Jim Randolph

Aug 062018
 

People are of two minds about sharpening, I believe. Some hate sharpening. They despise having to stop working, even though they realize that sharp tools are safer and easier to use. Like other necessary things we wish we didn’t have to do, we recognize the value, even as we’re wishing.

Others might not mind sharpening, but I don’t think anyone loves it.

I’ll go one step further: I believe the former group struggles with getting a good edge and the latter is good at sharpening.

Sadly, I’m in the first group.

For a long time, I was looking for a way to sharpen that wasn’t just easy, it was automatic. I got some really good advice from my friends Steve Johnson and M. Scott Morton. It can be summarized with an old saw: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

We conversed about machines that might help, and they encouraged me to just concentrate on hand sharpening with stones. And, to practice, practice and practice some more.

Not long after that I was watching a Matt Cremona video, and noticed he had one of those little blocks some folks use that sets the distance from the front edge of one’s chisel to the sharpening jig. Having that jig allows perfect repeatability for the sharpening angle. I made a block like that for 25i and I was off to the proverbial races. It seemed I could do no wrong in sharpening my chisels.

Then, one day, something happened. I sharpened a chisel I’d put an edge on with that same technique, and it wouldn’t cut worth a hoot. I figured I’d just gotten in too big a hurry, overconfident, and messed up the edge. So, I went back and honed it up from 1000 to 8000 and tried again.

Dang! Still won’t cut!

Some people just have it. I took a class at Arrowmont College once, and the instructor was working with one of my chisels and said, “I just can’t use this. Do you mind if I sharpen it?” What was I going to say, “No, I like it like that way?” She took it to a high-speed grinder and shaped it the way she wanted it. No, she did not blue the edge. She spent a few minutes on a wet stone and the chisel cut like she’d been honing for hours. I asked her to sharpen two other chisels, which she pleasantly did, spending about the same amount of time on each one.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t need to sharpen one of those chisels again for a year!

After Steve Johnson did a video review on the Tormek T-4, I thought it might be just the breakthrough that I needed, a machine to get a good shape on my chisels and plane irons that would allow me to just fine-tune on stones.

It might still be my sharpening salvation, but I’ve been so busy since it arrived that I’ve only had time to unbox and assemble it, and there hasn’t been time to do anything else with it.

It didn’t take long to figure out the Tormek Sharpening System can’t be up as high as sharpening stones. I found this desk up the street when some folks moved out in the middle of the night and left a lot of their stuff for the garbage man. With a top and some wheels, I hope its height will be ideal.

Maybe I can become one of those people who is good at sharpening and doesn’t dread it.

I’ll let you know when I do my review of the new Tormek.


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 032018
 

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.

It’s all well and good to make nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds to raise young in, but, we frugal woodworkers don’t want to break the bank doing it.

“Used” treated lumber is plentiful, fences fall down every day. But experts recommend that chemicals and paint be avoided in nest boxes. You won’t find much used cedar and redwood lying around. However, if you’re willing to work a little, you can make usable wood out of what you have, or what you find. The key is being able to remove the metal and rot.

Because the cedar I was working with had been construction lumber, it was chock full of staples and nails.

Step One was to set up some horses and an assembly line of disassembly.

First, I took out the obvious metal. A tiny screwdriver is good for getting under the staples with minimal marring of the wood. Tip: lift one side of the staple, then use pliers to remove the other side; it will be more likely to come out in one piece. The good news about staples is they don’t do much damage to power tool blades if you miss one.

Step Two is to find the major metal. I don’t think you can do this part without a metal detector. Well, you could, but you’d have a big pile of cedar sawdust when you finished.

Fortunately, all I had to remove was toenails in the two ends and nails for the framing member that helped to support the screen, but the nails seemed to go in every direction. Once they were localized with the scanner, I made my best guess about where they ended and carefully made a square cut. I didn’t want to lose any material by unnecessary squaring later. But! I didn’t use the miter saw for that step. Rather, I marked lines all the way around the board and used a metal-cutting blade in the sabre saw. It’s a good thing, too, because I was off by about 1/2″, and an expensive blade could have been wasted.

I cut this where I hoped the nails ended, trying to save as much cedar as I could. Oops!

