Featured

Diary of a tinkerer

On this blog, I’ll be writing about the things I fix and those I can’t, or are just beyond economical help.  I hope my ramblings will at least inspire others to think twice before just accepting that something doesn’t work.

To those who doubt their own ability I say this:  If ‘that thing’ isn’t working, grab a screwdriver, take it apart and investigate.  What have you got to lose?

Within reason, I’ll try and repair most domestic items before condemning them to landfill or recycling and I hope there are many other shed-dwellers doing the same thing.

In our modern ‘throw it away culture’ one could be called ‘cheap’ for attempting to make-do-and-mend.  This is madness as often good quality items end up on the scrap heap with little required to get them back in working order.

While throwing things in the bin and buying new is good news for the economy, we live in a world where the strains on our environment are increasingly evident and repairing things that can be repaired usually makes economic and ecological sense.  I’m a Circular Economy advocate.

My aim here is to promote the art of repair and reuse.  I also offer a local repair service in Worthing, West Sussex, UK, for a small fee, if I can fix it!

Advertisements

Elna SP sewing machine… Totally stitched up.

A Sewing Machine Repair…

On first impressions, this machine didn’t have a lot going for it.  It had been stored in a garden shed, never the best place to store a sewing machine, it was dirty, neglected and broken.  However, the weight of it indicated that this was a quality item and worth investigating.

IMG_4653
FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing Machine in case.

This machine comes from a different time in manufacturing where the focus was on quality rather than on price-point in the market and as a result, it’s made to outlive most people.  In fact, many electric sewing machines made by Elna, Singer, Toyota, Janome, Brother and so on, built until the 1980s, are items of sheer mechanical excellence inside and should be cherished.  Anyway, on with the problem and repair.

The owner had stashed the machine away many years ago and as a result, it had seized.  Details of the fault were scant, I was just told that it didn’t work!  Upon powering it up and operating the foot pedal, the hand wheel turned slightly before making a horrible mains AC hum.  It was time to un-plug, rapidly.

IMG_4651
FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP.

There are exposed oiling points on the Elna SP, a nice maintenance touch, but clearly these hadn’t been used in many a year.  Opening up the machine’s lid on top of the motor and bobbin transmission cover below revealed a lot of dirt and neglect which I first cleaned and then oiled lightly with special oil, in to all the moving parts.  Automotive brake cleaner was used to remove old dirt and grease from the needle area and gears.  New grease was then applied to the parts that needed it and more oil to other ‘metal on metal’ parts.  The trick here is to not apply so much oil that it ends up on the fabric being stitched.

Once the machine was running smoothly again, I noticed that the bobbin shuttle wasn’t turning, not even a little bit.  Not ideal.  Time to delve a little deeper and on this machine, it meant complete disassembly of the bobbin shuttle assembly, which then revealed a stripped worm-drive hook gear (part 403030).  This seems to be a fairly common issue on these machines as they get older.

403030
FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, part 403030 for Elna SP.

Obtaining a new hook gear was quite easy via eBay; BSK (Bedford Sewing Knitting Machines) supplied the part for a reasonable £15.99 including P&P within 24 hours.  Once fitted, it was a case of fine-tuning the bobbin/ hook timing to suit the needle.  It’s a similar principle to valve and ignition timing on a petrol engine car, a process that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever done any spannering on an old Mini or Escort for example.

With the timing complete, a few tests using old material revealed that the machine was working once again with no missed stitches.  I gave the machine a final polish with car wax before handing it back to the owner for my own satisfaction.

 

IMG_4652
FixItWorkshop, Nov’17, Elna SP Sewing machine repaired.

Thanks also to More Sewing in Worthing, West Sussex for their advice on machine oil.  www.moresewing.co.uk.

Cost of a new machine (of this quality): £500 plus.  Cost of repair:  £15.99, plus time, plus a little oil and patience.

Gaggia Classic machine wakes up to smell the coffee.

A Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine repair…

A simple repair…. That’s what I thought when a friend asked if I could look at his Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, which had developed a nasty little leak when in use.  The coffee wasn’t all that good either, due to the lack of pressure available, caused by the leak.  In short, it needed attention.

IMG_3616
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, with a leak.

The owner had already bought a repair kit consisting of the main seals/ gaskets that commonly fail, so I thought no problem, take to pieces, replace seals, happy days.  Er, not quite.

Once I’d stripped the machine down, pretty straightforward on these machines, the bare parts were exposed, which revealed the problem.  After being fired up briefly, not to make coffee I’d like to point out, water could be seen escaping from the boiler unit, a alloy bodied lump of metal, split in two halves, held together by 4 screws.  The boiler, as the name suggests, heats the water up with one heating element  and creates steam for the steam wand, with another element, all part of the same module.

After separating the boiler halves, I traced the leak to a faulty gasket, but crucially, one side of the mating faces was heavily corroded and unlikely to re-seal with a new part fitted on its own.  Remedial action was required.

This model is a few years old and a replacement boiler is still available on a few websites and prices vary from £40 to £60 at the time of writing, so at that price, starts to make the cost of repair unviable.

I decided that the face with the corrosion had enough material to withstand loosing some, so went about sanding the worst of the corrosion away before gradually moving on to  smoother and smoother sandpaper.

Because Gaggia Classics are fairly common, I decided to video this repair process as I suspect the corrosion affects many machines with age and just fitting a repair kit won’t cure the problem on its own.  See below.  I hope it helps anyone else with the same machine facing the same problem.

 

Once I was happy with the new finish, I fitted a new gasket and reassembled the boiler.  After putting it all back together, I purged several tanks of water through the system to remove debris, before attempting a cup of coffee.  Once filled up with my favourite Lidl coffee, the machine performed well once again with no leaks and the end product tasted great.

Cost of a new machine:  £249.00.  Cost of repair:  £4.50, plus time.

 

 

Raucous Kenwood Chef A701a

A noisy Kenwood Chef A701a gets a gearbox rebuild.

This Chef had been sleeping quietly in a kitchen cupboard for some time before being woken up to make cake mixtures once again.  The owner had owned the mixer for many years from new and was sentimentally attached to it.  I fully sympathise, they’re great machines.  It had been used many times in the past and then packed away as new machines came and went.  Having decided that there was still a place for the A701a, it was fired up.

The owner didn’t remember it being quite as noisy and wondered if something was wrong with it.  She got in touch and brought it in to the workshop.   After listening to the mixer at varying speeds, we agreed that perhaps it was a bit noisy and that further investigation was required.

 At this stage I must confess at this repair has been on the bench for a long while..!

I think the A701 is my favourite Kenwood Chef product as it’s very elegant, beautifully proportioned and almost over-engineered.  It comes from a time where built-in obsolescence was a swear word.

White removed
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef, A701a,

On with the problem.  After disconnecting the gearbox by removing the drive belt, I checked the motor for general wear and tear, the brushes and speed control mechanism and I concluded that it all seemed OK and working smoothly.  The gearbox however did seem a bit noisy when turned manually, nothing hideously graunchy, but a little rough.  To be honest, it would have probably survived, but I wanted to open up the gearbox to make sure that it was as it should be.

Whilst removing the Chef’s casing around the gearbox, I’d noticed traces of grease around the joints and various power take-offs.  All models seem to do this to an extent, but this one seemed to be quite bad.  Closer inspection revealed that some of the grease had escaped out of the seal between the two halves of the gearbox casing.  Opening up the casing revealed that the grease that was left had been pushed to the corners of the space within the gearbox and that the gears were a bit dry, this was probably the root cause of the noise.  The planet wheel that drives the beater was also bone dry.

