Jim Randolph

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.

Dec 302014
 

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.

Tack rags are not the most expensive part of the finishing process, but they aren’t free, either.  It pays to get the most out of them that you can.  When I have a really dusty surface then I don’t want to mess up a brand new tack rag.  No matter how old a cloth gets, it still has some sticky to it.  The “end point” of a rag isn’t usually its loss of dust-collecting ability, but contamination, as we will see in a moment.

You can blow this dust off with compressed air, but, unless you have a really effective moisture-removal system on your air line, there is the risk that it may “spit” on your wood. Wet wood doesn’t make for a good sanding experience. A very dusty surface this big is going to give up a lot of grime. There is no good reason to clog up a brand new tack rag, when a used one can still hold a lot of dust.

You can blow this dust off with compressed air, but, unless you have a really effective moisture-removal system on your air line, there is the risk that it may “spit” on your wood. Wet wood doesn’t make for a good sanding experience. A very dusty surface this big is going to give up a lot of grime. There is no good reason to clog up a brand new tack rag, when a used one can still hold a lot of dust.

I start by cleaning the bulk of the sanding dust with my oldest rag, then, depending on how much dust is left, I may use a “lightly-used” cloth or go to a brand new one and have the surface ready for finish in one or two more wiping steps.

Red paint contamination was the “end point” for the bottom tack rag. Up to its becoming contaminated, though, it captured a ton of dust.

Red paint contamination was the “end point” for the bottom tack rag. Up to its becoming contaminated, though, it captured a ton of dust.

This was our eldest granddaughter’s “temporary” stool until I had time to make her a nice one. Paint can really do in a tack rag.

This was our eldest granddaughter’s “temporary” stool, until I had time to make her a nice one. Paint can really do in a tack rag.

My oldest rag goes in a (used) zipper-locking bag labeled, you guessed it, “oldest.”  It gets used first to remove the bulk of dust and debris, until there is no stickiness left.  After it has done yeoman’s duty, I reach for the bag labeled “second oldest,” and wipe the project down again.  If it is a painted project I stop there, but polyurethane-coated pieces get wiped down with a nearly-new tack rag.  When the oldest rag is ready for tack rag Heaven, the “second oldest” rag graduates to the “oldest” bag, and so forth.  After thoroughly soaking them with water, old rags are disposed of by tying them closed  within the plastic bags that our newspapers come in.  That way, there is no risk of spontaneous combustion.  (To read Steven Johnson’s spontaneous combustion experiment, click here).


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 022014
 

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.” 

Sticking with the dust theme from Tip #1… The inside of your dust mask can become very wet, owing to the high moisture content of your breath. My tip? Install a hook in front of the outflow side of your ceiling-mounted air filter or air-circulating fan. Hang your mask in front of it with the inside facing the air flow and it will be nice and dry the next time you use it.

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Free mask drying here! Every time you turn on the air filter the moist inside of your mask is dried automatically. You have to use your imagination a bit. This is the mask’s usual hanging place and the filter’s usual mounting place. However, I currently have it on a rolling stand while we’re having new wood floors installed in our living room.

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I’m thinking of leaving the dust filter on this cart, as it’s now closer to “nose level” and may be more effective. If so, I’ll have to rig a new hanging place for the dust mask.

If the mask develops a sour smell, indicating mold and mildew are growing there, wipe it out with a Clorox Bleach Wipe or a paper towel wetted with vinegar, then allow it to air out thoroughly before reusing.

Clorox wipes have just the right amount of chlorine to kill the smell but not leave chlorine fumes the next time you wear your mask

Clorox wipes have just the right amount of chlorine to kill the smell but not leave chlorine fumes the next time you wear your mask.


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 252014
 

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.

Building a small room (or even a compartment) for your dust-collection cyclone outside your shop provides several advantages.

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I built this little shack on the back of our house so the cyclone could be outdoors. Eventually I will side it with cedar, like the rest of the house, but with removable panels for cyclone maintenance. Meanwhile, it’s a big test panel for choosing the color of the house when it’s repainted.

First, all that noise is now outside instead of in your shop. And, that’s a big advantage, because even the quietest cyclone is pretty darn loud. I used my handy-dandy iPhone sound pressure level meter outside the closet, and it read 84 db. It can reasonably be assumed that it would have a similar noise output if inside the shop, except that if it were indoors it would probably not be enclosed and the sound would be even louder.

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How much more pleasant would your shop be if the dust collector noise was gone, or at least reduced? 84 db is pretty loud.

