Jim Randolph

Dec 022015
 
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.”  
We’ve previously discussed an inexpensive way to keep one’s dust extractor hose and power cord above the project, allowing maximum versatility.
Here is the first generation of do-it-yourself overhead Festool dust extractor hose management.

Here is the first generation of do-it-yourself overhead Festool dust extractor hose management.

Of course, if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, Festool makes the Festool Boom Arm ready-made to perform this function for you.
Now, Festool has come out with a new system that encloses the hose and cord in a cloth wrap that will prevent the hose from marring your workpiece.  You can order one by clicking here, and choosing the “Anti-Static – Sleeved with Power Cord type” in the options.
Here’s my El Cheapo version:  Use Velcro straps to tie Festool sander power cords to Festool vacuum hoses as they travel together to the Festool dust extractor.  The generously-long cords of Festool tools make this part easy.
I had a bunch of these Velcro cord wraps, with little use for them, until I stole this idea from Festool. Most of them came from uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units that power our computers when the electricity is off.

I had a bunch of these Velcro cord wraps, with little use for them until I stole this idea from Festool. Most of them came from uninterrupted power supply (UPS) units that power our computers when the electricity is off.

Alternatively, there is a rubber version of cord wraps that works just as well.

Alternatively, there is a rubber version of cord wraps that works just as well.

I looked for a small-diameter drainpipe sock that could serve as a cover, but was unsuccessful. Darn!
Just in case you don’t know what a drainpipe sock is, feast your eyes.

Just in case you don’t know what a drainpipe sock is, feast your eyes.

You have to hand it to those Festool designers:  they come up with some great ideas!

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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.

Dec 012015
 
“There you go again, Jim Randolph.  You keep trying to make us believe you’re a cheapskate, then you admit you paid hundreds for Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones.  Now you’re going to tell us you’ve bought that high-priced Festool stuff, too?  We may have to come take away your membership card to the Cheapskates’ Club.”
I’ve said before, I don’t mind paying more and buying the best if I’m getting value for the money I spend.  I’ve been building this round cedar picnic table with curved benches for our two youngest grandchildren.  It has helped to highlight the value of the Festool “system.”
 Festool figured substantially in the construction of this diminutive picnic table set for our youngest grandchildren. Kapex, Domino, Rotex and ETS sanders with dust extractor. It’s worth spending money to get quality tools that make your job more beautiful, easier and/or faster.

Festool figured substantially in the construction of this diminutive picnic table set for our youngest grandchildren. Kapex, Domino, Rotex and ETS Sanders with dust extractor. It’s worth spending money to get quality tools that make your job more beautiful, easier and/or faster.

I timed it. I can change the power cord and hose from one sander to the other in 20 seconds. That makes it fast enough that I can work on a problem area and totally resolve it, then move on to another problem area, which is more efficient than coming back to each defect as a stage is fini

I timed it. I can change the power cord and hose from one sander to the other in 20 seconds. That makes it fast enough that I can work on a problem area and totally resolve it, then move on to another problem area, which is more efficient than coming back to each defect as a stage is finished.

Cedar.  It’s the wood I love to hate.  I love the color, in all its variations.  I love the smell.  (Everyone loves the smell!)  I love the durability of the heartwood, especially in projects intended for outdoor use.
Then, there’s the down side.
Or sides.
It’s soft, which makes it easy to mill.  But, the softness makes it susceptible to scratches, dents and dings.
Then, there are the knots.  Which are most definitely not soft.  And, around all those knots the confused grain tears out when the planer and jointer knives hit it. This is one of the places the Festool sanding system really shines.  As you sand a project like this, some areas, like tearout, need some aggressive Rotex action to whip them into shape, followed by some time with the less aggressive Rotex random setting.  The Rotex stroke length is longer than the ETS, so a quick switch to the same sandpaper grit on the ETS gives the fine, smooth finish sanding you want those grandbabies  meals and behinds sitting on.  I have a 5″ Rotex and a 5″ ETS and the system allows quick change from one sander to another without having two dust extractors.

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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.

Nov 172015
 

What do you do with the shavings and sawdust that come out of your dust collector?  I use mine as mulch, usually, for trees and bushes in the yard.  Keep in mind that anywhere you put sawdust on the ground, it will kill anything that tries to grow in that area.  The reason is that the high carbon content in the sawdust chemically binds the nitrogen the plants want to use for food.

Mulch also prevents sunlight from reaching the ground.

Speaking of food, it’s generally recommended that we shouldn’t mulch food crops with shavings, in case the wood might be contaminated with things you wouldn’t want to put in your mouth.

Back in the 70s I was in college and wore a sign on my back that read, “Po’ College Student.”  I wanted to have a garden on a budget.  I went to the local feed store, where I found tomato plants for 50 cents each. On my budget, I could afford six plants.  Dejected, I wandered back out toward my car, when I noticed, leaning against the front of the store, some lonely, wilted, scraggly tomato plants tied in bunches.  They were marked 75 cents per bunch.  I could afford three and still buy a little bag of butterbean seeds.

Arriving home, I got a shock.  Within each bundle were 25 little bare-rooted plants.  Having already turned over an area of my back yard, I found I needed to open a bigger rectangle! My neighbor came over to see what I was up to, and I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t afford fertilizer for my project.

“You’re in luck,” he replied.  “I have a horse, and his stall hasn’t been cleaned out for a while.  There’s enough fertilizer in that stall to boost ten gardens the size of yours.  There are shavings in there, too, that came from a planer mill in the swamp.  They should be well-broken-down by now.”

