Jim Randolph

Oct 032017
 

The dairy farm I grew up on was pretty self-sufficient.

We grew most of what we ate, from meat to grain to vegetables and, of course, milk and butter.

We grew much of what the cows ate, too.

My Uncle Sam, and his two brothers Bee and Charles, milked separately but farmed together. Their homes were within a mile of each other. Combined, their herds ran about 100 head.

There was plenty of rich, bottomland pasture to graze the cattle on grass in the spring, summer and fall. But, come winter, the only way milk production could be maintained was to supplement. That meant we spent much of the spring and summer growing corn and sorghum to turn into silage in the fall. (Uncle Sam used to love to joke that Yankees called it ensilage.)

We had two in-ground silos and three trailers to move the fresh-cut vegetation from the field to storage.

Think we bought those trailers?

Think again. Think self-sufficiency. Back in those days the only “treated lumber” was creosote-infused. Not only would creosote have been toxic to the cows, we probably couldn’t have afforded it anyway.

Thus, the wood on the trailers had to be replaced periodically. The acids and sugars in the silage took their toll. To get the lumber, the brothers would take a day off, select the best trailer, hitch it behind one of the pickups, and amble off to a sawmill in the middle Mississippi, Big Black River swamp. If I was lucky, one of my friends got to go along. On the first of these trips I made, Junior Cain, a neighbor kid from down the road came along.

We rode in the bed of the pickup. No one thought that was dangerous then, and we never got hurt. On the back roads we sat on the lowered tailgate, big clay gravel rocks banging into our feet. We thought it was great. And completely normal.

The brothers would negotiate their best price for a certain amount of wood, load it into the trailer, and back home we would go.

But, what are you going to do with two little kids while the negotiating and sawing were going on? Why, do what grownups did with kids in those days: cut them loose to their own devices.

And, by “devices,” I don’t mean iPads.

The swamp sawmills had massive six-foot diameter circular saw blades and conveyor belts that piled the sawdust into mountains. And, what kid doesn’t like to climb a mountain?

Junior and I climbed to the top, rolled to the bottom and repeated dozens of times. We had sawdust chips in body parts where the sun didn’t shine. We were a mess, but the grownups didn’t care. We were in the bed of the truck, remember?

All that fun was a fond memory until, a couple of days later, I began to scratch. I was itchy on my head. I was itchy on my toes. And, I was itchy everywhere in between.

Everywhere.

Imagine the embarrassment of a just-prepubescent boy having his Aunt Polly put calamine lotion on every part of his body.

All that swamp sawmill lumber had been gift-wrapped in poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, and maybe some poisonous plants that hadn’t been named yet. Everything went into the sawdust, of course. And inside our clothes and shoes.

However, an interesting thing happened. I became hyposensitized to all those plants. I could go into the backyard right now, pull poison ivy off the trees with my bare hands and never react.

There’s another thing I remember about that sawmill lumber. It was hard! Even in later years, when I had good coordination and experience driving nails, I would still bend half of the spikes I hammered. I never knew what species went into those trailers, but I’m guessing the sawyers cut whatever got in their way: oak, hickory, cypress.

Whatever it was, it was sturdy, and lasted for years, even under the heavy use of farm life.

What would we furniture builders give to have some of that wide, old-growth lumber today?


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 022017
 

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.

Years ago a painter gave me some really good advice. We were discussing cleaning paint brushes and I asked him about water temperature. His advice was, “warm is fine, but never let hot water hit the bristles.” I have been amazed ever since at the difference it makes using warm water to clean brushes, compared to cold water. A gentle stroking with a hand scrubber is good for persistent, dried paint.

Stubborn, dried paint comes off easily with soap, warm water, and a few strokes of a semi-stiff brush, but always go with the bristles.

Another tip: Make that final rinse with an outdoor garden hose. It will blast away any remaining soap.

If you have used an oil-based finish, and have cleaned the brush in solvent, wash it at least two more times with soap and warm water. Alan Noel says “lather it up, rinse and repeat until the lather is absolutely snow white.”

Then hit it with the hose, always in the direction of the bristles, never against them. I like to use the highest volume setting on the wand head. On the wand pictured, that’s shown as “bucket filler.” That setting provides a lot of water without the blasting action of one of the jet settings.

This wand’s maximum volume setting is called “bucket filler.” A jet-like setting will provide more force, but you want a lot of water flow to wash the soap away and still be gentle.

After your last rinse, slap the brush against your fanned-open fingers to dislodge as much remaining water as possible.

Spread your fingers as far as you can, then slap the brush back and forth, removing as much water as possible. Afterward, gently shape the bristles again.

Brush manufacturers advise us to save the packaging our fine brushes come in. Storing them in the original packaging helps them retain their proper shape and keeps the edge bristles from developing “flyaway hair.” Heaven forbid!

Original packaging will always be a perfect fit for storing good paint brushes.

To make their storage a little tighter and enforce the shape, I first wrap a little used paper towel around the brush. It helps with absorption and drying, also.

If you don’t have the original package, wrap the paper towel around, then keep the towel closed with painter’s tape. Always store brushes vertically, business end down. Standing a brush on its head sends water into the ferrule, where it will eventually cause corrosion and brush failure.