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Just across the wall from the dust collector the reading was 79 db, roughly a 20% sound reduction compared to right next to the collector cabinet outdoors.

We saved 9 dB of noise by just walking across the room!

Meanwhile, stepping over about 12 feet to the table saw the reading was 70 db. We saved 9 dB of noise by just walking across the room!

Second, you’ve gained a little more room in your shop. Who can’t use more room? You may wish to size your new room to include your air compressor too, as Steven Johnson, the Down-To-Earth-Woodworker did.

Third, you may no longer need a filter on the air discharge, eliminating filter cleaning (one more unpleasant job). I just have to be careful that I don’t walk through that discharge area without a dust mask during and shortly after using the cyclone. For me it’s not a problem because it’s not an area I need to be in very often when I’m working. Whatever dust is in the discharge is the finest of the fine, because I never see anything in the air or even settling on that part of the deck. Of course, that really fine dust is also the most dangerous, the dust that can go deepest into your respiratory tree. One limiting factor is that you have to make a hole in the wall, and that hole has to line up perfectly so that your mounting bracket is in exactly the right place.

Not trusting myself in a challenge to match a hole to a mounting bracket, I mounted the cyclone first, then cut the hole!

Not trusting myself in a challenge to match a hole to a mounting bracket, I mounted the cyclone first, then cut the hole!

You must provide “makeup air” to prevent pulling carbon monoxide and other products of combustion out of the flue and back into your shop.

I use this old piece of orangeburg pipe to keep the back door cracked open for “makeup air” when running the cyclone.

I use this old piece of orangeburg pipe to keep the back door cracked open for “makeup air” when running the cyclone.

Funny story:  As it says in the footer, we live in the absolute boondocks. We have more wild animals in our back yard than a zoo. It’s nothing to see snakes on the deck, or even on the second floor. (I want to see one of them climbing the stairs one day.)

One night I had run the dust collector, finished and locked up for the night. The next morning I went down the stairs to leave for work and there was a big pile of smelly poop on a rug. Clearly it wasn’t dog or cat poop because it was full of persimmon seeds. I hurriedly cleaned it up and didn’t give it much more thought, despite the fact that the entire garage was locked up tight. Several days later, on the weekend, I was going around the north wall opening blinds, shutters and windows, when I found even more seed-filled poop. Then more. I decided I needed to look for a source. Now, it’s important to know something about me: I get spooked pretty easily. And, when I get startled, I can scream just like a girl. I armed myself with an old broom handle and began my search. Under the cars, under the boat, under the workbench where my infrequently-used jigs are stored. Nothing. “OK, then,” I thought, “let’s go to the real hiding places, my wife’s clay and pottery-working area.” Still nothing. Talking to myself again, “Maybe a coon got in and got out and just left me some ‘prizes’ while he was here.” I resigned myself to never solving the mystery and went back to work. Cutting a heavy piece of metal with a saber saw, I had Bose noise-canceling headphones on and was playing music pretty loud, when I felt something against my foot. Not thinking of my intruder, I wiggled my foot and continued cutting. I felt something hit my boot again and looked down.

:Insert girl-scream here:

It’s a good thing my wife wasn’t home or she would have thought I’d run the radial arm saw over my wrist. I looked down to see the cutest little baby possum you ever saw! Sure, I didn’t think he was so cute at first, but when my heart rate dropped back below 200 I was able to admire him objectively, I decided he was adorable. Still, he’d be even more adorable if he was back in the swamp where he belonged. Grabbing an empty 5-gallon bucket I scooped him up (did I mention the poop piles really stank?), carried him well away from the house and let him re-join nature. I don’t believe he wants to face the six-foot-tall screaming “monster” again.


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 232014
 

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.”  

You can buy a non-slip “router pad” from any number of suppliers.  It’s great stuff and will grip your work on one side and the table surface on the other side with amazing tenacity.  Cheapsters like me, though, look for folks who have changed out their carpet with new underlayment (pad).  Just keep your eyes open on garbage day and you can find a gold mine like the one pictured.

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You can pay a fortune per square foot for a “router pad,” or you can have this for free. All it costs you is your pride! And, if it’s wintertime, just wear your ski mask and your neighbors will never know it’s you!

Take more than you need and store the excess in your attic or share it with your woodworking buddies.  Cut a variety of sizes to accommodate jobs small to large.  When rolled up, it stores in a small area.

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I keep some “router pad,” used carpet underlayment, stashed in various places around the shop.

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Some here, some there.

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Even if I’m not routing, it makes a terrific scratch-free surface to work on.


