Jim Randolph

Aug 062019
 

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 from Sticks in the Mud woodworker, Jim Randolph. It’s OK if you call him “cheap.”

There are a million uses for the zippered plastic bags that electric blankets and throws are packaged in.

Did you buy a new electric blanket this winter? The zippered bag can store the blanket when not in use. Unless, of course, you live near Steve Johnson, where it’s -38 Fahrenheit in the summertime and you need your electric blanket in July! Seriously, save the bag for a million uses.

We store infrequently-worn clothes in them, but they are also handy in the woodshop.

I caught blue jeans on sale in 2003 and must have thought they would never go on sale again. If this last pair were not protected, they’d be buried in dust by now.

Their greatest benefit is keeping their contents dust-free. A rag you need for finishing or polishing is useless, even damaging, if it isn’t clean. Pop it inside one of these pouches and, like Delta Airlines, it is ready when you are.

Some faraway day I might get to retire. When I do, I expect to be in the woodshop one-third of the week, fish one-third of the week, write one-third of the week, and bird every day. That will give me plenty of opportunity to use up all of these rags I’m stockpiling. Mostly old T-shirts, underwear (Hey! That cotton is soft! Don’t throw them away!) and washcloths.

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 052019
 

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.

There are dozens of ways you can make your environment safer while working in the shop.

Recently, I was sanding on the table saw outfeed table, and needed to plug in the Festool Dust Extractor at the workbench instead of using the overhead power drop nearby. That I had created a hazard didn’t occur to me at the time, but, the next time I went to the light switch, and stepped over the cord, it hit me. Fortunately, that happened before I hit the floor. The fix was as simple as spreading a fatigue mat over the cord, eliminating the danger.

Voila! Catastrophe averted. Fortunately, I have
another of these mats to stand on while I sand. Foot and leg savers!

Cutoffs are a common trip hazard. I keep a few free 5-gallon buckets strategically located so that small blocks are not on the floor, but go directly into the container as they are generated. If that’s inconvenient, I make a point to gather them up as soon as I’m at a stopping point. Any that are suitable for safe burning, I save in an old, clean garbage cart.

Too much rock music, combined with using fireworks and firearms without hearing protection has left me with tinnitus and hearing loss. I can’t afford for that to get any worse, so I’m never far from a safety headset. In my shop, the worst offender is the 12″ blade on the radial arm saw. It’s no problem when it’s cutting, but when freewheeling it makes a scream that rivals a banshee. No human can stay in the room with it. Banshees would probably leave, too. That’s why the muffs found a permanent home just above where one stands to operate the saw, which is convenient because the spot is centrally located and can be quickly accessed from any power tool.

Hearing protection that isn’t convenient won’t get used. These are always close by.

I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic, but, I wear protection whenever I use any tool that makes much noise: sanders, big saws and hammers when hitting an anvil.

While DB Meter Pro registered a peak of 85 decibels on the aircraft, I find trips to be more comfortable and less tiring when the wind noise and engine roar are muted.

I’m writing this in an airport with a whining air conditioner, and I’m glad to have Bose noise-cancelling headphones in my laptop case. I frequently use them in the shop when I have mind-numbing work like sanding and I want to enhance the experience with music or a podcast. They will be handy on the plane later, too.

Some woodworkers might think of having two eyes as indicating that one is a spare. However, depth perception is impossible without stereoscopic vision, and the pirate look of a black patch over one eye is rather cliché. Besides, I despise pain. To avoid the pitfalls of eye injury, I keep prescription safety glasses next to the table saw, and over-the-counter eye protection next to the bench grinders. When the risk is scattershot, I reach for the face shield. I’ve had enough close calls that I don’t pause when it’s time to protect those corneas.

Oh, and one last thing. When you’re on your way to the hardware store, wear your seat belt.


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 012019
 

These days, you can avoid just about any woodworking job you don’t like, yet still have a beautiful end product.

Don’t like making drawers? You have options. You can order some stock sizes and design your furniture or cabinet around those sizes. You can have a local cabinet shop make them for you to your specifications. You can even have an online service make custom drawers.

