Jim Randolph

Nov 072018
 

Is plywood acceptable in fine furniture? And, while we’re at it, what is fine furniture? Is it furniture made only with hand tools? Is it made only with solid wood? Is it defined by certain joinery?

My answer to all those questions is, “Whatever gets the job done, has an eye-pleasing design, has well-fitting joints, is strong and has a beautiful finish.”

Of course, “eye-pleasing” is in the optical structure of the beholder. Even classic lines and traditional rules of proportion aren’t going to delight everyone.

How strong is strong? Some might be thinking, “It just needs to be strong enough to last until I move out of this apartment.” “Or the twenty years I live in this house.” Others want to be able to pass their handmade furniture down to their children, grandchildren and beyond. I read a piece recently in which a Japanese woodworker said that 100 year old furniture had barely begun its life, that it might be 200 years old before it really has character.

As for plywood, let’s face it: it’s hard to get stronger than quality plywood.

How beautiful does the finish have to be? It, too, should be durable. To some, that means varnish. To others, paint. Some might think an oil finish is durable enough, even if it has to be renewed periodically. Perhaps the beauty of the oil finish outranks the need for durability.

Can we agree that ill-fitting joints would universally take a piece out of the running for “fine?”

The bottom line? We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and to make and finish our furniture however we like. And, if we want to call it “fine,” after all, it’s our furniture and our viewpoint.

I considered this my very first foray into “fine” woodworking. Our son, Andy, wanted a cabinet to display his photography books, magazines and classic equipment. He sent me a sketch on a napkin and wanted to know if he could make it with a circular saw and hammer. I think that was his way of asking me if I would do it. I made it from furniture-grade oak veneer plywood with red oak solid wood banding. Andy wanted to finish it himself and sent me these photos when he was through.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to call a picnic table, much less a diminutive picnic table, “fine” furniture, but I intended this table to be an heirloom our eldest granddaughter would pass to her grandchildren and beyond. It’s plenty strong. There is no plywood. This was her second birthday party.

Nov 052018
 

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.

A while back I showed you three ways I was experimenting with to protect my Kleenex boxes from dust. I promised that I would tell you which style of Kleenex protection won out. Not surprisingly, I chose the technique that was easiest and involved spending the least amount of time. That is, a simple cover over the Kleenex box that would allow me to just lift up the cover, select a Kleenex, drop the cover back on, and get back to work.

The most protective was also the most time-consuming, which was screwing a plastic shoebox lid down, then snapping the box part over the Kleenex. I just didn’t have the time or patience to go through the added step of securing the container.

Ditto for the other technique, which also involved unsnapping the lid, only with the shoebox upright.

Efficiency wins again!

As is often the case, the simplest way is the best way. Using this setup, the Kleenex gets dust protection, and I get quick and easy access.


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.

Nov 022018
 

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.

A fundamental principle of power tool safety is that the operator needs to be able to cut the electricity to his/her tool quickly, preferably without the distraction of having to look. Router tables, table saws and other stationary equipment usually incorporate a large, red OFF switch, sometimes with a paddle. Switches on portable tools are considerably more subtle.

I love my Porter-Cable routers, but I don’t get enough shop time, or router time, to remember whether it’s the left or the right side of the rocker switch that turns it off.

I already had fingernail polish, so there was no added expense to mark the switch right on top so I could immediately identify the correct side to reach for at the end of a cut. I used several coats, and, despite years of use, this red mark remains just this bright.

When it’s time to turn a tool off, you don’t want to waste time fumbling. Now, it’s as quick and simple as reaching for the red spot.


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.

Nov 012018
 

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.

Recently, I was cleaning out a closet and ran across some things that simply have no use anymore. I bought them, and I’m not sorry I did, but now there are better products that have simply superceded them.

Back in the day, I spent a fortune on a top-of-the-line Lowrance paper graph. The modern digital “fish finder” does thousands of things more, at a fraction of the cost.

Then, there’s my old 35 mm SLR. A Film camera, that is. I have no use for it and no one wants it or the dozen accessories I have for it. Ditto for the mini-cassette video camera.

