Jim Randolph

May 082018
 

 

Spring cleaning.

It’s almost a cliché.

Even the City of Long Beach is having a Spring Cleaning event.

Sometimes, it’s a joke, laughing about the cleaning we should be doing in the spring, even as we put it off.

We’ve discussed before how much I like cleaning my shop. Right now, because of the painting project,  almost everything in the shop is on hold, as I’m trying to finish painting completely so I can have that behind me.

That means the shop, indeed, my entire garage, is a huge mess.

I have a brand new Tormek T-8 that I’m dying to use and write about, and I’ve had time to take it out of the box, put it on my sharpening table and do the initial setup. There’s been no time to do much beyond that. I hope to have that article for you soon.

Meanwhile, the shop is just a mess, which is a problem for me, because I have to see it every morning when I leave for work and every evening when I get home.

When I do get to it, I like to vacuum with the Festool Dust Extractor. A separator ahead of your vacuum, regardless of brand, is a great way to save on replacement filter bags and HEPA filter elements. Highland carries a unit you can put on top of your metal garbage can, and another that works on a 5-gallon bucket.

I don’t believe there is a vacuum cleaner made that will clean the air coming out of it better than the Festool units (the Mirka is a rival), but a separator is terrific for everything from Shop Vac to Craftsman. Even the canister filters in those aren’t cheap.

A separator works by catching both large and fine particles before they get to your suction-producing unit. You could think of it as a filter ahead of a filter, except the separator has no parts (filters) that ever need replacing. Periodically, you just empty all of the refuse from the separator’s container, reassemble and go back to work.

Oh, well, I will get it done someday. Meanwhile, I’ll just apply the old saying, “This, too, shall pass.”


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.

May 072018
 

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.

When I went to look for scraps for the battery storage project, I didn’t have to look far.

And, I didn’t spend much on storage for those scraps. Whenever one of our refrigerators dies, I always save the old drawers and shelves. I keep the standards and runners, too, although sometimes it works out to use those and sometimes it doesn’t. Below, I’ve pictured some places in the garage I’ve installed this free storage and some of the things I’ve squirreled away.

Save the runners for the drawers and you can use them just like they were still in the refrigerator. This one glides as easily as the day it came off the Kenmore assembly line.

Sometimes the original equipment requires a shim to fit.

For this drawer to fit between joists, all that was required was a couple of scraps of plywood to act as runners.

I use these three drawers for scraps that make good cauls and shims, handy to the table I work from most.

Old refrigerator shelves are handy, too. I used the original standards and supports. This tile storage in Brenda’s ceramic studio demonstrates that they can hold a tremendous amount of weight.


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.

May 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.

Recently, I was having trouble with my indoor/outdoor weather station, and I thought low battery power in the outdoor unit might have been the problem. A computer reminder triggers routine preemptive changing of the batteries so that corrosion doesn’t damage the unit. The reminder still had a few months to go, but it has been such a brutally cold winter, I thought the batteries might have aged prematurely.

As it turned out, that wasn’t the problem, which left me with a dilemma: what do I do with these batteries that are probably still good?

Now, the last thing I wanted to do was put them in something that might be destroyed by them. Still, several options existed.

I needed to use a device that would tell me when the batteries were dead, and wouldn’t get missed, allowing the corrosion to ruin the device.

My first thought was a clock. Or clocks. I have several in the garage, so I’m never far from knowing the time. I like staying on schedule, and, even on my time off, my activities are pretty regimented. When a clock with a second hand goes dead, it’s pretty obvious.

Another option was the garage stairs “dinger.” It’s the alert system I use to let me know when visitors are coming down the stairs, a safety system that prevents me from being startled while operating machinery. I’d hate for the table saw blade to spew blood all over company.

Then came another question, “What do I do with these batteries while I’m waiting for them to be used?” I’d have to come up with a storage system.

Previously, I’d made some battery holders for new batteries. The holders are mounted in our laundry room. The garage storage system needn’t use such nice wood, but the job still needed to be done well. Also, I’d have no use for “C,” “D” storage in this system, so a “AAA” and “AA”-only unit would be a quick and easy project. Here’s how I made it:

I made this battery storage for our laundry room. Someday, I should put some finish on it. A couple of coats of varnish would look nice.

Of course, to keep the project cheap, I chose a scrap piece of wood. My first thought was to use treated pine, but I considered that the chemicals might be corrosive to the batteries or their intended device. The slab needs to be at least 1-1⁄2″ thick to provide sufficient hole depth to prevent the batteries from falling out on their own, or if vibrations shake the wall.

Step two was to decide on a good angle. The Woodpecker’s 12-in-1 Tool says 10i worked well on the previous holder.

Set the drill press table to 10i with a support you can drill into if necessary. I wanted a long board to support the entire project length.

A sharp Forstner bit makes a clean hole with a flat bottom.

Take the holes to a depth of 1-1/4” for all sizes except D, which needs full-thickness. The depth stop makes for quick and accurate work.

Use 7/16″ diameter for AAA batteries, 5/8″ for AA, 1″ for C and 1-3/8″ for D. You can chisel a rectangular hole for 9-volt batteries, or they will fit in a 1-3/8″ round hole. If there are sizes for which you have no Forstner bit, a spade bit will do, but the hole might not be quite as pretty.

A keyhole bit in the router table makes for an elegant, hidden mounting method.

And, the final product, a miniature of the original, right next to one of the clocks its batteries will one day electrify.


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.

Apr 042018
 

 

Measure twice, cut once.

Such sayings are legendary, sage advice.

We all know that accuracy is one of the most important factors in a good woodworking outcome. Usually, it’s a matter of “taking the time.” Taking time to mark accurately, line up a cut accurately, and execute the cut accurately.