Maybe you don’t mind making the drawers, but you want dovetails and don’t want to cut them yourself. Yep, there’s a guy for that.

If your handcut dovetails are no better than mine, you might want to have someone else do your drawers for you.

Don’t like finishing? Want a sprayed look but don’t want to invest in a sprayer? You can send your completed item out to someone who does nothing else but finishing. Like to have your components finished before assembly? There are specialists who do that, too. Then you can glue up after the finishing is completed.

Maybe you hate sanding. Who doesn’t? The cabinet shop across town has a 48″ belt sander, and they’ll let you use it by the hour, or do the sanding for you, and they won’t even make you wind the sandpaper onto the drum.

Now, that’s an offer that will appeal to almost everyone.


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 082019
 

Shall we call them happy accidents, or just plain mistakes?

In a recent tip, we discussed preparing extra boards for a project that utilized used oak flooring. The rejection rate is pretty high, as many boards are warped, stained, bowed and bent. And that doesn’t even count the ones that the floor nails blew out the entire underside of the board.

Although I followed my own advice, there were so many bad boards that I had to go back to the pile and select some more.

I took about twice as many boards as I thought I’d need to replace the rejects, cleaned, ripped and planed them, then began to arrange them among the original selections for a pleasing look.

That’s when it hit me.

These boards were different. Still oak, but about half the width of the first set.

I’d picked them out, done all that work on them, and I’m just now noticing?

Hmmm. These boards aren’t exactly the same width. Well, no, they’re not even close to the same width. After all that work, it’s a good thing I was able to come up with a way to make them work!

As Popeye says, “All’s well that ends in the well.” As I tried various arrangements, it became obvious that alternating widths gave the panel an interest it lacked with uniform board width.

I’m not sure what the final product will end up being, but I’m calling this a happy accident for now.

Return to the July 2019 issue of 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.

Jul 032019
 

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 from Sticks in the Mud woodworker, Jim Randolph. It’s OK if you call him “cheap.”

I sent an email to Steve Johnson, and the background of an included photograph showed off a bunch of papers held together by a clothespin. Steve responded, “Clothespins instead of paper clips … I love it! I think there might be a ‘Tips’ column in that. Glue a Rare Earth Magnet to the back of one leg of the clothespin and you have a great way to hang
up notes, too!”

“Gee,” I thought, “doesn’t everyone use their clothespins that way?”

I can’t remember when I didn’t use clothespins to hold papers, but I’m going to say it started at Animal General Hospital. As you can see, labeled with Magic Marker, each one has its own special job.
In my vehicle, I’m never far from a clothespin. Because it’s essentially a one-man transport, I rarely have to worry about anyone wanting to use this seat belt.
In the shop I keep a supply by the sink and several on pegboard hooks in various locations around the shop.
In a pinch, you can even use them as a lightweight clamp. Here, I’m gluing a magnet to a clothespin, and having another clothespin hold things together while the super glue cures.
Here’s the clothespin holding the plans on the metal dust collector duct while I work.

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 022019
 

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’m continuing my panel making project, which I’ve discussed in the last two month’s of Tips from Sticks in the Mud (Part 1 and Part 2), and we’re now down to the wire. I hope. I had to go through a lot of boards before I got enough to make the panel lie reasonably flat. Some were twisted, some were bent, warping was rampant. Some junctions required extra Dominos to pull the edges into alignment with each other.

I know most “experts” say that biscuits and Dominos don’t add any strength to an edge joint. I’m no engineer, so I’m not going to argue the point. Nor am I going to test joints with and without additions. However, they certainly give me the feeling that the joint is stronger, and I’ve glued up enough crooked, used wood to know that alignment is far superior when a loose tenon inside is pulling crookedness in the direction of straight. And, the better the initial alignment is, the less sanding, scraping and planing you will have to do to give the smooth surface you desire.

This panel started out about 25″ by 28″. In the 28″ direction, each joint got 4-5mm Dominos, and two joints got two extras. The lowest height setting put the Domino in the middle of the thickness, which I kept thin because Brenda wants it as light as possible.