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 142014
 

That Steven Johnson just won’t leave me alone.  I’m thinking of blocking his email address. He just won’t stop bugging me about the Festool cord-and-hose boom arm. I’m hoping for one of two outcomes. Either he sees I’m happy with this month’s tip to solve the problem or alternatively, maybe he thinks I’m just fooling myself and he will take pity on me and just send me one. Prepaid, that is.  Of course, he said he’s going to send me some of his “gently-used” washers, too, but I’m still waiting.

So, what are the chances he’ll be sending me a boom arm that costs $365.00? Well, OK, I’ll give you that it goes everywhere your CT dust extractor goes, which means there’s no disconnecting and moving, as there is with my bungee cord. And, it’s always set up and ready to use. Oh, yeah, and there’s no hunting for the end of the hose or the cord.  Y’know what? Maybe that Steve Johnson is onto something. Where’s my Highland Woodworking order form? Until we can get a Festool boom, you and I can enjoy my bungee cord version below:

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My cord management system started out with this succession of screw hooks installed in the ceiling joists for the purpose of hanging items to paint. By looping an extension cord from hook to hook it’s easy to keep the cord above the work and out of the way, but easy to let out more cord when needed, too

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The next generation embraced cord management and dust extractor hose management, too. Some tools have long enough cords for the electricity to follow the elevated hose. The bungee cord provides flexibility as the sander moves from one end of the board the other.

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A closeup of the bungee cord attachment. A forecast probability of rain had me put up the “tent” so I could sand away without getting sanding dust all over the shop, but still not get rained on.


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 012014
 

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.

Tip #1: RED NAIL POLISH

Everyone who is patient raise your hand. That’s what I thought: nobody. Well, except for you, in the back, and I thought you looked a little strange. I am with the majority, having no patience, especially with electrical plugs. When I am ready to plug in, I want to plug in now!

NO body is going to make a mistake with these: the round part goes in the round hole, and it directs the other two where they belong.

NO body is going to make a mistake with these: the round part goes in the round hole, and it directs the other two where they belong.

The 3-prong jobs are easy; even those over 40 with “too-short arms” can see which orientation is correct for them. These newfangled double-insulated tools, however, with their polarized plugs just don’t create enough contrast to tell the wider blade of the plug from the narrow one. Now, you could just try to put it in, then turn it over when it doesn’t go.

Everything’s a little fuzzy. I think I have some glasses around the shop somewhere. Which one is the wide one?

“Everything’s a little fuzzy. I think I have some glasses around the shop somewhere. Which one is the wide one?”

But who has time for that? Then, some manufacturers feel the need to buck the international standard when they incorporate cord-holding moldings into their plugs. On most tools the side with the holding loop lines up with the grounding hole, but not always!

The manufacturer of this Craftsman vacuum, who shall remain unnamed, thought it would be smart to put the cord-holding loop on the side opposite the ground hole. Why? Just to be different? Just to annoy me?

The manufacturer of this Craftsman vacuum, who shall remain unnamed, thought it would be smart to put the cord-holding loop on the side opposite the ground hole. Why? Just to be different? Just to annoy me?

My timesaving solution for this problem is to paint red nail polish (why, yes, it is the shade I usually wear!) on the side of the plug that coordinates to the grounding hole.

Cover the entire surface so that you will see at first glance which way to orient the plug. Use multiple thin coats. Nail polish dries quickly, you can finish an entire plug in 15 minutes.

Cover the entire surface so that you will see at first glance which way to orient the plug. Use multiple thin coats. Nail polish dries quickly, you can finish an entire plug in 15 minutes.

Technique: Like any paint job, multiple, thin layers work best. Maybe it’s the cheap nail polish I bought, but it took me 5 coats to get really good coverage. The stuff wears like iron, though!

Technique: Like any paint job, multiple, thin layers work best. Maybe it’s the cheap nail polish I bought, but it took me 5 coats to get really good coverage. The stuff wears like iron, though!

The same technique works on anything that plugs in. I used it on this lightbulb adapter so I quickly know which way to turn it to plug it in.

Tip #2:  COAT HANGERS

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.” 

Coat hanger, coat hanger, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. No, this won’t be a treatise on 1000 ways to use coat hangers (yes, I looked it up, it’s supposed to be written as two words unless you’re from the land where “women glow and men plunder,” where coathanger is said to be preferred).

