Jim Randolph

Sep 052018
 

Let’s face it: Almost no one is giving away free tools, free wood and free fasteners. You need money to feed your woodworking obsession.

If you’re like most of us, you like the finer things in life. In woodworking life, anyway. Sure, you can make pretty shavings with a $5 vintage plane, but isn’t that Lie-Nielsen No. 8 Jointer Plane a thing of beauty? You know you want it. Go ahead. Click on the link. It costs nothing to look.

Now, you’re hooked.

Whether it’s a Festool Router, Festool Dust Extractor, or just a really nice Chisel, we simply like the good stuff.

Mama always told me, “You have to spend money to make money.” If you’re working wood for a living, you’d better have plenty of efficiency built into your work to pay your shop rent, your help and your utilities. Along with that, you need to cover the cost of expendables, such as materials and hardware, as well as things that wear out like belts, sharpening stones and tools that need to be replaced.

When I was a tournament bass fisherman, it was my goal to earn enough in winnings to pay for my boat, a kazillion rods and reels, lures and all the gas it took to pull and run the boat.

I was dreaming.

I’ve never dreamed of being a professional woodworker, but I do try to pay for woodworking without sinking the household budget.

To accomplish that, I dedicate my writing income to woodworking and, if I write enough words for enough magazines, I can cover the cost of tools and wood both. It keeps me busy! On that note, Highland Woodworking is always looking for more Wood News contributors and they pay in Highland Woodworking store credit if you want to earn some new tools!

Sitting on the cedar deck, the Bayou in the foreground, my Number One Cat helping me write. I think this article will be a winner.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Sep 042018
 

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.

Before I made the Domino-supported shelf in this month’s other tip, I had a different foray into floating shelves.

Brenda and I have a treadmill in our shared home office. It doesn’t see much use, not for the usual American reason, but because we prefer to walk outdoors when the weather cooperates. However, if it’s raining when I arise at 4:45 AM, I need entertainment to help pass 45 minutes of drudgery. Walking outside is naturally entertaining. TiVo allows us to have our favorite shows at the ready. For me, that’s This Old House, New Yankee Workshop reruns and everyone’s favorite Highland Woodworking entertainer, Roy Underhill in The Woodwright’s Shop.

For years I had a bulky CRT television sitting on the desk, but, when it died, it made perfect sense to free up desk space and raise my viewing to head height on the treadmill. Looking down at the TV was always hard on the neck, and this was my chance to remedy that.

Requirement #1: Fill the space from the window to the wall. Requirement #2: Enough strength to support the television, speakers, TiVo Mini and a couple of remote controls. Requirement #3: It had to be cheap. No surprise there!

I’ve laid out the steps in the photo series below.

There were three studs I could access. Because I was putting 3/4″ dowels in 1-1⁄2″ studs, the centering had to be close to ideal. Also, the drill had to be perpendicular to the wall. Since the wall was almost perfectly plumb, I was able to use the level on the back of the DeWalt drill.

I had an untreated pine 2×6 that had enough depth and length to accommodate the TV, so I practiced with a little scrap first to ensure I could drill straight into it. The scrap fit well.

Once I had three dowels in the wall I was able to mark the exact spot to drill the shelf for perfect alignment. To square the shelf to the drill press, I had clamps everywhere! The middle hole was the easiest, and I could clamp a square front and back on the drill press table.

The next hole was a bigger challenge. The second square wouldn’t fit on the back for the squares to counteract each other. Also, working alone, I had to have support for the length of the board.

The end hole was the biggest challenge. It wouldn’t matter whether the first two were perfect if the board leveraged itself out of alignment and this hole was off. The “back” square even had to go sideways!

The dead blow hammer I’d just bought came in super handy, as the fit was really tight. We moved into this house 23 years ago this Thanksgiving. Brenda was able to find a quart of paint left over from painting our office. It hadn’t been touched in all those years. I took it to Sherwin-Williams and asked them to shake it. The fellow who greeted me seemed to be an experienced manager type. He looked at the can. He looked at me. He looked back at the can (which was in pristine condition, not a spot of rust on it). After a moment he said, “You’ve had this one a while, haven’t you? We haven’t made this line of paint in years and years.” I told him the story, and how all I needed was enough paint for the shelf and the wall adjacent to it. He cheerfully shook the can and even thanked me. Now, that’s customer service!

 


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Sep 042018
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideasPlease share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip.  If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.

One day Brenda said, “I think Frida Kahlo is too wide to sit on the 2x4s on the cedar deck now.”

