Jim Randolph

Mar 062017
 

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 you purchase a new garden hose it comes with some really long twist ties. Forget those little things that come on your bag of bread, I’ve seen some over a foot long. Save them.

This new garden hose has three very long twist ties that I will save for many future handy uses.

Twist ties can even be used to hold, well, twist ties.

Long twist ties are worth having around for organizing all kinds of things around the shop, from wires that need arranging to those little flags AT&T put all over your yard when they ran your new phone cable (and cut the TV cable with the Ditch Witch).

Don’t ever throw these little flags away, they can be so handy! Once, I needed to dig a winding drainage ditch. Nature had already shown me the path the water wanted to take. To accommodate its natural tendency, and make sure I didn’t go off course, I put flags in the ground on that natural path to make it completely clear where I needed to dig. Not only is there no point in buying flags, but when the time comes that you need them, you won’t want to have to stop what you’re doing to go to the hardware store.

This big roll of electrical cable could be wrapped with two zip ties joined together. but there is no need to waste those expensive little buggers. One of these (free) twist ties will go around the whole thing.

Maybe you need to temporarily hang a power cord from the ceiling. Loop and twist around a screw in the ceiling, then loop and twist around the cord. Problem solved!

If the cord is too heavy for a twist tie, use a coat hanger. Stretched out straight, one end can go on the ceiling screw, the other around the cord.

For a more permanent solution, like this outdoor spot where I do a lot of sanding, I’ve used screw hooks permanently installed in the joists of the deck overhead. I can manage an entire 100-foot extension cord with none lying on the table in my way.

And, when you just need a little encouragement, nothing fills the bill like a pelican. In the absence of a pelican, a cat like Max makes a great stand-in.

Return to the March 2017 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.

Mar 032017
 

Are you a tightwad, like me?

I know there are many of us out there. We pinch pennies and we are so attached to them we lose our appetites when the government talks about doing away with them. (Can you imagine what a government program to discontinue pennies would cost taxpayers? I shudder to even think about it.)

I once asked Alan Noel a paintbrush-cleaning question. He replied that “Since I am the world’s cheapest !*&/$#?\, first I dip the brush into lacquer thinner then I use Ivory bar soap (very cheap!) and rub the brush onto it under water then lather it up, rinse and repeat until the lather is absolutely snow white. This is how I clean a brush”…. I knew I liked this guy for a good reason!

Last month we talked about how to sell tools, and this month we want to think about how much we expect to get for them.

As of this writing, 21% of us said they wouldn’t even try to sell their old tools, but would give them away as gifts to our fellow woodworkers, like Jimmy Diresta did in this video.

Another 11% of us couldn’t bear to part with their old tools. I can relate. I have some surgical instruments and an old stethoscope that have simply become worn out, but I won’t throw them out. Maybe I’ll make a shadow box collection one day.

I could no more throw away this old Skilsaw than I could throw away my little Willie.

Somebody said you could get a pretty good price for a little poodle on Craigslist, but Willie’s not for sale. Or giveaway.

The Osborne Excalibur miter gauge I have, still in the box, sells for $120 to $140 at various outlets. I know no one will pay full price for it, even though it’s not “used,” which leaves me thinking, what would it take for me to part with it? For fifty bucks I’ll let it hang around, in case I want to assemble it one day, even though I couldn’t be happier with my Incra 1000.

Last month we asked how you sell your tools. This month, we’d like to know how much you expect to get for them:

Return to the March 2017 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.

Mar 022017
 

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 call may be monitored and recorded for better customer service.” Apparently, it’s true. Ever the frugal consumer, when a battery company puts a guarantee on their packaging that says they will repair or replace equipment damaged by battery leakage, I found out they do keep track of those claims. How? One day, I got this notice in the mail:

Dear Mr. Randolph,

In covering our batteries’ warranty to repair or replace items damaged by leakage, we have reimbursed you many times for electronics you have sent us. Along with cash reimbursements, we have included coupons for free batteries, redeemable through local merchants.