  1. Need a long drill bit? If you’re drilling through something relatively soft, like wood or insulation board, cut the bottom part of the coat hanger off, restricting yourself to just the completely straight part. Cut one end square and the other end on the most acute angle you can.
    A light wiping of WD40, machine oil or even Vaseline will lube this “drill bit” for easier entry. Shown is the chisel point version, but you can also sharpen the tip on your grinder for even easier, faster entry.

    A light wiping of WD40, machine oil or even Vaseline will lube this “drill bit” for easier entry. Shown is the chisel point version, but you can also sharpen the tip on your grinder for an even easier and faster entry.

    Wrap your fist around the middle for support to prevent bending. Using discretion, don’t push too hard or run the drill too fast, either of which could cause you to lose control. Now, the business end can act as a chisel-point bit and if you need a guide to show you where to come out on the opposite side of a wall, drill away. As always, be sure you’re not going to hit electrical wires or water pipes. This baby will drill right through Romex and PVC.

    I needed to know where to drill outside on the roof to put these lag bolts into the rafter. With this guide I was right on target.

    I needed to know where to drill outside on the roof to put these lag bolts into the rafter. With this guide I was right on target.

  2. If your stud finder isn’t giving you clearcut direction, this “drill bit” will allow you to define the edges of a stud without making gigantic holes.
  3. A coat hanger is the repairman’s chewing gum. I have brazed many a muffler and tailpipe with nothing more than an acetylene torch and a hanger.
  4. Speaking of repairs, the soft metal of a coat hanger will assume almost any shape you want. I once had a broken fan belt and no time to go to the store for a replacement. Using tip #1 above I drilled a hole either side of the rent in the belt. I then cut a U-shaped piece of hanger, passed it through the holes from the “pulley side,” and twisted the ends together on the outside. It worked so well on the fan that I forgot to replace the belt for months.
  5. Genetically incapable of discarding anything with future value, I keep a collection of hangers previously used.
    These are all “gently used,” but stand ready for their next service opportunity. I even keep the ones I’ve used for drill bits as long as they aren’t damaged in use.

    These are all “gently used,” but stand ready for their next service opportunity. I even keep the ones I’ve used for drill bits as long as they aren’t damaged in use.

    Straightened, but with the hook still on the top, you can hang almost anything from them. They are great for painting small, medium, even large items. In the area I use for painting, there are a kazillion (Sorry, Steve) nails in the I-beam rafters.

    These nails are permanently in these ceiling joists in the painting area, always ready to be pressed into service for hanging.

    These nails are permanently in these ceiling joists in the painting area, always ready to be pressed into service for hanging.

    Because it’s an open and well-lighted area, I can spread a plastic drop cloth to catch most of the drippy paint.

    What? Sure, it’s beat up. And patched. You thought I’d throw it away after I used it once? You must be new to the column!

    What? Sure, it’s beat up. And patched. You thought I’d throw it away after I used it once? You must be new to the column!

    For little bitty items, like these finials, you can screw a hook into the mounting hole, gang two or even three hangers together to get it down to a comfortable working height, and paint away.

    For little bitty items, like these finials, you can screw a hook into the mounting hole, gang two or even three hangers together to get it down to a comfortable working height, and paint away.

    Longer items, like this handrail, can be hung lower, or horizontally, for easy access. Note that two straightened hangers are used to accomplish the desired height. The screw hook in the middle makes a handy way to stop the item’s movement while applying finish without touching the wet surface. Longer items, like this handrail to the left, can be hung lower, or horizontally, for easy access. Note that two straightened hangers are used to accomplish the desired height. The screw hook in the middle makes a handy way to stop the item’s movement while applying finish without touching the wet surface.

  6. The metal in coat hangers is soft and malleable. That can be good or bad. Depends on your planned usage. The softness of the metal makes it easy to cut with even the least sophisticated tool, such as the shear in the jaws of your slip-joint pliers. On the other hand, if you want to take a piece out by fatiguing the metal, you will be at it for a while. Hard, brittle metals lend themselves to better success with that method.
    Because the metal is soft, I was able to shape it into these hangers.

    Because the metal is soft, I was able to shape it into these hangers.

    On the other hand, soft metal is easily bent, so making these hooks for jack stands, the angle had to be very acute.

    On the other hand, soft metal is easily bent, so making these hooks for jack stands, the angle had to be very acute.

    Coat hangers make a great twist tie. Okay, so they’re not quite as easy to use as the ones from the grocery’s produce department, but they are a lot more substantial!

    Coat hangers make a great twist tie. Okay, so they’re not quite as easy to use as the ones from the grocery’s produce department, but they are a lot more substantial!

    CLICK HERE to go back to the October 2014 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.