Jim Randolph

Oct 072015
 

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.

Steven Johnson once asked me, “With a trash can that big, how often do you empty it? Once a year?”  I told him I really didn’t know, so the last time I put in a new bag I marked the date.  Turns out, Steve was very close, as the can didn’t fill up for 13 months, and that includes emptying the other trash cans into it periodically.

July of this year the can was full, and it was time to empty it and let Steve know he’s a good guesser.

July of this year the can was full, and it was time to empty it and let Steve know he’s a good guesser.

Sometimes we generate refuse in our woodworking shops that may hold the potential for harm to your sanitation workers.  A few months ago I had some broken glass in the shop.  I protected myself from it by placing a sign on the bag, ensuring I wouldn’t put my unprotected hand in harm’s way.

I don’t empty this can very often, so I didn’t want to take the chance that I’d forget the broken glass inside. A sign was a continual reminder.

I don’t empty this can very often, so I didn’t want to take the chance that I’d forget the broken glass inside. A sign was a continual reminder.

If you have a Dumpster, the emptying of your trash is fully automated, and your garbage man never touches your refuse.  At our office, the street side can is picked up by an arm remotely controlled by the driver, swinging the can into the air, then upside down, then back to the ground.  A different company picks up our home refuse, though.  While the emptying process is mechanized, the hopper, (as the man riding on the back of the truck is called) has the option to reach in the can to pull out plastic bags he judges to be light enough to speed the emptying process.

No one wants to allow harm to come to his fellow man. To protect the sanitation workers from harm if they reached into the can for the bag with glass inside, I warned them by transferring the sign from my indoor can to the outdoor one.

No one wants to allow harm to come to his fellow man. To protect the sanitation workers from harm if they reached into the can for the bag with glass inside, I warn them by transferring the sign from my indoor can to the outdoor one.

Sometimes the danger isn’t sharpness, but weight.  If you have placed a lot of treated-lumber cutoffs into the bag, a large can will become quite heavy.  We recycle so aggressively that our usual garbage-day load is one small bag, so our man is used to latching on to a light can.  When we produce a lot of weight for the can, I always take a moment to make a sign to warn him so he doesn’t hurt himself.

Another appreciated thing you can do for your local sanitation engineers:  Cool them off.  During the summer I ice down a couple of Coca-Colas as a treat.  And, a little check every Christmas.  They have a hard job that no one wants.  It’s not asking too much for us to be extra nice to them.

Recent temperatures approaching 100, with 90% humidity makes for a stratospheric heat index. Cool off the sanitation workers with a welcome cold treat.

Recent temperatures approaching 100, with 90% humidity makes for a stratospheric heat index. Cool off the sanitation workers with a welcome cold treat.

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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 062015
 

I learned early in life that I have to write things down.  For me, it didn’t come at “a certain age,” unless 10 qualifies.  The dairy farm I spent a good bit of my childhood on was, well, in farm country; a long way from town.  Trips to the city were strategically-designed events.  Some destinations were givens:  a stop at the co-op for dairy feed, a stop at Sunflower for groceries we couldn’t grow or make, Fred’s Dollar store for sundries.  Fred’s was one of my favorite stores because once a year I got new black rubber boots.  Having my own black rubber boots made me feel “in.”  It’s a dairy-farmer thing.

My Aunt Polly put the “strategy” in strategically-designed.  If she didn’t accompany Uncle Sam and me to town, something was going to be forgotten.  Never mind that she gave us a list with everything on it; we would still manage to miss something.

There was a lot of love and Christian devotion in this house, and a lot of hard work in the barn in the background. There is nothing in the world for which I would trade one minute of those experiences.

There was a lot of love and Christian devotion in this house, and a lot of hard work in the barn in the background. There is nothing in the world for which I would trade one minute of those experiences.

It is not unusual for a lot of time to pass between my visits to the shop.  Sometimes so much calendar goes by that I forget what I was last doing, so I always write myself a note before quitting for the night.  “These cleats are ready to mount to the underside of the benches.  Cut slotted screw holes to compensate for wood movement, round over, then sand.  Then cut legs.”  Otherwise, I’m scratching my head, looking at the pieces, wondering, “What was I going to do with those?”

