Jim Randolph

Dec 052017
 

 

I love surprises.

My sweet wife, Brenda, hates surprises.

We agree on one surprise area, though, and that is neither of us likes gift surprises. We know what we like, we know what we want, and we don’t see the point of getting something we can’t use or don’t like.

For example, one family who brings their two Dachshunds to us has a delightful jewelry store. A few years ago they ran an ad for a ring and, when Brenda saw it, she said she just had to have it.

Obviously, I got it. I love her too much to say no.

Recently, the wife of the couple was in the clinic with her little girl Dachshund. At the end of the visit she said, “Come get Brenda some nice earrings to go with that ring.”

That night, Brenda and I were talking about Christmas presents, and I mentioned what the lady said. “That wouldn’t interest me,” Brenda opined, “because I want something I can hold out in front of me and see, like a bracelet.”

See what I mean? Why spend money in jewelry-sized aliquots of dough, just to have it be something she doesn’t like?

Brenda quit buying me surprise gifts when she discovered that I was secretly returning them for credit and getting something else. I mean, what if your wife bought you a left-tilt table saw when you wanted a right-tilt? You’d never be completely happy with it.

If you’re going to spend $3000 on a tablesaw, you might as well get what you actually want, and forget the surprise component.

To me, the principle is the same whether you’re spending $14 on a premium paint brush or $500 on a professional Earlex 3-stage Spray System. I don’t want a one-stage sprayer, and, if I get one, I’m going to trade it in toward the unit I actually want, even if I have to save up and do without until I can afford it.

Now, I’m off to print out the photo of the 14″ Rikon Bandsaw and leave it lying around.

Did you know Highland Woodworking has a Wish List feature? Just click here to access the Help page  that will walk you through the registration process. You can also print your Wish List, making it easy for your sweetie to order exactly what you want.

Dec 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.

If you’re really cheap, like me, you don’t like paying for internet access when you’re away from home or work. When I’m traveling, I usually write in the airport and write on the plane. There’s not much else to do and I’m not bothered by distractions.

However, sometimes I’m in the mood for being entertained by some good old woodworking reading. Now, that’s easy if the terminal has free WiFi, but you’re not going to get free WiFi once you board the plane, unless you’re in first class, in which case, you ain’t cheap!

To get around that, I’ll open a browser, and enough browser pages to fill my flight time with reading.

Key point: You can still power down your device if you put it in “Sleep Mode,” because, when you restore power, everything will load just like you left it. If you simply shut down the entire computer, you’ll lose everything you loaded.

It may take a few minutes to load enough pages for a two-hour flight, but it’s free!


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Dec 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.

Why do we pour finish from the can into a separate container? Because we know that dipping our brush into the original container, applying finish to our project, then dipping into the container again will carry debris from the project surface back into the can.

It’s a practice that can lead to some waste if you have finish left in the secondary container, but it’s better than ruining an entire quart or gallon of expensive varnish or paint. To say nothing of ruining the surface of your project!

Still, what if, when transferring finish, you introduce dirt or dust? That really defeats the purpose of the extra step, doesn’t it? There are some things you can do.

For example, when you finish cleaning your funnels, don’t just toss them onto a shelf to collect dust. Small and medium funnels will fit into zipper-locking bags and be fresh and clean the next time you need them.

Wider and longer funnels may require a different approach. For example, with my long, black funnel I put a used paper towel over the top, secured by a rubber band. The little end is sealed with a portion of a sheet of paper towel forced into the opening.

No dust is getting into this baby. Even though I don’t have a Ziploc bag large enough for it, the funnel is effectively protected by a used paper towel on top and a smidgen of a towel blocking the exit.

And, what of the container decanted into? Leave that lying around and it’s going to be full of dust, cobwebs and insects. Maybe even worse.

For that reason, I save only containers with lids. They can be stored indefinitely and still be clean inside.

I try to save every jar I can, especially if the lid is rust free. After they leave the dishwasher, I turn them upside down on this ventilated shelving for a couple of weeks to allow them to dry completely. Then, the lid goes on and they wait for their opportunity to serve.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Nov 032017
 

 

Do you use the built-in ruler on your saw fences?

Many people don’t trust them, especially when they need a super-accurate cut.

