Jim Randolph

Mar 302015
 

 

Do you, like me, find it annoying when woodworkers find fault with this or that style clamp?

One of my favorite online woodworkers/podcasters recently said, “When I first started woodworking I bought a ton of C-clamps, mostly because they were cheap.  Now I wish I had that money back.  I never use them anymore.”

I respectfully disagree.  I find C-clamps to be exceedingly useful.  As you can see from the accompanying photo, I have a ton of them, in all sizes.

From 4" to 12" my C-clamps see a lot of action. A 12" C-clamp can apply so much pressure, it will open a coconut. Spread that pressure out with a caul and you have a clamp with a lot of reach combined with a lot of power.

From 4″ to 12″ my C-clamps see a lot of action. A 12″ C-clamp can apply so much pressure, it will open a coconut. Spread that pressure out with a caul and you have a clamp with a lot of reach combined with a lot of power.

Like most tools, there are situations where they are perfect, and situations where they are useless.

C-clamps can apply an amazing amount of pressure for minimal cost. Use a caul to prevent marring your work. There isn’t a clamp in my shop that could have done this job as well.

C-clamps can apply an amazing amount of pressure for minimal cost. Use a caul to prevent marring your work. There isn’t a clamp in my shop that could have done this job as well.

It is also not unusual to hear woodworkers putting down pipe clamps, but, they have their place and like my imported C-clamps, you can’t beat the price.  Some brands of pipe clamp heads, also called “jaws,” come with a nifty spiral spring-wire to protect the threads on the distal end, the end opposite the head.  While it’s not necessary to even have threads on that end, it is useful when joining two lengths of pipe together to make a really long clamp.

If the style of jaws you have doesn’t include that spring, you can inexpensively protect the threads with a threaded 3/4″ PVC cap.

It’s not terribly difficult to cross-thread the soft PVC on steel pipe. To make the cap easier to install and remove at a later date, wrap a layer or two of Teflon thread tape on first.

It’s not terribly difficult to cross-thread the soft PVC on steel pipe. To make the cap easier to install and remove at a later date, wrap a layer or two of Teflon thread tape on first.

 


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 272015
 

It’s a PVC kind of month.  And, because PVC has three letters in it, we’re having three tips this month instead of the usual two.  The French call it “lagniappe.”

Did you know that the University of Southern Mississippi has one of the world’s leading programs in Polymer Science and Engineering?  Just up the road from us in Hattiesburg, MS.  Yes, I am digressing, yet where would we be today without PVC and the other polymer plastics we use in every aspect of everything we do all day, every day?

The University of Southern Mississippi School of Polymer Science and Engineering has world-class research facilities. The program even includes studying ways polymers can be used in pharmaceutical delivery in vivo. Yes, U.S.M. also has three letters.

The University of Southern Mississippi School of Polymer Science and Engineering has world-class research facilities. The program even includes studying ways polymers can be used in pharmaceutical delivery in vivo. Yes, U.S.M. also has three letters.

Short lengths of PVC pipe are inexpensive to purchase, and even cheaper if you ask a building site for their scraps.  If you keep a variety of diameters in two foot lengths, they make great storage for your projects’ drawer slides while you are sanding and finishing.  Because most related hardware comes pre-lubricated, any dust in the environment will be attracted to it and gum up the moving parts.  Get a couple of PVC caps at about a dollar each and your hardware is protected.  Let the caps sit in place with a friction fit (no glue) and you can work from either or both ends.

Free pipe and $2 worth of caps and your pre-lubricated drawer slides are protected from dust and trauma. OK, so it’s an ugly piece of pipe! Who cares? It’s free!

Free pipe and $2 worth of caps and your pre-lubricated drawer slides are protected from dust and trauma. OK, so it’s an ugly piece of pipe! Who cares? 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.

Feb 252015
 

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.”

Search the Web for “wood storage” and you will be inundated with more articles and videos than you can digest in a lifetime.  Every woodworker has his own take on where and how to store materials for future use.  And, I believe that most will agree that the answer to our storage problem is, “put it somewhere that can’t be used for anything else.”

In my case, the majority of wood storage is between the front wall of our house and a wall that supports a porch above.

This wall was originally made of wood, but the studs were weakened by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters, so I replaced it with a galvanized steel wall.

This wall was originally made of wood, but the studs were weakened by Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters, so I replaced it with a galvanized steel wall.

That space is too narrow for parking, so I made a rigid frame to support materials of all shapes and sizes.  One end is dedicated to sheet goods and, with an inexpensive layer of lauan as the foundation, I can add everything from full sheets to small scraps.