Can’t you just picture it? A month goes by, you get back into the woodshop and say to yourself, “Why did I cut these little blocks?”

Can’t you just picture it? A month goes by, you get back into the woodshop and say to yourself, “Why did I cut these little blocks?”

For tasks subject to being repeated, I have permanent notes to myself.  Usually, I’ve worked out details of how best to accomplish the task, most commonly learning from my own mistakes and/or oversight.  Learning the same lesson twice is unpleasant.  I keep those instructions in Word Perfect.  Short, simple tasks’ instructions reside in a file named “signs.”  Other tasks have their own files, such as “decklattice.”

Since our house is 30 feet in the air and our deck rails have no balusters, before the grandchildren come I install PVC lattice that is numbered, pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy installation.  After I had a systematic method of removing the lattice from storage, installing it in the proper order, taking it down when the kids left and re-storing it, I wrote down the steps as I went, then typed them up while the steps were fresh in my mind.  Now, I can have one hundred linear feet of lattice up in less than an hour, de-installed and stored in 45 minutes.

As the grandchildren have gotten bigger we don’t put the deck lattice up as often as we used to, so it tends to get other stored “stuff” on top of it.

As the grandchildren have gotten bigger we don’t put the deck lattice up as often as we used to, so it tends to get other  “stuff” stored on top of it.

Sometimes I have a need to take the ceiling-mounted Delta air filter out of the shop and into the house.  Recently, we had new oak floors installed in our living room, and the filter made the experience bearable, while capturing untold quantities of dust.  But, the instructions that come with the filter suggest having two or more people to install it.  I have neither “two” nor “more.”  I did figure out, though, after hanging this filter twice, that there was an easy way and several hard ways to accomplish the task.  Having worked out the details, I typed them up and attached them to the filter for easy reference the next time the unit needs to come down.

Mounting this air filter by yourself is a bear, but it’s not impossible. Once you figure out how to do a hard job, write down the steps so you don’t have to “learn” again.

Mounting this air filter by yourself is a bear, but it’s not impossible. Once you figure out how to do a hard job, write down the steps so you don’t have to “learn” again.

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

Sep 232015
 
This is the second installment about Project CreepClick here to read the first installment.

This job started out as a handrail for a deck on our home.  Simple enough.  Quick enough.  Doesn’t need to be fancy.  Then, project creep said, “Why not practice fine furniture techniques while making the handrail?”  That turned into the first level of project creep from the last blog post, making nice dado joints.  The second level was making even nicer dado joints.

If I were going to do that, a whole new project was going to have to happen.  As luck would have it, the monsoon we had been experiencing was still going on, so indoor work was indicated anyway.

As stated in the first post, the longest measurement from the radial arm saw blade to the wall was about 13′.  The 20′ 2x4s were about 20’2″.  For the dado blade to cut a half-lap all the way to the end of the board would require a hole in the wall.  I’ve seen stories about woodworkers with garage workshops who cut holes in their homes’ walls to accommodate long boards.  One fellow fenestrated the wall into his laundry room for the purpose.  He made a little flap of a door to close off the passageway when he didn’t need it, in order  to keep out dust and noise.  Fortunately, my hole just had to go from one side of the garage to another garage area.  No family meeting required.

What was required, however, was support for the “missing” part of the wall because it is a  2×6 wall supporting the entire middle of the house!  So, I fashioned a header from three 2x6s, jacked up the top plate temporarily, installed a pair of jack studs under the header, framed in a rectangle and I was ready to go.
I didn’t see any reason to put the pegboard back on until the opening has been used several times, just in case I need to modify it. It’s big enough to accept a 2x12 or 4x4, just in case I ever work with bigger long boards. I also allowed a little extra room because sometimes wide and/or long boards can be unstable, and may bend off to one side, or have twist in them.

I didn’t see any reason to put the pegboard back on until the opening has been used several times, just in case I need to modify it. It’s big enough to accept a 2×12 or 4×4, just in case I ever work with bigger long boards. I also allowed a little extra room because sometimes wide and/or long boards can be unstable, and may bend off to one side, or have twist in them.

The bottom lines up with the top of the saw table.

The bottom lines up with the top of the saw table.