Now I had these little pieces to dig out. First, you need access. Remove some wood all around each nail. Over time, I’ve done that with a Dremel bur, an old, beat-up chisel, a pocket knife and even diagonal-cutting pliers (dikes). Access allows you to get a grip on the nail. In this case, I knew the fragments were short and wouldn’t provide much resistance to being pulled. They came out easily.

Dikes allowed me to nibble away a little wood around each nail fragment, then pull the piece easily.

The long fragments weren’t too hard, either, as I was able to use a punch to make them back up enough that the heads protruded from the surface of the 4 x 4. You can see the two pairs of end cutters I use in the first photo. The finesse goal with end “cutters” is not to cut, but to grip firmly enough that they don’t slip, and pull the nail out with a rocking, lever motion.


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 022018
 

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

Regular readers know that cedar is my favorite wood to work. Redwood is a very close second.

A while back one of my birding friends posted photos of a screech owl who had occupied the nest box he’d just put up in his backyard. It was the cutest thing you ever saw, the adult owl’s round face perfectly fitting the round opening. Brenda immediately said, “I want one.”

I did, too. However, there is a complicating factor in our yard, which is that the yard is full of trees, and our trees are full of squirrels.

If you have squirrels, or you know anything about squirrels, you know that they are incredibly destructive. Put a nest box anywhere a squirrel can get to it, and it’s probably toast.

Oh, they will nest in it. all right. But, like the rats they are, they will trash the very place they live. The first thing they will do is chew the 3″ opening larger. Not that they need it larger; they can fit through a hole 1″ in diameter. No, they just do it because they’re rats.

Experts recommend that there be no trees within 20 feet of the box. Our yard looks like a tree farm.

For a couple of years, I told Brenda that it was just out of the question for us to raise baby birds in a box, until, one day, I saw the place where I thought it might work. If I mounted a box on top of a 20 foot 2 x 4, then attached it to the handrail at the end of the boat ramp, we might have a shot. I’d still have to put a metal predator guard on the post, but it just might work.

No time was wasted, because I’d already scoped out plans at the Cornell and Audubon web sites. Now, I just needed some wood.

A while back we had to replace some rotted cedar on a screened area we call our cedar deck. It’s framed in cedar and I made a cedar picnic table for it. As you might imagine, I didn’t throw any of it away, just in case.

To make the most of it, I planned ahead. I wanted 3/4″ material and the plans specify the dimensions of each panel. You’d never do this in furniture building, but I cut my materials to length before I resawed. I had 4 x 4s that would yield three pieces each with a sliver left over, and 2 x 4s that would make two boards when sawn in half. If you’re thinking I saved the sliver, you’re getting ahead of me.

It can be a challenge to glue up a panel and get all of the edges square right off the bat (which is why you don’t normally cut your pieces to length in advance). But, when you commit to a length, you have to make it happen. If your edges are already square, it’s not too hard if you’re gluing on a flat surface. I’m addicted to crutches, so I used some old biscuits I had left over before I bought the Festool Domino 500, and no one wants to buy my DeWalt biscuit jointer, so I figured this was a good opportunity to cut into my supply. After the glue is applied, squeeze the panels together and place the edges onto the flat worktop. If everything lines up, your panel’s edges will be aligned in the final project. You might sacrifice perfection because you gave up the opportunity to trim to final length, but you saved a limited resource in the process.

Knowing the exact dimensions you need in advance, and being tolerant of slight imperfections means the wastefulness of “cut long and trim later” is avoided. This technique might not work in fine furniture, but a screech owl occupant won’t complain.

I’m keeping the budget as tight as possible. I had some Titebond III that coagulated, but I skimmed the cured layer off the top and went right on. The triangular cutoffs from the sides that gave the roof its slope included glue joints. I abused the cutoffs, and the wood broke; the glue joints didn’t.

I thought the final box turned out pretty nice. A drainage dado that had been in a floor plate shows in an edge board. I filled the defect with epoxy dough.

Winter, 2019, we’re hoping for a screech owl pair to take up residence and raise babies. Sorry, there won’t be a web cam.


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.

Jul 112018
 

Shop time is precious. However, so is Mother Earth. We have only one, and we have only one lifetime to treat her right, both for our own good and those who will occupy her in the future.

