Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2021.05.02 - Workshop Illumination I

Five years ago I bought twelve 50w LED floodlights for the workshop. Two of these were subsequently used for exterior lighting as the halogen lights illuminating either side the workshop had failed and we really needed the lights to work for when we arrived home from an event late at night.

The remaining ten lights have remained in their packaging until a couple of weeks ago. I had decided that leaving things in puddles of water was not a good idea and had moved all the things that could be damaged by water into the centre of the workshop under the tarpaulin. This included the cardboard box in which the floodlights and other fittings had been packaged. Except that the cardboard was all soggy and everything didn't exactly fall out of the bottom of the box so much as stay where it was whilst the box was lifted up.

So, the lights and fittings were all unpacked, put into a plastic crate and once everything had dried, put into the container. All the packaging went into the recycle bin. So far so good. Except that the crate was now in the way whenever I went into the container. Since the workshop was now dry, I decided that it was time to install the lights in preparation for the new boat construction.

The plan is to put up the lights in pairs, one pair between each of the roof trusses. There are five trusses making for six bays between them, so I will have enough to install lights in five of the bays and I'll need to buy two more floodlights for the last bay.

The bracket that holds the light is easily screwed into one of the purlins under the roof, and I used some 9mm plywood as a reinforcement and so that the screws do not scrape off any of the protective coating on the brackets which are only steel.

I made all the backing strips I needed in one go to save time, even though I'll not need most of them for a while.

Here is the first one installed. It was a total pain in the neck to do, and in hindsight, I did it the wrong way round. For this light I started with installing the light under the roof.

Like this, and then wired everything up in situ. Bad move.

You. see, I was at the top of this step ladder and even though there are places up there on which to rest tools, trying to do fiddly electrical work at the top of a ladder is neither easy or safe.

I also had to repair the pull-switches. These have been sitting in the workshop come rain or shine for five years and no longer worked.

The switch comes apart quite easily not surprisingly, since you have to do that in order to connect it to the mains supply.

The bit that wasn't working is this bit. Fortunately, this was easily access simply by removing two more screws. The problem is that grease that was used to lubricate the mechanism had congealed over time and that meant that the bit that moved up and down as you pulled and released the cord, didn't. It just stayed where it was. It's the small white piece on the end of the cord next to the black switch housing.

A simple fix. Reassemble the switch, add a drop or two of light machine oil down the centre of the spring and into the switch proper and put everything back together again. Repeat ten times.

Here you can clearly see the yellow discolouration of the pull cord where the oils in the grease have soaked away from the interior of the switch.

For the second floodlight I assembled everything on the bench.

This is the junction box to join the light, switch and mains supply.

Next the light was put back into the bracket...

...the base the pull-switch screwed into the purlin...

...the two halves of the switch screwed together...

...and the mains supply cable routed along the purlin and down the truss to where it would join the main lighting circuit.

That's not too far as you can see here.

A four-way junction box was screwed to the centre beam and the first light wired in. Notice that I have insulated the normally exposed earth wire with the correctly coloured insulation. This is a safety measure and should always be done when the earth wire is exposed for more than a short distance.

The second light was also wired in and the mains supply to the entire workshop was turned off at the switchboard. The white cable you can see below the junction box, is the main lighting circuit. This was cut and wired into the junction box. There are no photos of this part of the procedure, it was dark and even with a torch I didn't want to be running up and down the ladder any more than I had to.

Still, when the circuits were all joined, the cover was put on the box, the power restored and the lights tested.

Success !

Here's a shot from further back.

Not bad at all.

So, the method seems to be good and I just have repeat this until all the lights are installed.

The next pair should be easy but after that it wlll get a lot more complicated due to having to move things around so that the ladder can be placed in the correct and safe position.

The last bay, for which I do not have the lights yet, may have to wait a lot longer since I will have to remove all the wood at the back of the workshop first. To do that I need to make rolling timber rack on which the timber can be organised and stored and I'll probably erect the remaining shelves on the back wall. These have been waiting for nearly as long as the lights.

Still, a good day's work and hopefully, since tomorrow is a Public Holiday, I'll have the time to put up the next pair.