Each time, we have advised you to be sure to change batteries prior to their expiration date, and to quickly remove batteries when their charge is exhausted. Your latest warranty submission contains leaky batteries that are far beyond their printed expiry.

Unfortunately, we are unable to continue to provide warranty protection when the end user repeatedly ignores proper battery use instructions. In gratitude for your loyal use of ‘XXX’ batteries, we have enclosed your ruined radio and coupons with which you may obtain new ‘XXX’ batteries.”

I now use two techniques to prevent having electronics become ruined by leaky batteries.

One, I put a reminder in my computer (a phone reminder would work just as well) that tells me to change the batteries in certain equipment every-so-often. Each piece of equipment has its own reminder. By dating the batteries as they are installed in each piece, I am able to determine how long the battery will last in that particular item.

Every battery-powered thing I own has dated batteries. It’s easy to tell when batteries have gotten old.

Dates on the AA batteries in this transmitting shop monitor have shown me, over time, that they will last about 8 months. A computer reminder tells me to change the batteries before they discharge and leak, ruining the device.

By contrast, the receiving half of the same unit has an internal monitor that turns on a light when its 9-volt battery is low. Why can’t everything be like that?

I don’t need a battery-changing reminder for the receiver, but I do need a Post-It Note reminder to tell me why I don’t need a reminder.

My Nissan key fob, this micrometer, the microphones in the breathing monitors at our clinic and the glucose meter all use the same button battery. I keep one brand new battery in the clinic and one in the car, always ready, rather than each item having its own standby, with all of them getting older, and weaker.

I don’t use this little battery-powered Dremel much, but when no wall power is available, or in wet locations, it’s mighty handy. It takes less than a minute to slide the batteries back into their holster and into the Dremel.

Months often go by that I don’t need to use the metal detector. Therefore, I take the battery out every time I use it. Ditto for the electric screwdriver in the electrical belt.

Some items need to have their batteries in all the time, especially devices requiring battery backup. For the bedside clock and weather station, we have computer reminders to change the batteries before they can go bad.

Return to the March 2017 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.

Feb 132017
 

Let The al fresco Dining Begin!

When our youngest grandchild, Sara Riley, was only a few years old, I got some rough-sawn cedar, planed and sanded it, and built the cutest miniature picnic table with two separate benches. A few years later our second grandchild, Charlie, came along, and his big sister now graciously allows him to sit with her.

After I finished this table, a lady saw it and said she wanted one for her grandchildren. She asked me, “How much?” I said, “For one exactly like this? Five hundred.” I put a lot of sweat and love into this little project. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures while it was being built. Here, it shows the effect of aging in ten Kentucky summers and winters.

After I finished this table, a lady saw it and said she wanted one for her grandchildren. She asked me, “How much?” I said, “For one exactly like this? Five hundred.” I put a lot of sweat and love into this little project. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures while it was being built. Here, it shows the effect of aging in ten Kentucky summers and winters.

I wanted to make a picnic table for our two youngest grandchildren, Audrey and Owen, but I didn’t want it to be the same. When I found the plan for a round table with curved benches, I knew all I had to do was scale it down to their size.

The kernel of the project came from an old project book copyrighted 1970 titled, Wood Projects for the Home Handyman, by the editors of the Home Handyman’s Magazine. Its asking price was 60¢ at newsstands, 75¢ by mail. There is a collection of projects that you can make from the “durable, decorative and workable woods of the western lumber region.” To encourage the timid and the tightwad, the book proclaims “The table with benches can be easily constructed by the average home craftsman and will cost far less than comparable units available in retail outlets.”

I was shocked when I picked up the Western red cedar. So much for this project costing “far less.” Cedar had roughly doubled in price since the first table. But, so what? It was for the grandbabies. That’s always good justification.

