Cold, Heat, Flame and Flammables

This winter I’ll be spending a lot of time in my basement "workshop"
experimenting with new tools and techniques (new to me). The room
does get cold after about an hour and I don’t want to shiver while I
work. This year I have a small butane torch and a few flammables
(sprays and liquids) in the room as well.

My first question - What is the proper distance that should be
maintained between flammables and a torch? (I do plan to purchase a
fire extinguisher)

And secondly - what type of room heater is best in a workshop? (I
have a spare electrical outlet) I see so many models advertised;
closed room heaters, ceramic heaters, heaters with fans, etc. Anyone
have any recommendations or types to beware of?

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs

And secondly - what type of room heater is best in a workshop? (I
have a spare electrical outlet) I see so many models advertised;
closed room heaters, ceramic heaters, heaters with fans, etc.
Anyone have any recommendations or types to beware of? 

I’m very partial to my oil-filled electric radiator heater. It looks
like an old-fashioned radiator on wheels. It’s filled with some sort
of oil, and it’s a sealed system. When turned on it heats the oil,
which causes heat to radiate from the fins of the radiator. It has a
thermostat and the temperature can be adjusted up or down, but it has
no fan, no exposed heating element and no moving parts. Google
“Delonghi Oil-Filled Radiator” and you’ll see what they look like.

Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry

My first question - What is the proper distance that should be
maintained between flammables and a torch? 

The correct answer is it depends… Depends on the vapor pressure
and depends on the explosive range.

No one can give a clear answer to this question. Some rough
guidelines though… Keep them in a tightly stoppered bottle in a
metal enclosure is always a safe step. If you can smell the agent in
the air, it is not safe to use an open flame (Unless you have a lot
of training and the instruments to know it is) Just because you can’t
smell it doesn’t mean it is safe. Has to direct heat exposure if you
can’t put your hand between the flame and the product, then it’s way
too hot.

And secondly - what type of room heater is best in a workshop? 

One installed and wired in by a competent electrician. Most portable
space heater fires are caused by either the heater tipping over
(Which is why UL and CSA now require a tip switch) or the wire /
plug / outlet overheats and sets nearby materials alight. For the
latter reason any plug in heater is strongly recommended against for
regular use.


And secondly - what type of room heater is best in a workshop? (I
have a spare electrical outlet) 

I would suggest a plug in radiator. They are completely enclosed,
nothing that can start a fire, provide even, consistent heat.


If you choose an portable electric, and it sounds that way, the weak
point is usually the cord. Either pick one with the heaviest gauge or
consider having it retrofitted with a heavier gauge appliance cord.
And do try not to let the cord fold over on itself.

Other things to look for…
a tip over safety switch
Well shielded heating element
amp rating should be compatible with your circuit

Last year I was shopping for a replacement heating system for my
tiny shop, as I wanted/needed independent control. I found a pricey
($1200, apx 36"x20") setup online that gets flush fit on the wall. I
asked my friend, Dennis The Electrician, what he thought about it. He
found me a small inwall unit (12"x10") for about $130 that is way
more than adequate. In talking with him I inferred that sometimes,
those online calculators for wattage requirements are just plain
wrong. We went with half the wattage and it gets toasty in here with
no extension cord potentialities. My advice, skip the home stores
and online shopping, go to an electrical supply house.

The correct answer is it depends.... Depends on the vapor pressure
and depends on the explosive range 

The correct answer is it depends… Depends on the Ignition
Temperature, vapor pressure and on the explosive range.


Three MAJOR considerations here.

  1. BEFORE you do any soldering, you should have your fire
    extinguisher already installed on a wall which is ABC approved and
    checked every year. End of discussion.

  2. Chemical flammables should be stored in a metal cabinet away from
    any flame source. Check with your local fire department on what they
    recommend for both your fire extinguisher and your question about
    storing flammables. If you use sprays and liquids and are using them
    in your basement, make a simple cardboard box with a hole in the top
    and then read number 4.

Your fire department is your friend. They are not the police, which
can be friendly and I apologize to any jewelers out there that belong
to the police force. Your local fire chief is a good source for
and they want to help you do your job, not keep you from

  1. Heater. The sealed oil style that looks like a radiator are very
    safe and warm. They MUST however be directly plugged into an outlet
    and not a powerstrip.

  2. Lastly, what is your ventilation situation? I found a wonderful
    product which I am selling called a BVX 201 gas exhaust cartridge
    system by Oki. Email me offline if you are interested. This one fit
    the bill for a solid 65 cfm source to pull away soldering fumes right
    at my torch. It’s not cheap, $725 per unit, but it is portable,
    weighs 20 lbs and is meant for the electronic soldering industry.
    It’s quiet too. I’ll have it forever, no matter where I go and a good
    US company that has already proven itself in responsive customer
    service. Considering what ducting would have cost me in my studio
    setup, I would have paid twice this in installation, not to mention
    the motor, etc. I have photos of this nice system and I hunted down
    this solution for a year.

Remember, you might be using a butane now, but eventually you are
going to want a larger and beefier system to do more complex work.
This is a natural progression of your interest and skill set, so
early planning of where you will be next year is good to keep in

Stay warm!

Karen Christians

what type of room heater is best in a workshop? 

Quartz heaters heat objects, not air, these are what I use in my
basement for my parrots. I also have this type at my business, it
really helps on those cold snowy days here is Denver. My bench
jeweler steals it so she can be comfortable while she works. I have
two made by Holmes and they have worked well for a long time.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.

what type of room heater is best in a workshop? 