This older brush still needs help keeping its shape, but it didn’t come in a nice package. We’ve supplemented its support with some paper towel and blue tape


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 012017
 

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 you open a can of paint there is always paint on the lid. Some of that paint is usable. If you wash the lid of your paint can each time you open it, all of the paint will be usable.

And, I mean, wash it thoroughly. Doing so will allow you to use it as a palette, which is especially useful for small projects.

I put an entire coat on this stool with just the paint inside the lid.

And for tightwads like me, who cannot stand to allow anything to go to waste, it’s a good feeling, like putting a little money in the bank.

If you use all of the paint on the lid and have more painting to do, give the lid a quick rinse or immerse it in water to prevent the paint from drying before you get to cleaning it.

Wash the lid when you wash your brush. Take Steve Johnson’s advice and don’t use the kitchen sink for washing brushes! When you’re ready for definitive cleaning, scrub that baby with a stiff brush and soap. Tap it back onto the can firmly. Speaking of which, cleaning the lid will make it easier to remove next 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.

Sep 252017
 

To help us remember the dizzying array of Festool Abrasives, Steven Johnson has given us a mnemonics lesson using word association. Click here to watch the video he made.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “mnemonic” as (noun) “assisting or intended to assist memory.” As an example, they give, “To distinguish “principal” from “principle” use the mnemonic aid “the principal is your pal.”’

I used it just the other day. I wanted to order some paper for my new Festool RO-90 that switches from delta sander to 90mm round random orbit sander, and Rubin2 was the first example that popped up in the 120 grit I wanted. I thought about Steve’s video for a minute, and said, “No, what I want is ‘general, gray,’” which helped me remember it was Granat that I needed, not Rubin2. A couple more clicks on HighlandWoodworking.com and I was on the right paper.

With that in mind, I asked Steve if I could publish a written form of his memory tool that you and I could print out and nail to our shop walls, or laminate and store with our sandpaper supplies. He said OK, so here it is.

Granat: “General-gray-blue color.” Steve says if you can buy only one Festool abrasive, Granat may be your go-to general sandpaper. It’s good on bare wood and finished wood and is supplied in extra-coarse to extremely fine (40 to 1500).

Rubin2: “Raw wood, russet potato red.” It has a special coating that sheds raw wood fibers. It is available from coarse to extra fine (40-220).

Brilliant2: “Between finish coats, beige.” Anti-static coating that works well sanding paints, fillers, varnishes, lacquers, shellac even water-based finishes. Its surface won’t load up or “corn” as some papers do with finish materials. Coarse to fine (40-180).

Vlies (pronounced like “fleece”): “Clean, scour, scuff and polish.” Steve says it’s thick, like a pot-scrubbing pad. Good for applying paste wax on equipment. Clean, scour, scuff, sand, polish, smooth out irregular surfaces. It doesn’t have dust extractor holes, but dust goes right through it. Grits are A100 to A800, polishing green and fine polishing white.

Saphir: “Shaping or stripping.” Aggressive, super-coarse to coarse grits. Removes a lot of material quickly. Grits 24-80.

Platin2: “Premium polishing pad.” Foam-backed for high gloss finishes, pumice and rottenstone. Used extensively in the auto industry, but Steve has used it on an ebony project. Grits range from S400 to S4000.

Titan2: “Tucks in” to curves and contours. Solid surfaces, couple with super-flexible latex backer. Steve says use it t polish your Bentley.

Find out more and purchase Festool Abrasives 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.

Sep 052017
 

When Matt VanDerList of Matt’s Basement Workshop was on the Wood Talk Podcast, he used to get a lot of grief about his use of exotic woods. What constituted “exotic” for Matt? Oak. Pine. Poplar.

That was about as radical as Matt would get.

And, every time he would say something about using those wood species because he was happy with those species, I would give him a virtual fist pump!

I’m an oak kind of guy, too. Red oak is my thing, although I’ve published reports on cedar and redwood projects before.

One of the challenges with oak, and other open-grained woods, is that PVA glue allowed to remain on the surface or, worse yet, soak in, will interfere with the appearance of most finishes. Everyone has his/her favorite technique for removing the glue, and we’d like to know which ones are Highland Woodworkers’ favorites.

Me? I usually go with wet rag wiping. Why? Because in the heat and humidity of deep South Mississippi, glue curing is unpredictable. While I like peeling skinned PVA, I find it difficult to get the timing right. Some days 15 minutes might be just right. Other days, come back in 30 minutes, lift the ribbon of uncured glue and a puddle ensues, spreading the mess even further (at which point I reach for the wet rag). As often as not, I forget to come back and check at 15 or 30 or 45 minutes, and then there’s a massive amount of glue to remove. For me, it’s easier to just clean it right away and be done with it.

Of course, there are those times when wet-cleaning pushes glue into the grain, and you’re still dealing with finish interference. That’s when I pull out the toothbrush.

While this is pine, and not oak, it’s an excellent example of PVA glue interfering with the look of polyurethane finish.


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 042017
 

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.