Memorial Day weekend, 2014, I had the wood, the shop was clean, Brenda was out of town, the Forrest Woodworker II was sharp, and I thought, “I can start Friday night after work, go all day Saturday plus Monday and probably be finished by the evening of Memorial Day.”

I’m writing this January 25, 2017, and I just loaded the pieces onto the trailer last week. It was not a long-weekend task.

It was a fun project, though. One of the great things about having young grandchildren as your “customers”… they don’t keep track of time.

In fact, a serendipitous thing happened between 2014 and now. Granddaughter Audrey learned the term, al fresco, an Italian phrase that means “in the fresh air,” and she loves dining outside on the deck whenever she can. She and her little brother, Owen, will love sitting at their new al fresco table.

There were some interesting experiences during the two-plus years of this build, and I’d like to share some of them with you.

First, I learned that, although cedar’s price was up, the quality went down. Knots, on the one hand, are simply part of working with cedar. I knew that when I chose the medium. Other defects were not so expected.

Like the giant void that appeared in the edge after circle-cutting the top with a router.

I suppose that black epoxy is going to become a “trademark” for me, as I seem to find a way to incorporate it in nearly every project, much like Ernie Conover uses ebony plugs in the center of his drawer pulls. But, I’m used to having a defect to fill that provides its own retaining wall, such as a knot that has fallen out. To fix this edge, I was going to have to provide a wall. As Steven Johnson would say, I “noodled” on it for a while, and came up with this plan. Start with a curved retaining wall. As someone who finds roadside buckets nearly every time he gets in the car, I wasn’t shy about cutting a bucket to pieces. The shape is already curved, and, even though it isn’t the same diameter as the 48″ top, it is flexible. I cut enough of it to go well beyond the defect, stretched it tight with clamps, then put pan-head screws through pre- drilled holes in the bucket-dam, into the edge of the table, applying even more tension. The defect was bad enough that it went all the way through, so I needed another dam on the bottom of the table. For that, I used some off-brand Play-Doh. Building up epoxy in seven layers, I gradually filled the void. I was hoping that I’d avoid bubbles by using thin coats of epoxy. Alas, there were some, but they were small and not terribly noticeable. Epoxy is sandpaper-friendly, so no techniques have to be changed to accommodate it.

The bucket strip is stretched tight against the wooden edge with clamps and screws. Dollar-store Play-Doh is acting as a dam against uncured epoxy dripping out, and we’re ready for the first layer.

The bucket strip is stretched tight against the wooden edge with clamps and screws. Dollar-store Play-Doh is acting as a dam against uncured epoxy dripping out, and we’re ready for the first layer.

Several layers have built up the epoxy.

Several layers have built up the epoxy.

The first two of seven coats of finish are on, and the repair looks more like an accent than a mistake of nature.

The first two of seven coats of finish are on, and the repair looks more like an accent than a mistake of nature.

Some of the bench boards had defects that went all the way through.

Some of the bench boards had defects that went all the way through.

Repair of these through-knots started with fake Play-Doh, reinforced with plywood clamped in place.

Repair of these through-knots started with fake Play-Doh, reinforced with plywood clamped in place.

Then, the defect is ready to be filled. I use “charcoal” concrete-coloring powder in my epoxy to make it black.

Then, the defect is ready to be filled. I use “charcoal” concrete-coloring powder in my epoxy to make it black.

Sometimes you get lucky and two defects are right across from each other. Before filling, I used a Dremel tool with a burr to clean out all the loose material.

Sometimes you get lucky and two defects are right across from each other. Before filling, I used a Dremel tool with a burr to clean out all the loose material.

During the project I read about a home builder who epoxied a penny into the framing of houses he built. The year of the penny matched the year of the build. I expanded that idea and put state-specific quarters in the edge of the table. A “Kentucky” quarter from the years Audrey and Owen were born, a “Mississippi” quarter for the year the table was made, and a Texas quarter to represent the state of my birth. My Texas coin couldn’t be year-appropriate. Quarters hadn’t been invented yet.