My designation as Lt. Overkill isn’t a new moniker.  I cleaned out the stall and took all ten gardens-worth of “fertilizer” home in my self-made utility trailer.  Into the garden it went, well-mixed, and followed by the 75-or-so tomato plants.

As luck would have it, over three score plants survived, no, thrived.  I gave away tomatoes.  I ate homemade spaghetti sauce, I canned tomatoes and froze tomatoes.  You never saw so many tomatoes in all your life!

Butterbeans?  Those plants did well, too.  With that much “fertilizer” how could they not?  Still, I didn’t eat a  single butterbean that summer.  I had two little Beagle puppies, and it turned out they liked butterbeans as much as I did.  As soon as little pods would appear, Sam and Blossum would go down the two rows and clean up.

Too bad they didn’t like tomatoes.

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 032015
 

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.”

Wooden handles for foam paintbrushes have lots of uses, and we’ve extolled those uses before.  Click here to revisit that post.  Here is one more.  When the foam part of the brush has given its all, and the plastic “blade” is broken off, if the wooden part is 3/8” diameter, it makes a great guide for installing new sanding discs on your random orbit sander’s pad.  The 3/8” size “dowel” is a tight fit in the holes of the sanding pad.  Put a stick in the diagonally-opposite sides of the pad and slide the new disc down and into place.

YOU PAID WHAT? These 3/8" dowels were free, salvaged from many-times-reused “disposable” sponge finish applicators. The snug fit means your hole alignment will be perfect. Just slide the loops down to the hooks.

YOU PAID WHAT? These 3/8″ dowels were free, salvaged from many-times-reused “disposable” sponge finish applicators. The snug fit means your hole alignment will be perfect. Just slide the loops down to the hooks.

You will have perfect alignment for the dust extractor to remove the maximum amount of swarf as you work.  I like to keep two dowels in each grit of sandpaper.  That way, no matter which sander I’m using, the alignment devices will be handy.

Two brush handles in each grit of sanding discs means quick, easy (and, did I mention free?) alignment.

Two brush handles in each grit of sanding discs means quick, easy (and, did I mention free?) alignment.

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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.

Nov 012015
 

Everyone knows that a pilot hole in a piece of wood can be a game changer.

With a pilot hole, this split might not have happened, and this part of the project might not have required being made over again.

With a pilot hole, this split might not have happened and this part of the project might not have required being made over again.

Making a path for a screw might prevent your ruining an important piece of a project, a split in a board (especially at the end), a broken-off screw, or strained muscles from hand-driving a screw through dense wood fibers.

Charts exist to guide you on the proper pilot hole size for a variety of screw types in various materials.

These charts are very helpful, but not very mobile. Pilot hole charts can be photographed and stored on your phone, or pulled up on the Internet.

These charts are very helpful, but not very mobile. Pilot hole charts can be photographed and stored on your phone, or pulled up on the Internet.

However, if you find yourself away from the shop and needing a pilot hole, your drill index can help.  The hole each bit resides in is a snug fit.  Remove the bit and find the smallest hole the threads of your screw will go into with just finger force.  That bit will give you a perfect pilot hole in most hardwoods.

For soft woods like spruce, cypress and pine, experiment with the next smaller size bit for the pilot hole.  The soft fibers will grip the wood more tightly and reduce the likelihood of fastening failure.

If I have to pay extra for drill bits to get them in an indexed box, I will. It’s that valuable. If I’m putting this screw into a hardwood, like oak, I’ll use a 9/64" bit for the pilot hole. If it’s going into spruce, I’ll drop back one size for a tighter fit, to 1/8".

If I have to pay extra for drill bits to get them in an indexed box, I will. It’s that valuable. If I’m putting this screw into a hardwood, like oak, I’ll use a 9/64″ bit for the pilot hole. If it’s going into spruce, I’ll drop back one size for a tighter fit, to 1/8″.

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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 292015
 

Sometimes I hear woodworkers talk about avoiding repair jobs around the house and it makes me wonder, “Aren’t most woodworkers also do-it-yourselfers?”

My first introduction to woodworking was in Wood Shop class in junior high school.  No one in our family worked in wood, built furniture, or anything remotely associated with what we call woodworking today.  However, every male member of the family was “handy” and self-sufficient.

I got into home construction after the Air Force and, as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to make a career of it.  Still, I stayed with it long enough to approximate journeyman status, and the skills I learned there I apply to nearly every session in the shop.  Germane to the present conversation, though, is the fact that, with the exception of a flooring installer (actually, Brent Wilson should be called an artist!), we’ve never had a carpenter or wood-oriented repairman come to our home in 30 years of marriage.

If something needs to be fixed, Brenda says, “Sweet Baaaaaaaabeeeeeeee, can you put a shelf here for me?” Or something similar.  Sweet-talk gets me every time!  When we moved into the new house, 19 years ago this Thanksgiving, I set up a rudimentary shop in the lowest level and trekked up and down two flights of stairs until her art studio was completely outfitted.  It was only after that when I got to begin formalizing my own work area.

A list of well-known do-it-yourselfers:

  • Steven Johnson renovated his Down To Earth Woodshop.  Click here to read Steve’s story and his trials with the legacy of the unhandy homeowner.
  • Michael Smith built his own shop in a series on Highland Woodworking.  Click here to read Michael’s story and the trials of being one’s own contractor.
  • The Wood Talk podcast crew (Marc, Matt and Shannon) even weigh-in on the topic.  Click here to listen to the episode they discussed DIY in detail.

(Respondents are encouraged to make comments below the post.)

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 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.