It is not unusual for long boards, especially fast-growing treated pine, to be crooked and/or twisted.  For that reason, sometimes lifting the end opposite from the end you’re working on will help the “business” end lie flatter.
In this case, lifting the “other” end of the board, 1½” wasn’t enough and 3" was too much, so a piece of oak flooring on top of a 2x4 was just like the Little Bear’s soup, as my Uncle Sam used to say.

In this case, lifting the “other” end of the board, 1½” wasn’t enough and 3″ was too much, so a piece of oak flooring on top of a 2×4 was just like the Little Bear’s soup, as my Uncle Sam used to say.

Nearly finished now, with both the handrail and the pass-through, I would have to say this case of project creep had a happy ending.  The wall space I gave up was affordable, on both sides of the wall and I gained the ability to work with nearly unlimited-length materials at the same time.
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My wife likened the completed opening to the food pass-through in a jail cell door. Time ran out for the blog deadline, but I will paint the exposed wood surfaces white and put everything back on the pegboard. Assuming I can figure out where everything was! I would have stopped to take a picture before taking everything off, but, as I said, I was on a deadline.

Sep 112015
 
I love cleaning my garage.  Our garage encompasses the place where our cars and boat park, my wife’s clay studio and my woodworking shop.
The area we call “garage” includes automobile parking in the foreground, boat parking and wood storage to the right, Brenda’s ceramic studio to the left and my woodshop straight ahead.

The area we call “garage” includes automobile parking in the foreground, boat parking and wood storage to the right, Brenda’s ceramic studio to the left and my woodshop straight ahead.

Steve Johnson and I were talking one day and I mentioned I can walk in the garage in my stocking feet.  Steve was shocked!  I really like it to be that clean.  The “garage” is a multipurpose room, that not only does all the things above, but includes a spare freezer/refrigerator for overflow from the house, canned goods storage, a recycle bin for overflow from the house, and the path to the outdoor garbage can.  So, it’s not unusual for us to be in our stocking feet when we need some spare food, a screw to fix a hinge, you get the idea.
The area closest to the stairs is where the cars, fridge and recycling are located, foreground and left in the earlier photo.  Unfortunately, it’s also the area the cars track in leaves and dirt. Living adjacent to a wetland, we are surrounded by trees, so there is a constant influx of leaf debris, and leaves are my biggest cleaning challenge.
I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy.  If I’m going to clean the garage, I don’t just clean the woodshop area, I clean it all.  If Brenda hasn’t used her studio area, I clean it anyway.
For both neatness and safety reasons, big cutoffs and chunks are tossed into a burn container or trash bin as they are created.  If chips fall to the floor that are too big for the shop vacuum, I’ll start with a broom and dust pan.  The broom is good for leaves, too, and if there are a lot of them I’ll hit the parking area with the broom.  I have a super-flexible 2½” hose that keeps my Dust Deputy cyclone separator tight to the vac as we stroll around.
“They” don’t make ‘em like this any more. Modern shop vacuum hoses are stiff, and would tend to topple the Dust Deputy over. This soft hose tucks the Dust Deputy in. The homemade cart is bottom-weighted to add stability.

“They” don’t make ‘em like this any more. Modern shop vacuum hoses are stiff, and would tend to topple the Dust Deputy over. This soft hose tucks the Dust Deputy in. The homemade cart is bottom-weighted to add stability.

An extra section of wand from the pickup hose to the floor attachment saves the back of the tall person from the stooping pain he/she would otherwise experience.
Buy enough vacuums over the years and you’ll accumulate sufficient wands to clean while still upstairs! For tall guys like me, three wands are just the right height.

Buy enough vacuums over the years and you’ll accumulate sufficient wands to clean while still upstairs! For tall guys like me, three wands are just the right height.

The Dust Deputy prevents almost all of the floor debris from reaching the vacuum.  I haven’t changed a filter, or even blown one clean, in years.
The pièce de résistance, however, is something you may or may not want to invest in.  How much do you like your socks?  Our veterinary hospital was once a testing center for Oreck upright vacuums.  They would give us their latest unit and challenge us to tear it up.  Not a difficult assignment for a place where dogs track in dirt and sand on their paws all day; where hair deposits are measured in buckets, not gallons; and clipped toenail remnants do their best to shatter Oreck turbines.  Sometimes we would get a new test model before we wore out the previous one.  The used units would go home to the garage, where I learned to be spoiled to an impeccably-clean floor.
This Oreck upright is tough! It survived its torture test at our veterinary hospital and its torture continues in our garage. Sometimes I use the whole-house vacuum in the shop, but I worry about getting shop debris caught in the piping, so I usually limit it to picking up dust.