She was referring to the kitten we rescued two years ago. Frida and Maxx like to prowl on the screened area off our bedroom, walking on the framing so they can be as close to the outdoors as possible without being in harm’s way.

Brenda’s idea was for a little corner shelf, something unobtrusive. That meant brackets were out, and a floating shelf was in.

Now, you can buy floating shelf hardware, and there are some nice metal pieces available that make the job nearly foolproof. For starters, their brackets are already perpendicular to the supporting rod, so you don’t have to worry about your shelf pointing “up” or “down.”

Regular readers, though, know that I’m not going to spend money when I have a solution on hand already. And, in this case, I did.

The Domino came to mind. After all, those metal items are essentially tenons, as is every means of mounting a floating shelf.

To use Steve Johnson’s term, I had to “noodle” on this for a bit to decide exactly how to pull it off. After all, a 90i corner wasn’t going to allow moving a board onto tenons that are also 90i to each other without some compensation. It soon became clear that Dominos on one side could slide right into Domino slots, but the other side would have to have some sliding accommodation. This called for a mockup.

Cedar is expensive, and cutting into one’s house can be scary. I wasn’t up for any mistakes. I had this old 2×4 frame sitting in lumber storage. I figured it would suffice to test my theories on Domino placement. And, it did!

The plan wasn’t too geometrically challenging. With the biggest Dominos a Festool DF500 uses, one side of the board would need to slide about 3/4″ in order to seat the tenons on both sides. Two adjacent Domino slots on the sliding side and we were set.

The real test: cutting into the cedar and the house. I was lucky, everything worked exactly like it did on the mockup.

The dry fit is good. Glue and clamps should make the fit even better.

Now it was time to “noodle” (no, Steve, I’m not threatening to steal your word) on a way to clamp this thing. The obvious-but-impractical way was to cut holes in the screen and attach the clamps directly to the 2x4s. I immediately ruled that out. Then, I just held a clamp up to the shelf and it came to me: attach a temporary board with screws where the holes won’t show, under the 2x4s, and hook the clamps to those.

It worked!

For a finish to look good on the shelf, it’s imperative that every bit of glue is cleaned. Max helps ensure I don’t miss any places. He looks out for his little sister’s interest. Construction was too much noise and commotion for her. A little semi-transparent stain and Frida will be sitting on her new shelf in no time.)


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Aug 062018
 

People are of two minds about sharpening, I believe. Some hate sharpening. They despise having to stop working, even though they realize that sharp tools are safer and easier to use. Like other necessary things we wish we didn’t have to do, we recognize the value, even as we’re wishing.

Others might not mind sharpening, but I don’t think anyone loves it.

I’ll go one step further: I believe the former group struggles with getting a good edge and the latter is good at sharpening.

Sadly, I’m in the first group.

For a long time, I was looking for a way to sharpen that wasn’t just easy, it was automatic. I got some really good advice from my friends Steve Johnson and M. Scott Morton. It can be summarized with an old saw: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

We conversed about machines that might help, and they encouraged me to just concentrate on hand sharpening with stones. And, to practice, practice and practice some more.

Not long after that I was watching a Matt Cremona video, and noticed he had one of those little blocks some folks use that sets the distance from the front edge of one’s chisel to the sharpening jig. Having that jig allows perfect repeatability for the sharpening angle. I made a block like that for 25i and I was off to the proverbial races. It seemed I could do no wrong in sharpening my chisels.

Then, one day, something happened. I sharpened a chisel I’d put an edge on with that same technique, and it wouldn’t cut worth a hoot. I figured I’d just gotten in too big a hurry, overconfident, and messed up the edge. So, I went back and honed it up from 1000 to 8000 and tried again.

Dang! Still won’t cut!

Some people just have it. I took a class at Arrowmont College once, and the instructor was working with one of my chisels and said, “I just can’t use this. Do you mind if I sharpen it?” What was I going to say, “No, I like it like that way?” She took it to a high-speed grinder and shaped it the way she wanted it. No, she did not blue the edge. She spent a few minutes on a wet stone and the chisel cut like she’d been honing for hours. I asked her to sharpen two other chisels, which she pleasantly did, spending about the same amount of time on each one.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t need to sharpen one of those chisels again for a year!

After Steve Johnson did a video review on the Tormek T-4, I thought it might be just the breakthrough that I needed, a machine to get a good shape on my chisels and plane irons that would allow me to just fine-tune on stones.

