Ultimate Shop Fan




About: I get a real kick out of completing projects with as low a budget as possible. It's usually pretty easy to collect almost all the parts necessary to make some pretty cool stuff. I also enjoy playing music an...

If you're looking for a way to cool off your garage or workshop this summer, look no further. Like most people, I don't have an air conditioned space to build projects. So I'm always looking for ways to keep it somewhat cool in the summer. I came across a couple of these big fans the other day, and I heard this guy call them "squirrel cages." I'm not gonna lie, the squirrel cages bit really intrigued me as much as anything else. I couldn't shake the image of a squirrel in a tiny prison cell from my mind. Anyways, I just had to bring one home and give it a chance to cool off my garage.

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Step 1: Get Wired Up and Test It

The squirrel cage that I acquired was not wired up, so I grabbed a standard power cord with three prongs as you can see in the picture. I simply kept the end that goes in the outlet and cut off the other end. The power cord has three wires and the fan had two wires. So I just left the green wire alone, then tested the remaining two wires until I figured out which ones worked together. Then I twisted them together and soldered them together. I wrapped the wire in some heat shrink tubing to try and protect it over time, but electrical tape will do just fine.

Remember to test the fan and make sure it's working before you move on.

Step 2: Build the Box

I came across this half sheet of plywood that I decided to build my box out of. After carefully measuring (yeah right) for every single cut, I cut the plywood in half to make it easier to handle. Then I cut all my pieces at 45 degrees, so the box would have mitered corners. I used a 90 degree clamp that I have to glue up the pieces then I shot in a few brad nails in each joint to hold them together while the glue dried.

I wanted to add some splines to the miters to reinforce them and give it a little bit nicer look.

Step 3: Adding Spines to the Miters

I put together a super simple spline jig for my table saw and carefully ran my box through the blade. I cut slots for four splines down the length of the long joint. Then I cut a thin piece of cherry that would fit in those slots. After gluing them in place, I let them sit for an hour or so before cutting them flush with the surface of the box.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

I added a little piece of pegboard to the front, to hang certain things that are always nice to have nearby, scissors for example. Then I sanded the whole thing down, just to knock off any splinters that were hanging around. I added a coat of shellac all the way around to seal it. Then I added a magnetic strip to the side, for a place to hang the tools that I'm currently using on a project.

That's all I've got for this one. Have a good one, and stay cool out there!

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    5 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I know someone that had a similar idea. They mounted the fans along one wall at the ceiling, and cut holes for the exiting heated air pulled from the ceiling area. He made some lightweight vent flaps on the outside with a locking tab to close them for winter to prevent insect nests.

    For the intake side(his garage door), he just cut a few round holes the size of tin cans, and then sealed the tin can sections into the door with silicone. The holes are about a foot from the base of the door, during the summer he uses old wadded-up window screen that he has(I'm not certain how) fixed to be a little bigger then the tin cans, so they have to forced in and cannot be easily force out by animals. During the winter he plugs the holes with sections of that expanding foam spray suck to little wood panels covered with magnets that hold to his old metal door. When not in use, he just flips them and they stick to the door next to the hole come from(he used different sized cans when he made this - it annoys him that he didn't think about it first).

    The garage door area is well shaded by many large trees nearby so air pulled in is fairly cool unless the summer heat gets really bad.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    One advantage to his semi-kludge design is his entire works shop is basically a fume-hood, and he can use spray paint and other 'stinky' toxic paints/ finishes/ etc. without worry of over exposure.

    The fans are all on separate switches so he chose the level of draw he wants. He has at least six of the things mounted up there, and during the summer his shop isn't too bad until the temp starts getting over 110 degrees.


    2 years ago

    I need one of these or anything for that matter. I live in Southern California and when its above 100 its hard to get any work done. But great instructable.


    2 years ago

    I have used these for several decades now, here's a coupla tips:

    They rely on back pressure to operate in a safe current range, check the motor label for maximum current draw, if you have an ammeter (or can borrow one) block the outlet to a point that it draws less than the maximum, the motor also is an air- over design (for self- cooling) so you want a balance of maximum performance with minimum heat.

    Here in Florida, it's hot in the summer (no kidding?) so I open the garage door about 2 feet and place the fan so as to suck in the cool morning air and ventilate the shop for as long as possible before closing the door, I can get a good 1/2 day in before I throw in the towel. ☺

    1 reply