Jim Randolph

May 032017
 

For me, my favorite non-woodworking tool in my workshop is my stereo. I’d be lost without the music, but, my television is hooked up to the stereo, so I can get caught up on the latest news, too, which is especially important when there is a late-breaking event.

This stereo setup is nothing to look at. A big, powerful amp in a box for AM/FM and video switching, connected to a 7.1 Surround Sound speaker system.

One night my wife came down while I was working and asked me to turn the music down some. The living level of our home is just above the garage and the stereo speakers are immediately below the living room. Too much garage volume makes watching TV upstairs, shall we say, “difficult.”

The 7.1 speakers make good sound, but, for some real volume, you need real speakers…

…and these babies move some air. And the floor of the living room above.

I said I would, and she smiled, turned, and went back upstairs. A little while later she came back, said I had looked like “a hurt puppy,” and it made her realize how important my music was to me, especially while I was working. She said I should turn it back up.

Which, I did.
Thank you, Baby.

As often as not, I listen to audio through headphones, especially when noisy equipment would drown out stereo speakers. Still, it isn’t the same. Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for those big speakers to rattle some sheet metal.

One day, when I was at Ole Miss, I was working on genetics homework and playing some Neil Young. The Harvest album. Later in the day I saw my across-the-street neighbor in his front yard. I went over to chat.

“I heard you had the Stray Gators (Neil Young’s band on the Harvest album) on earlier, Jim.”

“Genetics. It’s more than the brain can handle without some dilution.”
“You were studying?”
“Homework.”
“OH! I was hoping you weren’t inside the house. Are your ears bleeding?”
OK, so I like my music a little loud. It started with our generation, but it didn’t end with us. Electronics were/are so enabling. And, electronics are cleaner than ever, which means loud can sound better than ever.

What about you? What is your favorite or most important non-woodworking tool in your shop? If your answer is “Other,” leave us a comment with some details.

Return to the May 2017 issue of Wood News Online

Apr 052017
 

What tools do you have that you wish you hadn’t bought?

The Wood Whisperer, Marc Spagnuolo,  says one is his Dremel tool.

I, on the other hand, use my Dremel tool and attachments all the time: cutoffs, buffing small items, engraving/signing my work, routing small areas with the burr, cleaning out knots to ready them for epoxy, the uses are endless.

Requiring no talent and almost no practice, a Dremel motor with a little round burr allows you to sign your work permanently.

A 4-inch or 9-inch grinder will cut off a nail in a hurry, flush or below the surface, if you don’t mind massive burning of the wood, but …

…a Dremel fitted with a cutoff wheel can cut a nail and never mar the surface.

My wife got this 75th Anniversary Dremel set for a birthday gift for me. As Hazel (Shirley Booth) would say, “It’s a doozie!” It also came with two grits of sanding drums, nylon and steel brushes, buffing wheels and compound, and a felt wheel. I added chainsaw sharpening stones, and they will put a super sharpening on a chain in nothing flat. It also features an adjustable speed.

For me, it would definitely be my jointer. I bought the little 6″ Delta because I thought it was sufficient. When Katrina took my first one, I bought another just like it. I really wish I’d stepped up to at least an 8″, possibly with a spiral cutterhead. Regret might be a term too strong, but I really would like to have a better jointer.

This Delta jointer does 90% of what I need it to do, but it’s definitely an entry-level unit.

Now, if someone wants to buy me this jointer, I promise I will never complain! It’s what dreams are made of.

Return to the April 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.

Apr 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.

I got this little vacuum attachment, you guessed it, for free.

I picked up this discarded vacuum on my daily walk, intending to set up the cyclone on a bucket for use with a shop vacuum. I saw a project like that on YouTube.

This little attachment came with my free vacuum at no extra charge!

I’d never used one before, but, when our regular carpet attachment (borrowed from inside the house) wasn’t working, and I needed to clean a rug in the garage, I decided to give it a try on the end of our whole-house vacuum hose.

Man! I had no idea!

There is a similar attachment on our vacuum at work, and I’d noticed it only in passing.