It might still be my sharpening salvation, but I’ve been so busy since it arrived that I’ve only had time to unbox and assemble it, and there hasn’t been time to do anything else with it.

It didn’t take long to figure out the Tormek Sharpening System can’t be up as high as sharpening stones. I found this desk up the street when some folks moved out in the middle of the night and left a lot of their stuff for the garbage man. With a top and some wheels, I hope its height will be ideal.

Maybe I can become one of those people who is good at sharpening and doesn’t dread it.

I’ll let you know when I do my review of the new Tormek.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Aug 032018
 

No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.

It’s all well and good to make nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds to raise young in, but, we frugal woodworkers don’t want to break the bank doing it.

“Used” treated lumber is plentiful, fences fall down every day. But experts recommend that chemicals and paint be avoided in nest boxes. You won’t find much used cedar and redwood lying around. However, if you’re willing to work a little, you can make usable wood out of what you have, or what you find. The key is being able to remove the metal and rot.

Because the cedar I was working with had been construction lumber, it was chock full of staples and nails.

Step One was to set up some horses and an assembly line of disassembly.

First, I took out the obvious metal. A tiny screwdriver is good for getting under the staples with minimal marring of the wood. Tip: lift one side of the staple, then use pliers to remove the other side; it will be more likely to come out in one piece. The good news about staples is they don’t do much damage to power tool blades if you miss one.

Step Two is to find the major metal. I don’t think you can do this part without a metal detector. Well, you could, but you’d have a big pile of cedar sawdust when you finished.

Fortunately, all I had to remove was toenails in the two ends and nails for the framing member that helped to support the screen, but the nails seemed to go in every direction. Once they were localized with the scanner, I made my best guess about where they ended and carefully made a square cut. I didn’t want to lose any material by unnecessary squaring later. But! I didn’t use the miter saw for that step. Rather, I marked lines all the way around the board and used a metal-cutting blade in the sabre saw. It’s a good thing, too, because I was off by about 1/2″, and an expensive blade could have been wasted.

I cut this where I hoped the nails ended, trying to save as much cedar as I could. Oops!

Now I had these little pieces to dig out. First, you need access. Remove some wood all around each nail. Over time, I’ve done that with a Dremel bur, an old, beat-up chisel, a pocket knife and even diagonal-cutting pliers (dikes). Access allows you to get a grip on the nail. In this case, I knew the fragments were short and wouldn’t provide much resistance to being pulled. They came out easily.

Dikes allowed me to nibble away a little wood around each nail fragment, then pull the piece easily.

The long fragments weren’t too hard, either, as I was able to use a punch to make them back up enough that the heads protruded from the surface of the 4 x 4. You can see the two pairs of end cutters I use in the first photo. The finesse goal with end “cutters” is not to cut, but to grip firmly enough that they don’t slip, and pull the nail out with a rocking, lever motion.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Aug 022018
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideasPlease share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip.  If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.

Regular readers know that cedar is my favorite wood to work. Redwood is a very close second.

A while back one of my birding friends posted photos of a screech owl who had occupied the nest box he’d just put up in his backyard. It was the cutest thing you ever saw, the adult owl’s round face perfectly fitting the round opening. Brenda immediately said, “I want one.”

I did, too. However, there is a complicating factor in our yard, which is that the yard is full of trees, and our trees are full of squirrels.

If you have squirrels, or you know anything about squirrels, you know that they are incredibly destructive. Put a nest box anywhere a squirrel can get to it, and it’s probably toast.

Oh, they will nest in it. all right. But, like the rats they are, they will trash the very place they live. The first thing they will do is chew the 3″ opening larger. Not that they need it larger; they can fit through a hole 1″ in diameter. No, they just do it because they’re rats.

Experts recommend that there be no trees within 20 feet of the box. Our yard looks like a tree farm.

For a couple of years, I told Brenda that it was just out of the question for us to raise baby birds in a box, until, one day, I saw the place where I thought it might work. If I mounted a box on top of a 20 foot 2 x 4, then attached it to the handrail at the end of the boat ramp, we might have a shot. I’d still have to put a metal predator guard on the post, but it just might work.

No time was wasted, because I’d already scoped out plans at the Cornell and Audubon web sites. Now, I just needed some wood.

A while back we had to replace some rotted cedar on a screened area we call our cedar deck. It’s framed in cedar and I made a cedar picnic table for it. As you might imagine, I didn’t throw any of it away, just in case.