Now, I see that Festool has come out with a CT CYCLONE Separator for Dust Extractors. However, I have a separator made to sit atop a Festool Dust Extractor that isn’t a Festool brand, and I can’t possibly justify throwing it away to buy the Festool item, as much as I’d like to. I also don’t see Festool starting a buy-back amnesty program just so I can upgrade.

The unit I have is completely acceptable. It has served me well for a number of years. It’s just that, knowing Festool, I’m sure they did it better.

This Ultimate cyclone has separated a ton of debris in the several years I’ve had it. Still, there’s a new choice to pair with your Festool Dust Extractor. And, I want one.

Like any separator system, you’re going to have a savings on HEPA filters because almost no debris reaches the inside of the dust extractor. You won’t be filling bags all the time because the dust stays in the CT Separator, which is lined with a disposable plastic bag. You can purchase supplemental clear plastic VAB-20 Collection Containers if you need to keep your dust boxed up to move off-site. A three-pack is $180. You can even use it without the Collection Container, but the capacity is diminished, emptying into what Festool calls a “pan.” The CT I use for my Kapex sits under the workbench, so the height savings would be a plus for me.

I have one small beef with my current unit, and that is the Systainer clips don’t always hold it securely. Because Festool is a system, I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem with the real thing.

As you might expect, the Festool Cyclone costs about 25% more than its competitor. It is Festool, after all. If something happened to my old unit, I’d be on the horn today to get this ordered. If you, like me, vacuum your shop floor with your Festool CT, as well as using it with tools, you’ll definitely want one, too.

You can purchase the CT Cyclone at Highland Woodworking.


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.

Oct 082018
 

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.

Brenda wanted a jewelry display hung on the wall outside her bathroom recently. Since it was pretty heavy, we wanted to engage studs with our fasteners, if possible.

Gathering everything we would need for the task, including the stud finder, we went to work.

“Ideally, I want it here,” she said, “but, if we need to go a little one way or the other to hit a stud, I’m OK with that.”

I popped the 9- volt battery into the unit and set out in search of some solid wood.

This stud finder has been in our family for a long, long time. While it’s not the modern unit that finds steel studs, electrical wiring and water pipes, it’s pretty consistent most of the time. Most. But not this day.

When the old unit kept giving me wacky, unreproducible results, I figured the finder had outlived its usefulness and needed to be replaced. A quick search on HighlandWoodworking.com showed me that Highland doesn’t stock them. I looked at a few other sources, read a bunch of reviews, and sent an email to Steve Johnson to see which one he uses. He said, “None of them work,” which meant I was going old school.

First, I measured where the framing should be, but rapping knuckles on the wall, listening for a “hollow-solid-hollow” sound told me I could forget about studs on 16″ centers. It’s a narrow wall and an HVAC plenum is behind it, which led me to believe it was built “unconventionally.” Or, maybe the “Unhandy Handyman” was here on that day of construction.

Plan C was to start drilling holes in search of studs. However, if you do this, you want your holes as inconspicuous as possible. Enter the lowly coat hanger as stud finder.

You can get at least 3 “drill bits” out of a single coat hanger, depending on what length you need.

Coat hangers are soft. You can cut them with lineman’s pliers, or even the shear in your slip- joint pliers. Since I was going through 5/8″ drywall, a short piece was good. Still, you need enough length to be able to feel the difference in resistance between air and wood.

Choose your location. If you have an idea where the studs are, start as close to one edge as you can. Also crucial, if the item you’re hanging can hide the holes you make, you’ll be saving a step: no filling necessary!

Next, define the edges of the stud by feeling with your homemade drill bit. Ideally, you’d like to be exactly in the middle of the stud with your hanging screw.

When I was in the beginning phases of hanging this floating shelf,  I needed to locate studs exactly, so that I could have our dowels perfectly centered. The stud finder got us close, and tiny coat hanger drill bits fine-tuned the edges. The little holes are hidden behind the floating shelf.

Did I mention that coat hanger drill bits are free?


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.

Oct 052018
 

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.

This was the funnest little project to make.

I got the idea from my sweet Brenda. She wanted a little carrier for some artist equipment, and she suggested making it from steel food cans. As usual, I fulfilled her request, with overkill.