Before Dominos, each edge was treated to a pass with the Forrest Woodworker II, as the coarse-toothed blade combined with all that crookedness left some burning on the edges. A few edges required a light pass on the jointer to true them up.

Using the table saw fence as a backstop, I put enough Dominos in each edge to help flatten the panel.

After gluing, I used some cauls to keep the panels as flat as possible.

A bit of waxed paper keeps the metal cauls from reacting with the tannic acid in the oak, causing a stain you’d never get out.

While I had one end of the boards mostly square and even with each other’s ends, I let the other end run wild. There is no reason to sand all of that unused part, and nothing is reliably square yet, so I used the TS 55 REQ Track Saw to cut off the excess.

It’s nothing short of amazing how smooth the cut is from Festool’s track saws when used with a guide rail and a properly-fitting splinter guard. Had this been a final cut, it would be ready for sanding.

And, that’s where I got stuck. I came home early from work one day specifically to finish this task. Then, I got a text from a dear friend from church, “How are you coming along with the bench you were modifying for me?”

I’d already warned him that I had two jobs ahead of the bench. This was one of them, the other was putting new springs under our boat trailer because it was immobilized in its spot in the garage, and nothing could get through that area.

Then, I thought, “He’s been such a good friend.” I finished his bench modification, used the drill press to make 56 screw holes in the brackets he was using on them, and got everything delivered.

He was ecstatic.

I was able to cut off those boards with the TS 55, and begin sanding when I returned, then it was off to supper, kiss my beautiful bride, and bedtime. After irrigating, of course.

With any luck, I can be finished by next month and have a final product for you to look at. Meanwhile, there’s work, and, this week, Brenda and I are making a trip to the Seventh Annual American Eagle Foundation Chatters’ Reunion. While there, I hope to climb Mt. LeConte again. I’m up for it, but there is an 80% chance of rain on the one and only day I can hike. I’ll update you on that next month, too. And, by the way, yes, the boat trailer repair is finished. It has new springs, new wheel bearings and even new Bearing Buddies.

Now, if only I had time to go fishing.


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.

Jun 042019
 

Do you have inertia when it’s time to start a new project? Fear? Anxiety? Procrastination?

The iPhone jingled, and the ringtone said it was one of our daughters-in-law, Nan. I answered eagerly. We have been blessed in the daughter-in-law department.

“Hi, Pater,” she said. We exchanged pleasantries, then she got to the reason for her call. “Do you think you could make Audrey a combination bookcase/storage unit?”

Could I make something for my granddaughter? Would I make something for my granddaughter? Luke 11:11 says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

Of course I can make Audrey a present. Get me a plan and I’ll start right away.”

Or will I?

I’m not a lethargic kind of guy. People who know me will tell you I’m always on the go.

However, when I’m starting a new project, or supposed to be starting a new project, I can get a slow start sometimes.

To some extent, it depends on the difficulty level. If I’m making a plywood box for the garage, a storage container appears before you can spin around.

Audrey’s project, however, was complicated, even if only a little. It had to be certain dimensions to accommodate wicker baskets that were already purchased. It had a curved shape on the top. And I wanted to make it from solid wood. Therefore, wood movement had to be considered.

Call it fear. Call it a desire to do the best I could. Call it inertia. I had a really hard time getting started.

I was a little bit intimidated.

Well, as you might imagine, it turned out fine. After all, look at the photo below. It’s not all that complicated!

I made my own beadboard for the back.

The curved shape came from a thin, ripped strip of wood that I bent and applied to the side panels after they were glued up. After the first was cut and shaped, I just traced the outline onto the other side.

The poplar took paint like, well, poplar takes paint, naturally.

And, as you can see, Audrey was happy with the result.

Sweet little Audrey loves her bookshelf/storage unit.

Mom was, too. That’s her standing next to me below, the very first time she saw the project.

After designing the unit, sketching it and sending it to me, this was Nan’s first opportunity to see the assembled, but unfinished, project. It took her breath away. I treasure this photograph.

Slow start. Good finish. I suppose that’s OK.


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.