight storm door catch kit designed to keep a medium weight storm door from crashing against its retractor.  I really just wanted the spring but my hardware store doesn't have a good spring selection.  I estimate that spring at about 20 lbs/inch.

A view down the line.  You can see that the spring exerts enough tension on the wires that there is practically no sag on the line even with the aluminum high-bay reflector.

That reflector was worth every penny.  It focuses a beam about its diameter right on the spot where I do most of my fine work.

You might also notice the nice Mantis stereoscope in the foreground.  I can now illuminated my work with fragments of a hand mirror super-glued to #12 solid copper wire instead of having to use the very hot built in halogen lamps.  Best of all, No Shadows!

This view shows the other bench in my shop - also a mess.  This is where I do the heavier mechanical work such as cutting and threading copper bus bars and so on.  I could almost do without the single lamp, the general lighting is so bright, except for one reason - shadows.  That one fixture supplies enough light to bury the shadow that my body casts.

So there you have it.  My new shop lighting. 

Usual disclaimers apply.  Duplicate at your own risk. This setup would probably make a code inspector dude's heart vapor-lock but it is satisfactory and plenty safe for me.  You have to make that determination for yourself, of course.