Think “children” and “grandchildren.” Therefore, it’s worth the time to make a few extra steps across the shop each day to recycle.

These recycling bins are but a short walk across the garage from where most of my work is done. We also keep a bin in the laundry room, upstairs, and a big bin at work. Those who inherit the earth from us will appreciate that they don’t have to live in landfills.

Aluminum is the most valued recyclable, with more than two-thirds of all of the aluminum ever made still in use. If you’re sipping on a Coca Cola right now, rinse that can and drop it into the bin when you’re finished. Other scraps of aluminum you might produce in your work can also be recycled curbside, so keep your mind open to cutoffs and other sources.

Paper is a big recyclable item, and woodworking shops produce a good bit of it. Think packaging, plans, notebooks and mail. When I have scrap paper I may take a momentary break to walk across the room to recycle, or I may conserve my energy by making a pile until it gets in my way.

Steel is one of the most-recycled items in America, but more of it is recycled industrially than personally. That’s too bad, because we use and discard a lot of it. However, as easy as it is to recycle a steel English pea can curbside, other steel items might have to be stockpiled and delivered to a metal recycling center. I am fortunate to have one nearby, and I can store steel and large-format aluminum in my garage at work until I have a load to deliver.

If you prefer to be paid for your aluminum cans, you can save them and sell them at the metal recycling center, too. However, keep in mind that such high-profit items help your local government keep curbside recycling available to everyone.

I’ve never understood the attraction of bottled water, especially little 4- and 8-ounce bottles that are so inefficient. I prefer tap water, which is nearly free. However, America loves them, as evidenced by the “bottle mountains” I see in recycling bins every Friday. Sadly, when I pick up litter on my early-morning walk, I often see them in garbage cans I drop that trash into along the way. Plastic recycling is quite efficient, and the bigger your municipality, the more likely you are to be able to recycle even unusually-symboled plastic beyond common polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Wood scraps recycle, too. We have friends who use woodburning stoves and heaters, so I keep a 5-gallon bucket handy to drop in all sizes of cutoffs. When the bucket is full …

After one of many waste-company changes in our city, we ended up with a never-used rolling garbage cart. The company didn’t want it back, so I use it to store wood scraps until someone needs them for their woodburning stove.

The “3Rs” are reduce, reuse and recycle. They are listed in order of value. First, buy less and use less. Second, reuse what doesn’t have to be thrown away. Third, recycle where you can. Recycling can also include using cutoffs and “waste” in another project. Think of this as a ceiling recycle bin.

May I encourage you to find a corner of your shop where you can reduce landfill waste by saving your recyclables for the weekly pickup?

Jul 102018
 

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.

“Cheap” doesn’t have to mean inferior materials. I found some discarded sign material, aluminum with a rubber sandwich filling, and I knew it would be valuable someday. I just had to hang on to it long enough. And store it long enough. It was thin, flat and lightweight, so it lay under my boat, and has been waiting for it’s moment to be used.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching the wood on the bottom of the door of our cedar deck deteriorate for a few years. The door is irreplaceable because of an imprint.

Our first granddaughter was only a month old when her mother, Regina, got the idea to make a terrific Father’s Day present for me: a tie with her hand and footprints on it.

As some of you know, my favorite saying in the world is, “Timing Is Everything.” This process started with timing.

Controlling where an infant puts her hands and feet is considerably easier when that infant is asleep, or nearly so.

Regina and Brenda conspired to have everything ready so that they could pounce when the baby was well into her nap.

What better present for a grandfather than a tie made from his only grandchild’s feet and hands?

Making the tie went so well that Brenda decided, on the way to the bathinette, the excess paint could be put to good use by planting toes and fingers on the door stile.

Now, I’m a grandpa, and, even though our first granddaughter hadn’t been on the ground quite a month yet, I was thoroughly head-over-heels in love with her.

However, when I saw those pastels on that perfect cedar door, Brenda said my eyes flashed for a moment. Soon, however, I was OK again and I’ve cherished those little manos and pies ever since.

When Brenda first got the idea to “paint” on this door, I was a little upset. But, what grandparent hasn’t said, “What the grandbaby wants, the grandbaby gets?” I will always treasure these foot and handprints.