In the August 2017 issue of Wood News Online, Steven Johnson talked about needing his dehumidifier most of the summer thanks to heavy Wisconsin rainfall. In previous years, his average summer humidity was 38%; this summer he’s had 56% on average, with a high of 70%.

It’s not just Wisconsin. The Sun Herald, our regional newspaper, published a story in early July saying the first six months of 2017 have been the second-hottest and the second-wettest on record.

Steve, we feel your pain.

Except that my shop rarely drops to 50% humidity, even in the winter. It hovers around 85% most of the year and can reach 90% during a winter rain.

Not long after we built our home, 22 years ago, I had a little rust problem on an old Craftsman contractor saw, so I decided to invest in a Kenmore dehumidifier.

This 70-quart unit is the great-great-great grandchild of the first dehumidifier we bought 20+ years ago.

My wife, Brenda, was along for that shopping trip, and, when the salesperson offered a service contract, my knee-jerk reaction was, “No.” Brenda asked me to consider the harsh conditions the unit would be operating under, and the included annual cleaning that would remove what would surely be mountains of aspirated sawdust. Her argument convinced me to go from “No” to “Yes, give me the 5-year contract.”

What a money-saver that investment has been!

I have scheduled annual maintenance every August, because that tends to be our driest summer month. I would have sent it in winter, but Sears repair has no means to simulate hot, wet conditions in their Nashville, TN, facility, so the performance evaluation would have been worthless. Instead, almost every year, I got a call, saying, “Hi, this is Sears, we evaluated your dehumidifier, found it beyond repair, and need you to come to the store to pick up a replacement at no charge.”

I haven’t kept track of how many “free” dehumidifiers I’ve gotten, but it’s a lot.

Like Steve, I started out emptying the built-in bucket, but three emptyings every 24 hours times 22 years … that’s a lot. To say nothing of the fact that I’m lucky to get part of one day a week in the shop.

My solution was to utilize the built-in drain connection on the dehumidifier.

When our house was new, and we were trying to get grass and ground cover to grow (now we’re trying to get it to stop!), I purchased ten cheap, half-inch garden hoses and covered the entire yard with sprinklers. Once the yard was established, I stored the hoses under the house. Protected from ultraviolet light, they have aged well.

I placed the dehumidifier as close to the center of the shop as I could, while also compromising on a position that’s out of the workflow and reasonably near the cast iron tools that need the most protection.

The nearest floor drain is 30 feet away, so I elected to go through the wall. I know, drilling a hole through one’s home isn’t ideal, but I couldn’t come up with a better solution. (A replacement model I received one year had a built-in pump that utilized a little 1/4″ hose, but that feature wasn’t offered on future models.) Step One was to drill the hole, high enough to miss the wall’s floor plate, but low enough for gravity to do its part, with a little bit of an angle, too.

A short length of PVC hose guides the garden hose through the wall …

… and outside, to go under the house.

That went well, and the back half of our house is on pilings, so it was easy to direct the hose under the house to drain into the wetlands.

Because all of this area is adjacent to wetlands, the environment doesn’t even notice the added water from the dehumidifier.

Granted, I had to buy the first dehumidifier, and I’ve had to renew the maintenance contract every five years, but Sears has provided all of the subsequent units. That’s an expense even a cheapskate can love!


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 012017
 

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.

I suppose you could say I have two sanding centers. One holds the oscillating spindle sander and, because it has drawers, stores all of the disks for various Festool Sanders, too. It may be too fancy for some folks’ taste, being made from “real wood.”

This “sanding center” is on a universal wheeled base and can be rolled almost anyplace. The dust collection can connect to the cyclone or a shop vacuum, and the assortment of sanding disks can be close by wherever the sanding is taking place. If you’re constantly changing grits, that’s a really handy feature.

Mechanization is fine, as far as it goes. Sometimes, though, a job calls for hand sanding. Because we don’t want to be walking back and forth to our sandpaper supply, I made a sandpaper tote.

Our dear friends at the local Mexican restaurant saved some big steel cans for us. I spent about a million dollars (sorry, Steve) on Rust-OLeum rusty metal primer and Rust-OLeum flat black to coat the cans well before putting them to use. After all, they were going to be holding abrasives.

I attached the cans to a scrap piece of treated pine, and used the handle from an old Stihl string trimmer to complete the tote.

Fortunately, the old Stihl string trimmer handle was black, so the whole project was color-coordinated.

In the cans I put 1/3-sheet sanding blocks, scraps of sandpaper in Ziploc bags and a variety of other items that are used in sanding. Each can has a grit number assigned, with the appropriate Ziploc of scraps and a sanding block with that grit installed. The scraps all have their grit marked.

The cans are marked with Post-It Notes, just in case I want them to hold different grits in the future. One can holds a miscellany of sanding-related aids. For example, the rod can be slipped into the sanding block to lift the “lid” without ruining the ends of the paper. That way, they can go into the scrap Ziploc assigned to its grit, and not be wasted. Old scissors are handy for cutting sandpaper, or anything else that gets in your way. There’s an air blower for cleaning the paper when it clogs.


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.