For some time I’ve fretted over getting these pads clean. Not any more! The little beater-bar attachment doesn’t grab the rug like the full-size floor attachment does. The difference in the cleaned and uncleaned rugs is more dramatic than the photo depicts.

My new “rug routine” is to gather all of them into one place (on top of an old card table) and put the attachment on the end of my Shop-Vac’s Dust Deputy-filtered hose. Then, I can clean the rest of the workshop, floors and all, separately.

Decades ago, I got this card table for free from the roadside. I use it for all kinds of trashy jobs. I replaced the original cardboard top with some salvaged 3/8″ plywood. It’s stored, folded, with my collapsing sawhorses, within easy reach.

Return to the April 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.

Apr 032017
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist who loves woodworking and writing for those who also love the craft. I have found some ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop that might be helpful to you, and I enjoy hearing your own problem-solving ideasPlease share them in the COMMENTS section of each tip.  If, in the process, I can also make you laugh, I have achieved 100% of my goals.

Recently, I was working on a little stool for an employee’s niece and it was a blast to make! To give it an extra sentimental connection, I chose 150-year-old pine salvaged from our clinic’s old baseboards. It was great material, except for the fact that its age makes it somewhat brittle.

I like the character of this ancient pine, but it has its challenges. However, the beautiful end products make the struggles worthwhile.

To give it plenty of stability (we didn’t want little Kessa taking a tumble!), I mortised the top to accept the legs.

When I make stools, I take the time to mortise all of the parts together for maximum strength. There’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to children’s safety. Sometimes I use the stationary mortise chisel, but other times I use the router, followed by cleanup with a sharp chisel.

The two sides were not interchangeable, as the legs were not exactly the same thickness. Frequently, antique lumber isn’t uniform. There wasn’t enough difference for one’s eye to tell, but enough that the mortise fit wasn’t identical.

To keep myself straight, I put chalk marks on all the pieces through the milling process. I’ve seen chalk used by a lot of very talented and successful woodworkers, and it had to be easier to remove than pencil marks, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Chalk is cheap if you get it at the everything’s-a-dollar store. Four huge sticks of chalk and a holder for a buck. A cheapskate’s dream.

As the kids nowadays say, “How’s that working out for you?”

Not so great.

I managed to keep the top on the top and the center section in the middle. Additionally, the center puts its best face forward, which also establishes the front and rear of the stool.

Somehow, though, in the middle of gluing up, I managed to get the big leg in the small mortise, which wasn’t the end of the world because it fit, nothing split, and its mortise for the center section fit, too. But, when the little leg went into the bigger mortise, the slop was immediately evident.

And, the gap around the leg was evident. Not huge, mind you, but evident.

Like a Lego fort, the interlocking parts already installed and glued were too intimate to disassemble, so rearranging was out of the question at this point.

While there might be other projects where chalk is a viable marking option, I’m going with bits of blue shop tape next time.

As long as you’re sure it’s not going to fall off, there’s no down side to blue-tape marking. More robust than chalk and unlikely to be accidentally removed.

As Olive Oyl once said, “All’s well that ends in the well.” I think everyone is happy with this end product.

According to Steven Johnson’s study on adhesion and cohesion, we shouldn’t need to worry about residue interfering with finish after using painter’s tape, because its cohesion exceeds its adhesion. Of course, tape sticks better to smooth wood better than rough, so, it’s not going to be the universal marking answer. I’ll let you know how the tape works out.

And, I won’t be throwing my pencils away. Did you know that acetone is an excellent graphite remover?

  • Be generous when applying the acetone to a rag or paper towel.
  • Work quickly, because acetone evaporates rapidly.
  • Keep moving. By that, I mean, once you’ve removed some or all of a mark with a spot on your paper towel, don’t try to continue using the same spot. Apply more acetone to a clean area and begin again.
  • Remember, acetone is an organic solvent, and, thus, is subject to spontaneous combustion. Allow the vehicle to air-dry in an open area and/or immerse it in water in a plastic bag.
  • Some woodworkers report that mineral spirits are also effective at removing pencil marks.

     Return to the April 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 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.