This summer I swallowed hard and praised an inexpensive IKEA light that I used while teaching at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.
When I returned home, I was going to buy one. But then I found that one of my kids had purchased one and had it in her room. So I pinched it. After a few months of using it daily for bench chores, I can report that it is indeed surprisingly durable and cheap. But it does have one weak point: the power cord.
It’s flimsy. But that’s not my major gripe – I have yet to destroy the cord. My major complaint is that the cord exists. No matter what I do, I trip over it, snag tools on it or hook it and throw the lamp to the floor.
This fall, Lee Valley Tools sent me a bench light that the company was introducing in its fall catalog. It’s so superior to the IKEA light that I returned that one to my daughter’s room.
The magnetic-mount bench light is superior to the IKEA light in several ways. First, it has no power cord. It is fueled by three AA batteries. You might find that annoying. I found it liberating. Finally, no power cords snaking across the floor or the benchtop.
The other nice thing about the light is the way the light mounts magnetically. The foot of the work light has a magnet (in a metal cup) that allows you to stick it to a machine or any other ferrous surface. The light also comes with a second side-mount magnetic holder that holds the light by its barrel.
I put the side-mount clip on my band saw. Then I made a metal-topped fixture that would drop into my dog holes in my workbench. Lee Valley offers an inexpensive kit to do this, by my dog holes are 1” – not 3/4”. So I made my own mounting plate from scrap wood and a steel mending plate.
The result is a cordless light (you get about 5 hours on a set of batteries) that can be moved anywhere on the bench. And it throws so much light that I actually have to back the light off a bit at times. That’s a nice problem to have.
The light is well made – better than the IKEA light. And it is more expensive. But the lack of cord makes it worth it for me – I was able to work at the bench during two evenings of power outages here thanks to the light.
The light is $34.50 from Lee Valley Tools. You can read more about the light by clicking here.
— Christopher Schwarz
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