The plywood end of the storage area allows for full sheets down to small scraps, as well as room for expansion by simply adding cross members for additional layers

The plywood end of the storage area allows for full sheets down to small scraps, as well as room for expansion by simply adding cross members for additional layers

The other end is for solid wood and is organized by species, with the bulk of the space going to treated pine.

Because I handle all of our home’s maintenance, I keep plenty of treated lumber for outdoor use, as well as leftovers from previous projects.

Because I handle all of our home’s maintenance, I keep plenty of treated lumber for outdoor use, as well as leftovers from previous projects.

Lumber for a current project could be stored, but I usually keep it close at hand on sawhorses nearer to the work area.

Lumber for a current project could be stored, but I usually keep it close at hand on sawhorses nearer to the work area.

Under the house is the roughest of the rough; mostly construction lumber, cedar siding left over from our home’s original construction, posts and poles.

Having experienced, “Don’t I have (fill in the blank with a wood species and scrap size) somewhere?” many, many times, I try not to throw away any scrap I think might be usable.  Perhaps the best part of this storage system is that there is nearly zero monetary or space cost to this system.

The inspiration started with a tip I read online, suggesting the storage of dowels in PVC gutter downspouts attached to the underside of ceiling joists in the shop.  I was convinced this was the storage solution for me, and I got on a ladder, measuring for the lengths of downspouts I wanted to purchase when it hit me:  “I can store stuff up inside these wooden I-joists without sacrificing ceiling height and without buying anything.”

An overview of the parking side of our garage to orient you for the ceiling photos.

An overview of the parking side of our garage to orient you for the ceiling photos.

Here’s how I did it:  I already had little strips of treated lumber I use for stakes and a thousand other uses.  It was a simple matter to take an inside measurement of the space between joists to customize roughly 14″ pieces of the little stakes (the space between joists is not always equal) to fit tightly, where they act as supports for the scraps.  Close together for short scraps, far apart for longer pieces or even letting long lengths span several supports.  Each collection is organized from longer to shorter.

Short scraps are accommodated with supports close together.

Short scraps are accommodated with supports close together.

Long scraps not only need supports far apart, they need support in the middle to prevent warping. Good organization helps. Taking the time to sort from short to long pays off when you need a scrap of a certain length.

Long scraps not only need supports far apart, they need support in the middle to prevent warping. Good organization helps. Taking the time to sort from short to long pays off when you need a scrap of a certain length.

At first, when I had only a few rafters in use, it was easy to look up and see what kind of scrap was stored where.  Now, I have 20 rafter storage spaces, necessitating an identification system.   Initially, I used blue painter’s tape, but the lack of contrast between blue tape and black Magic Marker made reading difficult, especially against the glare of ceiling lights. Two-inch adhesive tape (enter the tiny bit of cost) solves the problem, with excellent contrast between black and white.

Like your grammar school teacher said, “Neatness counts.” Take your time with lettering for a neater job and greater legibility.

Like your grammar school teacher said, “Neatness counts.” Take your time with lettering for a neater job and greater legibility.

I also use this free space for storing very long pipe clamps, garage door hurricane supports and anything else that will fit.

I also use this free space for storing very long pipe clamps, garage door hurricane supports, and anything else that will fit.

You’re not paying for “router pad,” are you? If so, CLICK HERE to learn how to get all you want FREE!

You’re not paying for “router pads” are you? If so, CLICK HERE to learn how to get all you want for FREE!

Some very, very small scraps are still worth keeping, but they won’t easily fit into or onto conventional storage.  For that, 5-gallon buckets are the cat’s meow.

This bucket holds all of my very small cedar scraps and stores neatly out of the way.

This bucket holds all of my very small cedar scraps and stores neatly out of the way.

Then, there’s the wild card scrap storage:  drawers salvaged from old refrigerators.  The vertical standards can be used to hang the drawers in their original fashion, or you can improvise by fashioning wooden runners to support the drawer edges.

While this storage does hang down below ceiling height, I chose an area where it didn’t matter. Also, if it ever presents a problem, it’s a simple matter to take it down.

While this storage does hang down below ceiling height, I chose an area where it didn’t matter. Also, if it ever presents a problem, it’s a simple matter to take it down.

In my wife’s tile studio I used refrigerator shelves for storing some really heavy pieces. They are up to the job.

In my wife’s tile studio I used refrigerator shelves for storing some really heavy pieces. They are up to the job.

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

Feb 242015
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist, not a professional, someone who loves woodworking, just like you do. I have found some better ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop and look forward to sharing those with you each month, as well as hearing your problem-solving ideas.

I can’t take credit for this tip but it’s too good not to share.  Sadly, I’m not clever enough to have thought of it.

I’ve faced this very situation before and the best I could come up with was to let my hole saw wobble around on the board until it “caught.”