Now that the door needs to be replaced, I’m torn. I can save that part of the door easily enough, but I’m undecided about what materials to make a new door from.

As I struggled with the decision, it occurred to me that a kickplate made from the aforementioned discarded aluminum might be just the thing as a temporary fix.

No fancy brass like the White House, as this will be temporary (famous last words).

Good as new! Well, almost. This aluminum won’t rust and the heavy-duty sign paint will resist scratches. The Festool Carvex glided through the aluminum just like wood. There is an identical panel on the outside (thus, the offset screw positions), which has given the decaying cedar enough support while I decide about making a new door.


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.

Jul 092018
 

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

A Domino mortising machine is an incredibly versatile tool.

Recently, I had the opportunity to use it in a bench mount.

One of our employees made this statue as a Christmas present. It is made of olive wood from the Holy Land, which is really gorgeous material. It’s about 6″ high.

I’d had it only a few days when the top broke away from the base, revealing that the craftsman had simply glued the two parts together. It was destined to fail. Now, I could have drilled a hole through the base, a pilot hole in the statue, run a drywall screw in and been finished, but, where’s the fun in that? I wanted an elegant fix.

Step 1 was to remove the finish from the two surfaces, because varnish buildup was going to prevent the top from sitting flat on the base. Olive wood requires no stain, so refinishing would be easy with clear laquer.

Next, I needed perfect positioning. In a piece this small, any deviation from center, in either direction, would be very noticeable. Fortunately, the base is rectangular, which made finding the center quite easy.

With accurate marks in place on the base, the stable platform of the Domino’s fence and frame would make the alignment easy enough. One might think that the oscillating bit would tend to cause the machine to move about, but it doesn’t. I simply positioned the Domino vertically on the base, lined up the marks with the fence centering marks, and drilled away.

Sand off the finish, mark the center exactly, mortise perfectly.

Enter the next challenge.

The top was as rounded and irregular as the base was square. If it leaned in any direction, the statue was ruined. Ditto if I oriented the Domino bit incorrectly. Nothing could move during the drilling of the top mortise, and I didn’t want my fingers too close to the oscillating bit, either. I needed a way to clamp the statue to the fence that wouldn’t mar the finish.

After wracking the ol’ brain a few minutes, I remembered my Vise-Grip, Kreg-style clamps with rubber cushions. Non-slip and non-marking! I clamped the Domino to the workbench upside down, “benchtop style.”

These Vise-Grip clamps are perfect for many uses beyond pocket screws, and they fit the bill on this job, too.

I took my time with centering, measuring with dividers. Measure five times, mortise once.

To ensure I was square and not too deep, I aligned the statue with the frame using a piece of rigid plastic.

This plastic was the perfect fit to keep the top from going too deep into the mouth of the Domino, rigid but thin.

When the moment of truth was done, I had a perfect mortise to match the perfect alignment of the base.

Whew! Made it!

Some glue and finish and we could return our special Christmas gift to its honored location.

Clamping was probably overkill, but I wanted the base and top in tight alignment, not having to depend on finish to fill any gap.


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.

Jun 052018
 

This is all the cooling I need in my shop. It’s nice being nearly immune to the heat.

Do you have air conditioning in your shop?
Do you run it a lot?
Before Hurricane Katrina, I had a little 5000 BTU window unit that I would occasionally put in a casement for temporary use, but I had to be desperate. As a fan of hot weather, I don’t see the need for it often, even in our South Mississippi heat and humidity.

After Katrina, the point was moot, as the AC was sitting on the floor of the shop when the flood waters came, and few things electronic survived that horrible, nasty, hypersaline water.

For a couple of years after that, I would pass a certain house on my way to work where the garage door was always open. They had an identical unit sitting on the concrete, and I was tempted daily to stop and say, “If you’re not going to use that …”

One day, it was gone.

Not that I couldn’t afford to buy one; I think they are under $100. But, what isn’t sweeter when it’s free?

A while back I built the squirrel-cage fan “window unit”  that installs in 2 minutes and 4 seconds. I’m fortunate, though, I’m not affected much by the heat, and don’t even use the exhaust fan often.

Which means Lowe’s shouldn’t hold its breath waiting for me to come and pick up one of those $100 loss leaders.