Whether on the table saw or miter saw, some use a rule to measure the distance between the blade and fence.

And, certainly, that’s the way to get the best-fitting parts.

I spent a lot of time calibrating the scale on my Delta cabinet saw, and it’s quite accurate, but it’s set for my Forrest Woodworker II. If I use my thin-kerf, coarse-tooth Craftsman blade, that measurement changes. I use the scale only when the cut doesn’t have to be perfect.

It takes little time to make that measurement, and, if you’re batching parts, you need measure only once.

It would take a lot longer to make all those pieces a second time.

I’ve fine-tuned the scale on the Delta cabinet saw to its best accuracy, but I still measure the distance between the blade and the fence when cutting furniture parts.

I put a scale on my Norm Abram miter saw stand, but I don’t use it. The plans included instructions for a movable stop, but, when I got through with the project I was out of time and never got around to making that clamp.

I would use the stop, if I ever got around to making one, because I perform a lot of repetitive cuts. However, I still measure the distance between the blade and the stop, despite the fact that I’ve checked the tape repeatedly, and it’s always right on the money.

The tape on this Norm Abram-style miter stand is very, very accurate, but I still don’t use it.

One day I’ll make Norm’s movable stop, but, in the meantime, this setup works quite well.

And, what do you use to measure? I’m not trusting of tapes when perfection is on the line. After all, a movable hook is the antithesis of accuracy. I will use a tape and start at the 1″ mark sometimes, but that doesn’t work when measuring against a blade or fence.

That’s when I drag out my father’s old folding rule. There’s no disputing the meaningfulness of a measurement from one of those!

I often keep a folding rule in my pocket when building furniture. Their accuracy is without peer. The bottom four were Daddy’s. He’s 95 and still very spry, but no longer needs his measuring tools. We are blessed.

Nov 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.

The Festool Vacuum Hose Boom Arm is a great invention, and Steve Johnson thinks I’m absolutely nuts because I don’t have one.

What good is it? There are lots of uses.

Relating to attaching one’s Festool Dust Extractor to any sander, it keeps the hose from dragging across your work, possibly scratching a nicely-prepared surface.

Also, when used with the belt sander, it prevents the hose from holding back your progress when you wish to cover a lot of ground with the sander, which is what a belt sander does best.

For any sander, it helps you maintain the surface of the sandpaper coplanar with the surface being sanded. You can do that with brute strength, or you can utilize the boom arm by adjusting its height to match the job you’re on.

If I don’t have a boom arm, then, how do I accomplish these things?

Bungee cords!

I have screw-hooks in the ceiling all over the shop and outdoors on the deck where I do some work too. If one bungee cord is too short, I can double up. If it’s too long, I can double over. There are lots of ways to make things work.

Under threat of rain, I moved the sanding of this mantle under the First Up tent. Now, the work, the sander and the Festool Dust Extractor are all protected. Notice the bungee cord holding the dust extractor hose at just the right angle for easy, comfortable sanding.


Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.

Nov 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.

Few power tools can take off more material in less time than a belt sander. Prior to Katrina, I had a Craftsman 4″, and it was a beast. The Porter-Cable I replaced the flooded one with is its equal.

Of course, sanding dust accumulation goes hand-in-hand with material removal. The Porter-Cable came with a dust collection bag, and the Festool Dust Extractor Hose fits its exhaust port.

However, if you, like me, get tired of filling that little dust bag and the constant emptying, and you don’t yet have your first Festool Dust Extractor (Betcha’ can’t stop with just one!), you can do what I did back in the day. I discovered that a piece of under-sink plumbing pipe fits the exhaust perfectly if you bush it with a little electrical tape. Now, the dust is directed away from you.

I would commonly use the powerful fan I salvaged from my neighbor’s greenhouse to pull the dust away from my work area.

A bit of electrical tape, a piece of sink plumbing and sanding dust is on its way to the fan.

My neighbor threw out this three-speed, two-directional fan when he did away with his greenhouse. A little cleaning, a lot of Rust-OLeum and a frame made from scraps, and I had a nice, rolling fan to cool me off or suck away sanding dust.

Of course, there is no substitute for a proper dust-filtering mask, and I always use my Elipse P100 Dust Mask, along with the fan.

Your spouse will appreciate the shower you take after sanding.


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 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.