This Oreck upright is tough! It survived its torture test at our veterinary hospital and its torture continues in our garage. Sometimes I use the whole-house vacuum in the shop, but I worry about getting shop debris caught in the piping, so I usually limit it to picking up dust.

I generally clean before starting a new project, do a little spot-cleaning along the way and clean thoroughly again when the project is finished.
This Hang Up is connected to a Dust Deputy recessed into the ceiling and is activated by pulling fishing line connected to a switch. Notice the Dust Deputy is mounted on a swimming-pool-tablet bucket. The lid seals tightly and unscrews easily for easy emptying.

This Hang Up is connected to a Dust Deputy recessed into the ceiling and is activated by pulling fishing line connected to a switch. Notice the Dust Deputy is mounted on a swimming-pool-tablet bucket. The lid seals tightly and unscrews easily for easy emptying.

A closeup of the Hang Up/Dust Deputy system.

A closeup of the Hang Up/Dust Deputy system.

The Hang-Up/Dust Deputy system in action. I can reach nearly the entire woodworking area with the standard hose that came with the Hang Up. Thanks to the Dust Deputy I never have to clean the Hang Up’s filter. The low-profile bucket preserves headroom in the shop.

The Hang-Up/Dust Deputy system in action. I can reach nearly the entire woodworking area with the standard hose that came with the Hang Up. Thanks to the Dust Deputy I never have to clean the Hang Up’s filter. The low-profile bucket preserves headroom in the shop.

Work, my “day job,” (and the bugaboo that made Maynard G. Krebs cringe at its mention), sets the pace for how many projects I get to do in a year, so it’s not unusual that the after-project cleaning is no longer evident by the time the next project begins.
Sep 012015
 

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 are not fumble-fingered, you may want to skip this tip. Always unplug your table saw when working in or on it. I understand that some table saw manufacturers have figured out a way to make it harder to lose the nut and washer from a table saw’s blade arbor, but my 2005 Delta doesn’t have that feature. Thus, every once in a while those items land in the bottom of the cabinet. Few people have arms skinny enough or long enough to reach the bottom of where sawdust falls when the unit is operating. It’s a short reach from the dust port to the fallen item, but a big deal to disconnect and reconnect the dust hose.

I don’t fish as much as I used to since I got so deep into woodworking. For long stretches, fishing for the arbor nut or washer is as close as I get. Rather than dismantle the dust port to retrieve the elusive part, I try to capture it with this old Radio Shack speaker magnet.

I don’t fish as much as I used to since I got so deep into woodworking. For long stretches, fishing for the arbor nut or washer is as close as I get. Rather than dismantle the dust port to retrieve the elusive part, I try to capture it with this old Radio Shack speaker magnet.

Every time an audio speaker dies, there is a treasure hiding inside:  a powerful magnet. Whether it’s a car or home speaker, save that magnet and store it on any handy steel surface. The best ones have a hole in the middle. Tie a string, or, better yet, fishing line to a big speaker magnet and you can retrieve anything ferrous from any hidden crevasse.

This particular magnet is stored right next to the table saw. Are you thinking it gets a lot of use? Like I said, if you’re not fumble-fingered, you might not need this tip!

This particular magnet is stored right next to the table saw. Are you thinking it gets a lot of use? Like I said, if you’re not fumble-fingered, you might not need this tip!

I can’t seem to throw a magnet away. All sizes and shapes get stored on this rolling tool cabinet.

I can’t seem to throw a magnet away. All sizes and shapes get stored on this rolling tool cabinet.

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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 312015
 

Some years ago I tailored the backstop system you see in the photo below to back up workpieces when cutting biscuit slots. Totally independent, they can be clamped as close to or as far from the edge of the workbench as you like. They can also accommodate any length of board just as simply.

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Cut out a couple of “L’s” with your jig saw, grab two clamps of any style, and you’re in business. Notice that I didn’t even bother to make them the same size.