To make the most of it, I planned ahead. I wanted 3/4″ material and the plans specify the dimensions of each panel. You’d never do this in furniture building, but I cut my materials to length before I resawed. I had 4 x 4s that would yield three pieces each with a sliver left over, and 2 x 4s that would make two boards when sawn in half. If you’re thinking I saved the sliver, you’re getting ahead of me.

It can be a challenge to glue up a panel and get all of the edges square right off the bat (which is why you don’t normally cut your pieces to length in advance). But, when you commit to a length, you have to make it happen. If your edges are already square, it’s not too hard if you’re gluing on a flat surface. I’m addicted to crutches, so I used some old biscuits I had left over before I bought the Festool Domino 500, and no one wants to buy my DeWalt biscuit jointer, so I figured this was a good opportunity to cut into my supply. After the glue is applied, squeeze the panels together and place the edges onto the flat worktop. If everything lines up, your panel’s edges will be aligned in the final project. You might sacrifice perfection because you gave up the opportunity to trim to final length, but you saved a limited resource in the process.

Knowing the exact dimensions you need in advance, and being tolerant of slight imperfections means the wastefulness of “cut long and trim later” is avoided. This technique might not work in fine furniture, but a screech owl occupant won’t complain.

I’m keeping the budget as tight as possible. I had some Titebond III that coagulated, but I skimmed the cured layer off the top and went right on. The triangular cutoffs from the sides that gave the roof its slope included glue joints. I abused the cutoffs, and the wood broke; the glue joints didn’t.

I thought the final box turned out pretty nice. A drainage dado that had been in a floor plate shows in an edge board. I filled the defect with epoxy dough.

Winter, 2019, we’re hoping for a screech owl pair to take up residence and raise babies. Sorry, there won’t be a web cam.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Jul 112018
 

Shop time is precious. However, so is Mother Earth. We have only one, and we have only one lifetime to treat her right, both for our own good and those who will occupy her in the future.

Think “children” and “grandchildren.” Therefore, it’s worth the time to make a few extra steps across the shop each day to recycle.

These recycling bins are but a short walk across the garage from where most of my work is done. We also keep a bin in the laundry room, upstairs, and a big bin at work. Those who inherit the earth from us will appreciate that they don’t have to live in landfills.

Aluminum is the most valued recyclable, with more than two-thirds of all of the aluminum ever made still in use. If you’re sipping on a Coca Cola right now, rinse that can and drop it into the bin when you’re finished. Other scraps of aluminum you might produce in your work can also be recycled curbside, so keep your mind open to cutoffs and other sources.

Paper is a big recyclable item, and woodworking shops produce a good bit of it. Think packaging, plans, notebooks and mail. When I have scrap paper I may take a momentary break to walk across the room to recycle, or I may conserve my energy by making a pile until it gets in my way.

Steel is one of the most-recycled items in America, but more of it is recycled industrially than personally. That’s too bad, because we use and discard a lot of it. However, as easy as it is to recycle a steel English pea can curbside, other steel items might have to be stockpiled and delivered to a metal recycling center. I am fortunate to have one nearby, and I can store steel and large-format aluminum in my garage at work until I have a load to deliver.

If you prefer to be paid for your aluminum cans, you can save them and sell them at the metal recycling center, too. However, keep in mind that such high-profit items help your local government keep curbside recycling available to everyone.

I’ve never understood the attraction of bottled water, especially little 4- and 8-ounce bottles that are so inefficient. I prefer tap water, which is nearly free. However, America loves them, as evidenced by the “bottle mountains” I see in recycling bins every Friday. Sadly, when I pick up litter on my early-morning walk, I often see them in garbage cans I drop that trash into along the way. Plastic recycling is quite efficient, and the bigger your municipality, the more likely you are to be able to recycle even unusually-symboled plastic beyond common polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Wood scraps recycle, too. We have friends who use woodburning stoves and heaters, so I keep a 5-gallon bucket handy to drop in all sizes of cutoffs. When the bucket is full …

After one of many waste-company changes in our city, we ended up with a never-used rolling garbage cart. The company didn’t want it back, so I use it to store wood scraps until someone needs them for their woodburning stove.

The “3Rs” are reduce, reuse and recycle. They are listed in order of value. First, buy less and use less. Second, reuse what doesn’t have to be thrown away. Third, recycle where you can. Recycling can also include using cutoffs and “waste” in another project. Think of this as a ceiling recycle bin.

May I encourage you to find a corner of your shop where you can reduce landfill waste by saving your recyclables for the weekly pickup?