During the project I read about a home builder who epoxied a penny into the framing of houses he built. The year of the penny matched the year of the build. I expanded that idea and put state-specific quarters in the edge of the table. A “Kentucky” quarter from the years Audrey and Owen were born, a “Mississippi” quarter for the year the table was made, and a Texas quarter to represent the state of my birth. My Texas coin couldn’t be year-appropriate. Quarters hadn’t been invented yet.

Loaded and ready for delivery. The finish is two coats of CPES: Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, topped with three coats of gloss Epifanes and two coats of matte Epifanes.

Loaded and ready for delivery. The finish is two coats of CPES: Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, topped with three coats of gloss Epifanes and two coats of matte Epifanes.

Return to March 2017 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.

Feb 062017
 

January is the month of resolutions.

February is the month in which you know whether you’ve kept up with what you’ve resolved, need to improve, or have failed miserably.

What are your resolutions for 2017?

I’m confident that a lot of woodworkers have intentions of being cleaner around the shop in the new year. We could sweep more, we could pick up cutoffs and other trip hazards as we create them, we could store the things that we use infrequently, and better organize the things we leave out.

Some of you might be like me, and have tools that you no longer (or never did) use.

Take my first Skilsaw. It runs, but the bushings (I doubt it has bearings) seize on the armature and it howls when it spins. I might be able to send it somewhere to be rebuilt, but how would I justify the cost and effort? I have a TS75, and a newer Skilsaw. Still, I can’t seem to let it go. I bought it at the Keesler Air Force Base Exchange in the 1970s and, if I remember correctly, paid less than $25.

With the exception of the TS75, this is still the best circular saw I’ve ever had. Not for sale. If I could solve the seizing problem, it would still be my go-to all-around circular saw. It would beat the pants off the Skilsaw I bought in 2005.

With the exception of the TS75, this is still the best circular saw I’ve ever had. Not for sale. If I could solve the seizing problem, it would still be my go-to all-around circular saw. It would beat the pants off the Skilsaw I bought in 2005.

Speaking of the BX, I have a Black and Decker one-speed, one-direction (neither reversible nor variable speed had been invented yet, I don’t think) drill that I paid just $8 for, also in the 70s. It still runs as well as it ever did. Well, maybe a little noisier. I’ll probably keep it if it ever dies. It holds some really good memories.

This is one tough drill. It came with a 1/4" chuck, but I exchanged it for a 3/8" chuck from a dead drill. Not for sale.

This is one tough drill. It came with a 1/4″ chuck, but I exchanged it for a 3/8″ chuck from a dead drill. Not for sale.

I have an Osborne Excalibur miter gauge that I’ve never used. Heck, it’s never even been out of the box. I won it in a contest and I already had a nice Incra miter gauge that I’ve always been happy with.

Somebody could have been using this fine miter gauge for all the years it’s been sitting in my office. I’d like to sell it, but I’m not sure where to start.

Somebody could have been using this fine miter gauge for all the years it’s been sitting in my office. I’d like to sell it, but I’m not sure where to start.

I’d like to have a bigger jointer than the 6″ Delta that I have, but what would I ever do with the old Delta? It would be cost-prohibitive to ship, but I could deliver it if I sold it locally.

Sometimes a 6" jointer is all you need, other times, it’s just not enough. Still, no one needs two jointers. Or does he?

Sometimes a 6″ jointer is all you need, other times, it’s just not enough. Still, no one needs two jointers. Or does he?

I’ve also been torn about miter saws. I took the plunge into a Festool Kapex, for a variety of reasons, but I’m still attached to my DeWalt. It’s not a sin to have two miter saws, is it?

There’s nothing wrong with the DeWalt miter saw, and the Norm Abram stand is the cat’s meow. But, does one need two power miter boxes? I doubt it.