I never found any shortcomings with the technique, but recently I was making a Western red cedar picnic table for our youngest grandchildren, and my stack of boards happened to be next to the front of the table saw. I looked down, and saw the rail that guides the fence, and thought, “Hmm, seems like a perfect shelf for this.”

Using the table saw fence rail works great for short, thick, narrow boards like these beauties that started out as roughsawn 2x4s.

Using the table saw fence rail works great for short, thick, narrow boards like these beauties that started out as roughsawn 2x4s.

 A few weeks later I saw a tip in the Woodworker’s Journal E-zine sent in by Joseph Cassinick from Michigan, which involved using the table saw rip fence for a backstop. Certainly that tip offers more versatility, as your table saw can handle workpieces of any width and length up to the size of your tabletop and accessory surfaces. But, for the job I had at the moment, putting Domino slots into a bunch of cedar 2x4s, the rip fence rail was just right.

Joe Cassinick’s tip, using the table saw fence as a backstop when cutting biscuit slots or Festool Domino mortises was an excellent one, and I tried it here.

Joe Cassinick’s tip, using the table saw fence as a backstop when cutting biscuit slots or Festool Domino mortises was an excellent one, and I tried it here.

I found only two shortcomings of the rip-fence technique. One, even though these 2x4s were almost 3-3/4″ wide, the Domino fence was a little wider, so it hit the table saw’s rip fence if I put the boards on the table saw one at a time.

Notice that the Domino’s registration plate is not against the board, which might introduce error for the placement of the Domino tenon

Notice that the Domino’s registration plate is not against the board, which might introduce error for the placement of the Domino tenon.

The second shortcoming was when I added another 2×4 behind the one I was cutting Domino mortises in. If its wide surface had a little bow in it, or if it was a little thicker than the board being bored, the backup board could hold the Domino’s fence subtly off the board being worked on.

To get the Domino’s fence an adequate distance from the saw’s fence, I placed another board behind the one being mortised. The slight bow in the backup board kept the Domino from reaching the surface it was mortising.

To get the Domino’s fence an adequate distance from the saw’s fence, I placed another board behind the one being mortised. The slight bow in the backup board kept the Domino from reaching the surface it was mortising.

That could lead to the mortise being out of position and even too shallow. Such a problem could be solved by recognizing the problem and being careful to account for it, or by using a thinner 2×4. A too-shallow mortise would lead to a joint not closing, with no external reason visible. That would make you crazy at glue-up time!

This photo demonstrates several backer boards of the same thickness, allowing the Domino’s fence to be sufficiently far from the Biesemeyer fence and still overlapping the first backer board without being cocked.

This photo demonstrates several backer boards of the same thickness, allowing the Domino’s fence to be sufficiently far from the Biesemeyer fence and still overlapping the first backer board without being cocked.

The other alternative is to return to my original system, utilizing the L-shaped plywood pieces, where no backer board is needed.

The other alternative is to return to my original system, utilizing the L-shaped plywood pieces, where no backer board is needed.

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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 042015
 

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.”

Woodworkers spend a good bit of time on their knees.  Praying for guidance and safety before each working session in the shop is a good way to get started.  Kneeling to work on the floor or work on the bottom of a piece is a common position too.  Kneepads are a good invention even though they restrict blood flow to the lower legs, are really hot and can pinch the skin behind the knees.

Kneepads are great, especially if you’re working in numerous locations distant from each other. However, they have some drawbacks.

Kneepads are great, especially if you’re working in numerous locations that are distant from each other. However, they have some drawbacks.

Spend much time on the floor with these straps binding behind a flexed knee and you’ll feel them digging in to you.

Spend much time on the floor with these straps binding behind a flexed knee and you’ll feel them digging in to you.

An economical alternative is a throwable PFD (personal flotation device) for kneeling.  It’s thick, soft, durable and withstands getting wet.  It has not one but two handles for hanging when not in use, and is easy to move from one position to another.

A throwable PFD is a comfortable, durable, economical choice that protects the knees while offering a soft, cushioning effect.

A throwable PFD is a comfortable, durable, economical choice that protects the knees, while offering a soft, cushioning effect.

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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.