Getting the cans was the easy part. I like beans. I eat all kinds of beans. Some of the beans come in big cans, some small. Maybe the best part was emptying the cans.

After running them through the dishwasher a couple of times to ensure no food particles remained, I dried them thoroughly.

Nothing ruins a metal project faster than rust, so step one was several coats of Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer.

Brenda is the female version of “The Man In Black,”  and she likes her accents black, too. Therefore, the choice of colors for the project was limited. To one.

“Rickety ” and “overkill” don’t go together, so the project had to be stable. It was easy to pre-drill the top of the can into its 2×4 centerpiece, but it took a little more effort to stabilize the bottom. The top location was secured with a sheet metal screw. I measured 3-1/4″ down from the top of each can, drilled a 3/16″ hole from the outside of the can, then reinstalled all of the cans. (If you have a right-angle chuck you could do this in situ.) With a stubby pencil I marked through the holes onto the 2×4, then drilled 3/16″ holes in it, and secured 1-3/4″ bolts with a nut. For the two end cans I used a right-angle Phillips screwdriver and put sheet metal screws in both holes. Since Brenda has dainty hands, a screen door handle worked fine for carrying.

Brenda’s little artist carry-all has her fully equipped for off-site work.

That was the inspiration for my hand-sanding carry-all. The scale is bigger, so I asked the family that owns our favorite Mexican restaurant to save me some tomato cans. Otherwise, the process was about the same. The handle is from a Stihl string trimmer. I saved a handle from an old Craftsman trimmer that I liked better for eating weeds.

My hand-sanding version of the carry-all

Each can has a job. The one labelled “HDW” holds hardware: a pair of indestructible scissors for cutting used sanding disks into quadrants, a rod for lifting used sandpaper from the prongs of hand-sanding blocks, an air nozzle for blowing dust from whatever is being sanded, a pencil, and sometimes not-currently-used sanding blocks. The other cans are labelled by grit and hold a pre-loaded sanding block and a ZipLoc bag with the corresponding grit and quarter-sheets of sandpaper already cut to fit the block. The bottom of this page tells you how to get even more free sandpaper and an easy way to know which ZipLoc it goes in.

If you need some beans eaten so you can have empty cans, send them on over…


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.

Oct 042018
 

I like a clean garage.  I was cleaning my garage yesterday. After two years. It’s not that it didn’t need to be cleaned before then, I just didn’t have time to get to it. My usual routine is to clean after every project, before starting another. I rarely clean while a project is in progress, no matter how long the project or how slow the progress.

These days, spending hours upon hours in the shop takes a toll. After two decades of controlling plantar fasciitis with prescription orthotics and being completely pain free, that all changed a few months ago. I’ve been visiting my podiatrist and doing the exercises he gave me, but I’m not back to where I was.

As if that weren’t enough, I’ve developed a bum left knee.

When I clean, there is a lot of walking involved, as I’ll pick up one or more items that are out of place and move it/them to the correct location. That adds up to a lot of walking in a day, even before I start the tedious task of vacuuming.

Compare that to a typical day at work. We open at 8. We close at 7. Although I spend the middle of the day running errands, eating, writing and studying, most of the rest of the day I’m on my feet. And, I rarely have significant pain at the end of a day in the clinic.

The difference? Construction, I believe. Even though our home is built on three levels and sits on pilings, the garage has a concrete slab floor.

Concrete is stable and durable, but it can be hard on the feet and legs.

The clinic, a 150-year-old former dwelling, is built like most homes of the era: wooden frame sitting on piers, about 1-1⁄2 feet off the ground with a wood floor. The amount of give this type of floor has makes, I think, a huge difference in one’s ability to be on their feet for an extended period of time.

This building may be old, but it’s very comfortable to work in. To say nothing of homey.

Of course, there are many brands and styles of pads that can be put on a concrete floor to make it kinder to one’s feet and legs.

I have also considered installing a false floor with 2 x 4 stringers and plywood for more give. However, that would be very involved.

What about you? What kind of floor does your shop have? Tell us in the comments why you like or dislike your floor.

 

To see more of Jim’s shop, click here to see view our September 2018 Show Us Your Workshop in Wood News Online.


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.