Whether a butt joint or miter, few aspects of your work can make it look uglier than an ill-fitting intersection.

A perfectly-executed half-lap joint by Marc Spagnuolo.

There are plenty of ways you can enhance accuracy. Marking your cutlines with a knife instead of a pencil, for example.

Many woodworkers intentionally cut their pieces long and fine-tune after.

Picture framers often “shave” their miter cuts for accuracy to the thousandth.

When nothing less than perfection will do, nothing beats making one’s cuts a tad long and improving them with this miter trimmer. Highland provides a handy product tour.

The same principle is provided by a hand plane and shooting board. In both cases, the blades must be extremely sharp to prevent tearout.

Shooting boards. I suppose they’ve been around almost as long as hand planes.

A modern invention intended to enhance accuracy is the laser. You can find them on your power miter box, your drill press, your band saw, and even some handheld drills have them.

The laser guide on this Kapex is quite good, although I usually still cut and test.

Some would argue that accuracy isn’t improved, even though most people would say speed is. This month’s poll asks about your preferences regarding lasers.


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.

Apr 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.

Back in the day, can openers created a sharp-edged disk of metal that was at least as dangerous as a Ninja star.

Old School can opener.

There is no telling how many people have been stitched up from handling those. Today, modern can openers cut the lids in such a way that there are no sharp edges.

New School can opener.

But, there is yet another benefit. The flat, safe surface is perfect for mixing epoxy. It is dished just enough to make a little depression to contain the epoxy, and you can mix it with a little stick. Just be sure to wash and dry it well before using it.

I store epoxy and clean can lids together, along with some old credit cards to cut up for disposable, recyclable stirring sticks and cups for mixing liquid epoxy. Tin snips cut the cards cleanly, and you can make wide or narrow stirrers, according to your needs. In addition to TransTint, I have used concrete coloring powder to color epoxy. Solids accelerate curing.


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.

Apr 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.

When working with cedar, you must be prepared to deal with the defects. Of course, there are knots on every surface.

One look at a cedar tree and you see why there are so many knots: limbs everywhere.

You can celebrate the defects by leaving them au naturel, or you can celebrate them in the way you fix them, or you can disguise them with, say, a Dutchman.

I didn’t want any rough or sharp edges that might catch tender little grandbaby skin, so I made sure to fill each one. A Dutchman would have been fine, but this project had run long already.

As something of a trademark, I incorporate black-tinted epoxy into many of my projects. Here are the steps I used:

First, you need epoxy, and you have options. If you buy large containers of epoxy you might spend a good bit up front, but, stored properly, it will keep for years and years. The resin and hardener are separate and very stable.

If you’re only wanting to dabble in a little epoxy, good ol’ two-part syringe epoxy is perfectly fine. Don’t purchase the fast-curing kind if you’re adding amendments because the additions speed curing further and even one drop of dye or small amounts of sawdust will harden it faster.

Have your surfaces prepared in advance: clean, dry, no grease and no paint. No epoxies have a long “open” time.

Always work in small aliquots. If your defect is deep, fill it in layers no thicker than 1/8″ each.

To fill the knothole in the edge of this bench I cut a dam from a 5-gallon plastic bucket and clamped the dam with squeeze clamps.

To ensure no epoxy ran out from the bottom, I made an additional dam out of PlayDoh and clamped a plywood scrap on for reinforcement. Now, patiently fill the defect in 1/8″ layers. It’s not necessary for each lamination to cure completely between applications but each should be allowed to cool thoroughly.

Make your last layer thinner, which will allow bubbles to escape more easily.

One drop of Transtint Dye will darkly color a large quantity of epoxy. I suspect this bottle might last me a lifetime. I store it in a used zipper-locking bag in case of spills.


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.

Mar 052018
 

 

Record-setting cold has plagued much of the nation this winter.

I don’t recall the exact year, but the last time I recall snow on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was in the early 1990s. A group of us, we called ourselves “TTLB,” The Thursday Lunch Bunch, had been to Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. We met every Thursday at O’Charley’s Restaurant. Not only was this before Katrina, it was before casinos, and I could drive to Biloxi from Long Beach, have a leisurely lunch and still be back at work for 2:00 PM. Today, it’s an ordeal to drive to the mall, and it takes forever.

Californians and New Yorkers are not sympathizing.

This particular day we got through with lunch and were shocked to walk outside to a winter wonderland. The snow was fresh and powdery and several inches thick. Everything was silent. Driving down Highway 90 was magical. The beach was, well, snow white. There were hardly any cars on the road and the medians and yards were pristine.

This year, we had not one but two snows, about a week apart, although both of them together wouldn’t have been a good covering.

Did I mention it snowed? Oh, not to mislead you, this was in Wisconsin.

Still, it has been cold here. We had many days in the 20s, pipes that were protected but froze anyway and weeks of thermal underwear.

New Yorkers are not sympathizing.

Still, that’s rare for us. We normally enjoy balmy weather. In fact, I don’t have any permanent heat in my shop, although I’m not above taking one or both bathroom heaters downstairs to warm things up.

“Two bathroom heaters” you say? Yes, have I mentioned that I’m the world’s most cold-natured person?

If I’m going to the shop on a cold day, I might have innumerable layers on, and I might not come out of many of them in the course of the day.

On the coldest day I’ve worked in 22 years in this house, I’ve never run the electric heater more than an hour. I’m inclined to being cold, but the process of stirring around in the garage warms me up pretty rapidly. If it’s really cold, I’ll leave the shutters closed for a bit of window insulation, even though I miss the beautiful view.

With a picture this pretty, one could be distracted, even from woodworking.

Which got me wondering, “What do people in other parts of the country do for heat in their shops?” Between reading Show Us Your Shop and woodworking videos, I know heat sources run the gamut.

I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with that.


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.