The origin of the tip is Danny Lipford’s TV show, Today’s Homeowner.  Danny and his crew are based in Mobile, Alabama.  If you don’t know the show, you still might have heard Danny’s distinctive voice on commercials for “Glue Dots.”  Each Today’s Homeowner  show features a segment by Joe Truini called Simple Solutions.  And, almost every week I watch Joe’s tip and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

I have a hole in this plywood deck, but the new tubing that needs to go through it is bigger than the old one. How can I make the hole bigger without making a huge mess? (For demonstration purposes I drilled the hole in the top plywood first.

I have a hole in this plywood deck, but the new tubing that needs to go through it is bigger than the old one. How can I make the hole bigger without making a huge mess? (For demonstration purposes I drilled the hole in the top plywood first.

Joe says if you have a hole in a board or piece of plywood that you need to be larger, rather than “booger up” the board using my technique, or take a jig saw to the hole to enlarge it, start by attaching a piece of plywood to the original board with the too-small hole. You can attach it with screws if the screw holes won’t show, or use double-stick carpet tape.  If the exact location of the hole doesn’t matter you can just approximate the center of the original hole, drill a pilot hole, change to the hole saw, and start drilling.  The guide bit on your hole saw will lead the hole saw into your attached plywood and straight through both pieces.

If, on the other hand, your hole has to be exactly concentric with the original hole, you have two options:  Option One, you can outline the old hole’s circumference onto the new plywood with a pencil or marking knife, separate the two boards, and then find the center of the marked hole on the plywood and drill the pilot hole.  Option Two is a little harder but potentially more accurate. Attach the two boards to each other, then find the center of the original hole.  The first technique may introduce error because you may not get the intact plywood back onto the target in exactly the same position it was in when you marked the circle.  If you’re dealing with a fixed stand, as I am in the accompanying photos, you need to lie on your back to mark the circle and find the center, then drill a tiny pilot hole from underneath (make sure you are wearing proper eye protection since the accompanying drill-bit shavings will be falling onto you).  Next, from the top, use the pilot hole you just drilled to guide your hole saw through both pieces.  This same technique will work if you use a spade bit to enlarge an existing hole.

Almost there! In no time the hole saw is through the plywood and into the decking with a nice, neat new hole!

Almost there! In no time the hole saw is through the plywood and into the decking with a nice, neat new hole!

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.

Jan 292015
 

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 hope “those” people never come to visit. Which is probably not a worry, because I live a pretty isolated life:  Work, woodshop, church, sleep.  Ok, and throw in a little fishing here and there.  Entertaining in our home?  It’s limited to throwing the raccoon for Willie the poodle and encouraging Maxx the cat to attack him.  Willie, that is. Maxx is not interested in the raccoon.

Willie has at least a half-dozen of these “Rocky the Raccoons.” We get them at WalMart. For Christmas Brenda ordered him one from Amazon. He wouldn’t touch it. He wouldn’t even look at it! To him, it’s just not a Rocky!

Willie has at least a half-dozen of these “Rocky the Raccoons.” We get them at WalMart. For Christmas Brenda ordered him one from Amazon. He wouldn’t touch it. He wouldn’t even look at it! To him, it’s just not a Rocky

Willie’s favorite toy, however, is his twin brother, Maxx. They’re fraternal twins, which explains their appearance differences.

Willie’s favorite toy, however, is his twin brother, Maxx. They’re fraternal twins, which explains their appearance differences.

You want work lights cheap? They don’t come any cheaper than “trash night shopping.” Now that gas is down around $2 per gallon even the driving around is affordable. And, who doesn’t need a night out of the house? Notice the emphasis on “night.” You really do have to watch out for your reputation.

With only our animal entertainment to offer at our house, it’s unlikely that a visitor will show up to identify the two gooseneck lamps I got from their trash one Thursday night.  I’m sure they threw them out because they had tightened the thumbscrews as tight as they could and the geese’s “necks” continued to flop around.  And, when they did that, they were on the right path, they just didn’t go far enough.

You can tighten this wing nut until your fingers turn white and the lamp will continue to flop if the whole bracket isn’t tight.

You can tighten this wing nut until your fingers turn white and the lamp will continue to flop if the whole bracket isn’t tight.

The whole idea behind the design of the lamp is friction.  Not too much, not too little.  Just like the Little Bear’s soup.  All it took to make these lights functional for the bandsaw and grinder station is to snug up the other two nuts at each joint.  No more flopping around!

A nut driver is perfect for getting just the right amount of tightness on these nuts because it limits the amount of torque you can apply. No danger of stripping threads.