There’s nothing wrong with the DeWalt miter saw, and the Norm Abram stand is the cat’s meow. But, does one need two power miter boxes? I doubt it.


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.

Feb 052017
 

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.

How cheap can a project get? Let’s look at the mobile grinding station featured in this month’s 1st tip. It starts with a free Craftsman tool stand from a Sears dumpster. Then, use some 2x2s salvaged from a friend’s trash down the street.

All of these 2x2s were already cut and painted, sitting by the side of the road for someone to pick up and give them a home. I was happy to oblige. To boot, I got them on my predawn walk; no pride was sacrificed in the making of this project.

All of these 2x2s were already cut and painted, sitting by the side of the road for someone to pick up and give them a home. I was happy to oblige. To boot, I got them on my predawn walk; no pride was sacrificed in the making of this project.

Add a scrap piece of plywood for the top.

Some of my best finds occur in the dark. I toted this back home one morning, adding calorie burn to my walk and a beautiful half-sheet of CDX plywood to my stores.

Some of my best finds occur in the dark. I toted this back home one morning, adding calorie burn to my walk and a beautiful half-sheet of CDX plywood to my collection.

A half-price grinder, a full-price mobile base, a few bolts and the rest was free. Not a bad deal for a mobile grinding station.

A half-price grinder, a full-price mobile base, a few bolts and the rest was free. Not a bad deal for a mobile grinding station.


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.

Feb 042017
 

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.

Mobile bases are terrific. I like being able to move a tool to the location of the work, or, sometimes, just move it in order to clean.

Last month I posted about the new sharpening center. This month, I finalized something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. In the sharpening center post, I mentioned that I’d considered putting a low-speed grinder on the deck, but worried that it might be crowded, as well as the risk of mixing water and electricity. Still, I wanted to have the grinder close by when it was needed, and this is how I fixed it…

When our Sears store had a local repair center, their dumpster was sometimes a gold mine. They would throw out things that seemed to be perfectly useful. One day I’d been there to drop off my dehumidifier for annual maintenance, when a grey object caught my eye. I wheeled around to check and, sure enough, a Craftsman tool stand was just outside the dumpster. As the proud owner of a Craftsman radial arm saw, I thought I’d pick it up in case I wanted to mount the saw on it. I’d already built the saw into my “saw table,” but it was a prize too good to pass up.

Over time, the stand was in my way, and I was happy with the saw table setup, so I started looking for other uses. It seemed ideally suited for a grinder, so I took a scrap of plywood and bolted it securely. To the plywood I attached my little Craftsman grinder. It was a good working height as- is.

For many years after I started woodworking, I was a terrible sharpener. In an effort to improve, I looked at a Work Sharp 3000 Sharpening Center, Scary Sharp sandpaper and several Tormek sharpening options. While I’m convinced that Tormek is worth every penny, I just couldn’t quite convince myself to drop the necessary coin. Since Steven Johnson’s excellent video on the Tormek T-4 Sharpening System, I’m now a believer, but I was already committed to a slow-speed grinder.

When my Steel City slow-speed grinder arrived, I was at first elated, then deflated. During shipping, the grinder must have fallen on its left side, because there were several parts bent. I called the company, and they were glad to take care of the problem. In fact, they sent me an entirely new grinder, and didn’t even want the old one back! I couldn’t be happier with the replacement. It was easy to unbolt the Craftsman, move it 90i, and have grinders back-to-back.

As Christmas approached, my wife asked me repeatedly what I wanted. Since I didn’t need anything, it was hard for me to produce ideas, but I settled on a DMT diamond plate and a universal mobile base. In no time I had a moveable grinder setup that could follow my wet sharpening system around the shop whenever and wherever they were needed.

Mounted on a mobile base, this grinder setup is ready to go wherever the work is, or just get out of the way of an oncoming vacuum cleaner.

Mounted on a mobile base, this grinder setup is ready to go wherever the work is, or just get out of the way of an oncoming vacuum cleaner.


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.