Not sure about “best”, but what I like is a portable electric
oil-filler radiator. It makes no noise and cannot start a fire. If I
need a bit of extra heat, I have a small fan I point so it blows
through the radiator and turn on to its lowest setting. They are
probably the cheapest to buy, as well.


When I had my garage remodeled to be the studio/garage, I had an
electrical company come in and put in a separate Breaker Box from the
house Circuit Box. Installed 8 outlets, 70 amps in all. I use three
of the Oil Electric heaters to keep the whole garage very warm. Each
Circuit accommodates a PMC Kiln, Lost Wax Kiln, Ameritool Flat Lap,
Saw, multitudes of other electrical—Foredom, etc., and a heater, as

The 2 1/2 car garage is fully insulated with 3 inch battings - walls
and ceiling, drywalled, painted and large overhead tube lighting. An
absolute delight! Am busy almost every day with private lessons. The
place is my dream playhouse.

Rose Marie Christison
in Denver, where we have had two heavy snowfalls already!

I use a small electric radiant heater that has no fan, an “eco-
setting” that maintains a dialed in temp. Works well, seems very
efficient. For very cold (sub-zero, or nasty winter wind days)I’ll
supplement with a camping size bottle style catalytic heater. My shop
measures 7x7 feet, with “mansard” barn type side walls. It’s a small
shed given to me by a friend that I insulated, finished off with
salvaged grainery boards. Should’ve insulated under the floor before
I set it on the foundation. Hope I didn’t ramble too far off topic.
What ever you heat, insulate and ventilate.


In my opinion there is more to be said for a heat pump than any other
room heating system Despite their expense which goes from $2500

They are inherently safe and cannot overheat and can be
thermostatically controlled. There is no flame or red hot wires to
ignite any flammable gasses or nearby material. They simply extract
heat by a system exactly like a refrigerator which takes heat from a
"cupboard" and so cools it; and exhausts that heat into the room. A
household heat pump does exactly the opposite, where hear is taken
from the atmosphere outside and used to heat the room. It does not
change air in the room.

Of course when required the same machine can take heat from the room
and exhaust it outside - in summer for instance. They need no
maintenance other than a 6 monthly air filter clean. On the negative
side the unit may only be installed by a competent licensed fitter
and electrician. The shop selling the heat pump will arrange all

But: no buying wood or coal gas or oil, emptying ashes, no chimney,
no mess or dust.

Cheaper to run than an ordinary electric heater, heats up a normal
room from end to end in ten minutes on a cold winter’s day.

I have used ours for 14 years with no problems. Warmth in winter,
cool in summer. Not so cheerful as an open fire; but far, far safer
and wouldn’t be without it.–

Cheers for now,
JohnB of NZ

Ditto to Noel’s message. Clean, no hot air blowing around. Quiet.
Safe. Get the little oil-filled radiator. You’ll be glad you did.

Judy in Kansas, where we missed the first winter storm by 45 miles!
Temps are rising and I hope to get the outside Christmas lights up
over the weekend.

Wires, plugs, and outlets overheat when you exceed the amperage
rating for the wire carrying the current. Yes, the safest bet is to
have your heater hard wired to your electrical source, but if you’re
using a plug in heater, check the amp rating on the label. If it is
in watts then divide the watts by your household current (110V or
120V) to get the amps. Then check to see what the amp rating is on
your circuit breaker/fuse for that circuit. If the circuit you intend
to use is also carrying load for other electrical devices you’ll need
to add them to the amperage total as well. Should the total amps
exceed your circuit breaker rating, then it will keep closing or your
wiring will begin to heat up. If you’re going to use an extension
cord it will need to be able to carry sufficient amperage for the
device and the length of the extension cord. This page can help with

When I was living in Japan and Korea we used power transformers (I
know, transformers isn’t the correct technical term, but that’s what
all the expats knew them as) to power our 110V American appliances in
a 220V country. We had tables written on paper so we could add up the
amps of all the devices we wanted to use so we wouldn’t exceed the
capacity of the transformer.

Mike DeBurgh

I find that when it gets cold in my work shop that if I set my
soldering station up into a small kiln (by rearranging the fire
bricks) and melt some scrap into something useful it helps take the
chill off nicely (as a propane powered sievert with a 1 inch tip on
full tilt for five or ten minutes will). I then use a butane powered
radiator to keep the temp even, but I would not recommend it as an
effective or particularly safe bit of kit- I only get to use my
workshop every couple of weeks so a slightly low tech, scrounged
solution suits me.

My studio is in a very cool basement. Never any thought about air
conditioning but damn chilly in the winter. A very deep bench with a
little fan driven electric heater (low setting choked down to 1/2
power) blows warm air out across my bench tray, very nice. If it gets
really cold an IR light keeps my back warm. I just keep me warm and
don’t use lots of electricity heating distant corners of the studio I
seldom use…

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

And secondly - what type of room heater is best in a workshop? 

I chose an infrared unit from Redwell for an area where safety
(children, pets) was of concern:


As I was reading this thread a though occurred to me. First off let
me say that I agree that a heater without exposed flame or heating
elements is inherently safer. On the other hand, if you are worried
about the dangers of a heater combined with flammable fumes, gasses,
or materials. perhaps you have greater safety issues that need to be

Mike DeBurgh