A nut driver is perfect for getting just the right amount of tightness on these nuts because it limits the amount of torque you can apply. No danger of stripping threads.

Sometimes when you find gooseneck lamps in discard piles you won’t find the little plastic base that supports the metal pin.  No problem!  On the grinder station I just drilled an appropriately-sized hole between the grinders.  Now the lamp can turn 360 degrees to illuminate either work area.

A hole drilled between the grinders works as well or better than the purpose-designed plastic mounting block.

A hole drilled between the grinders works as well or better than the purpose-designed plastic mounting block.

Good luck finding the plastic bracket in the trash with the discarded lamp, but they can be handy sometimes.

Good luck finding the plastic bracket in the trash with the discarded lamp, but they can be handy sometimes.

Not wanting to drill a hole in the bandsaw’s table, mounting the lamp in the windowsill works great.

Not wanting to drill a hole in the bandsaw’s table, I mounted the lamp in the windowsill and it works great.

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.

Jan 282015
 

Welcome to “Tips From Sticks-In-The-Mud Woodshop.” I am a hobbyist, not a professional, someone who loves woodworking, just like you do. I have found some better ways to accomplish tasks in the workshop and look forward to sharing those with you each month, as well as hearing your problem-solving ideas.

Near my drill press I keep a list of repetitively-drilled holes and their sizes:

tips1

It’s a natural location for drill hole sizes, right next to the drill press. No one’s memory is going to recall hole sizes drilled only once each year.

For example, a certain piece of work that my artist wife makes called “Katrina Survivors,” requires a series of holes along its length that are 3/16″.  Rather than try to remember that size, or rediscover it by time-consuming trial and error, I keep it on the list, along with 1/4 Forstner” for the holes I drill in calendars every December so that they fit over the screw heads I install them onto.  And 3/64″ for suturing lanyards to my glasses.

Post-It-Notes are nearby to make temporary additions to the list until there are enough changes to reprint.

This year I had something of an epiphany when the time came to drill my calendars.

Sure, you can buy Three-Months-At-A-Glance calendars, but I have a natural aversion to “buy.” Our regional bank produces these calendars with professional photography and great stories and, best of all (wait for it!) they’re free!

Sure, you can buy Three-Months-At-A-Glance calendars, but I have a natural aversion to “buy.” Our regional bank produces these calendars with professional photography and great stories and, best of all (wait for it!) they’re free!

It occurred to me that a Forstner Bit might be a better paper-hole-puncher than a twist drill.  Think about it:  Forstner bits come from the factory really sharp and the flat cutting surface cuts the entire circumference at once, instead of the paring/coring action of a twist drill.  To try out the theory I got a wide, flat board to hold the calendar flat and simultaneously act as the backer-board.

 Good support, a sharp Forstner bit and a firm backer-board is the formula for a nice-looking hole in multiple layers of paper.

Good support, a sharp Forstner bit and a firm backer-board is the formula for a nice-looking hole in multiple layers of paper.

When the Forstner bit pops through the last of the paper, the hole is nice and clean.

Feel the need for speed. You want that Forstner bit flying when cutting paper. A slow-moving bit won’t make a clean cut. Here, I have chosen a pulley combination for the fastest spindle speed.

Feel the need for speed. You want that Forstner bit flying when cutting paper. A slow-moving bit won’t make a clean cut. Here, I have chosen a pulley combination for the fastest spindle speed.

Why not use a hole punch, you ask?  Granted, the hole is already the right size, but cutting more than two or three pages at a time puts a real strain on a hole punch.  Three pages divided by twelve months is 4 punchings per calendar and I do 7 calendars each year…

And another bonus for drilled holes? They are guaranteed to line up perfectly!

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 312014
 

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.”

Speaking of reusing bags I was in a department store the other day, waiting my turn to check out, when I overheard a lady asking an employee, “Where would I find plastic bags for storing a comforter?”

I wanted to scream!  “Lady!  The comforter probably came in a plastic bag, complete with a nice zipper.”

When we purchase sheets, electric blankets and other bedding I always nab the zippered bag.  See the big one?

An electric blanket came in this bag and it holds my never-ending supply of old T-shirts used for finishing, cleaning and a kazillion other tasks.

An electric blanket originally came in this bag, but now it holds my never-ending supply of old T-shirts used for finishing, cleaning and a kazillion other tasks.

The little one below came full of washcloths from Amazon.  I honor its heritage by storing the retired washcloths until it’s time to use them in the shop, too.

Pay for a plastic storage bag? Sorry, I just can’t make myself do it! These old washcloths and socks served me well, but the boss said they had to go.

Pay for a plastic storage bag? Sorry, I just can’t make myself do it! These old washcloths and socks served me well, but the boss said they had to go.


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.