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I have gremlins in my shop. Either that, or it’s haunted. Or maybe a playful woodworking spirit. Or, quite possibly, there’s a logical explanation. I opt for spirits.

I have a problem that started two years ago. I was minding my own business and running the shop vacuum when behind me I heard a clanking sound, followed by a growing brightness and a blast of cold air. A visit from Jacob Marley? No, it was my garage door going up.

Weird. I put down the hose, walked over and hit the button to send the door back down, and resumed vacuuming. (More quickly this time, as the garage door opening unexpectedly let all my warm air out of the garage.) About 30 seconds later, it happened again. Then again a couple minutes later. I finished cleaning and the garage door quit misbehaving.

My thought was that another garage door opener in the neighborhood was the culprit, or possibly the CB radio of one of the truckers on the nearby highway (their radios have, on occasion, messed up the wireless mouse on my PC, so the assumption was logical).

It happened a couple more times within the next few weeks, and then the problem went away and I put it out of my mind. But the problem returned last winter. It only happened a couple of times, and each time I failed to find the cause. Then it went away again.

This winter it’s back, but after three years of this I’ve noted the consistencies: It only happens on very cold, dry winter days. It only happens when I’m using the shop vacuum, random orbit sander, or combo disc/belt sander. My conclusion is that somehow the combination of cold, dry air (read: static-prone), a running electrical tool, and moving dust particles through a narrow plastic hose is creating an electric charge in the air or wiring that sends a signal that beams up my garage door.

My guess is that plugging the tools into a different circuit than the garage door opener, or maybe adding static strips to the tools will eliminate the problem, but that sounds like too much work.

Besides, if that did the trick it would mean I don’t have a playful woodworking spirit in my shop, and I prefer to think that’s the case.

Till next time,


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