Luckily, there are plenty of suppliers who can supply rebuild kits for Kenwood Chef gearboxes, including new gears and grease.  The gears in this seemed serviceable, but it seemed very sensible to replace the lubricant with the correct 130g of Kenwood gearbox grease, which is food safe.  I used ‘Kenwood Chef Restore’, an eBay seller and the kit was a reasonable £10.99, including P&P.  The kit included the main gearbox grease, white grease for the planet gear and sealant for the gearbox casing.

IMG_4570
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A701a, repair kit from Kenwood Chef Restore, eBay.

Before replacing anything, the first job was to clean out all traces of the original grease which had gone very sticky and was contaminated with general wear.   The first pass clean involved using paper toweling, followed by water and detergent, before a final clean with brake cleaner, which removed the last few traces of grease and dirt.

With the gearbox refilled and resealed making sure the spacers were re-fitted to the correct parts, the drive belt re-fitted with just enough slack, the gears sounded much sweeter with the final parts of the casing reassembled.  One last point to note is that I used silicone sealant on the blender attachment power take-off plate in replacement to the one fitted, since the original seal was well past it (see below).

As a finishing touch, I replaced the existing machine feet which had turned to mush with replacements from Sussex Spares (eBay shop) for a very reasonable £2.70, delivered.

The Chef was now ready to prepare cake mixtures again.

Cost of new machine: £300 and up.  Cost of replacement parts: £13.69 (plus my time).

 

Kenwood Chef A901 -a fishy story!

If your Kenwood Chef A901 starts to smell of burning, don’t despair, it can usually be saved.

I had an enquiry via this site from a fisherman who was very upset that his trusty Kenwood Chef A901 had given up the ghost.  Rather than using the Chef to make Victoria sponges, it had been used to prepare fishing bait.  It just demonstrates how versatile these machines are.

Kenwood Chef A901
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Kenwood Chef A901 with motor speed control fault.

Whilst it was in use, the owner witnessed a bang then the smell of burning before the machine came to a halt.  The plug was quickly pulled!

Whilst discussing the fault on the phone, I suspected that the fault was probably due to the failure of the motor speed control circuitry, which is known to fail with age.  I had carried out similar repairs to other machines, including my own (in this blog) so agreed to take a look.

I received the machine quickly and upon inspection, the machine had obviously been cared for and considering its age, was in good condition.  The smell of burned-out components was clear, lifting it out of the box.

Dismantling the machine and removing the motor on the A901 is fairly straightforward, providing you allow time and make notes on where things go.  The components that need to be replaced are very accessible and anyone with moderate soldering skills would be OK with this task.

Luckily, the Chef is very well supported by long-term aftermarket suppliers and I bought an off-the-shelf spares kit at £14.10 delivered, from KAParts (www.kaparts.co.uk) via eBay, featuring upgraded components.  This kit is a little dearer, but component technology has moved on since this machine was first on the market, so fitting anything else is a false economy in my opinion.

With the old components removed and replacements fitted, the motor ran smoothly and fully reassembled, the machine is now ready to mix bait mixtures once again.  Lovely.

Cost of a new machine: Circa £300 and up.  Cost of repair:  £44.10 (kit plus my time).

Here’s a little video I made of the repair.

Enjoy.

 

Lucky Voice Microphone without the X-Factor

Lucky Voice Microphone repaired.

A colleague of mine came in with a broken microphone, which is part of a Lucky Voice karaoke set and retails for about £60.00 on Amazon.  The microphone had worked pretty well, but recently had lost its ‘X-Factor’ somewhat.

The microphone is fairly standard fare and connects to a standard XLR plug and socket arrangement.  As this part is usually under the most stress as the singer moves about, it seemed sensible to have a look at that first.  Upon connection to my amp, there was a huge amount of crackling which seemed to coincide with cable movements at the microphone end.  Swapping the lead for a known good one I had proved that the microphone was fine, but the lead not so fine.

Only one screw holds the plug together and straightaway, the problem presented itself.

IMG_4519
FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, X-Factor microphone, XLR connector.

The main core had detached from the connector, as the outer cable sheathing has come away from the XLR connector body clamp.  Not ideal.

A quick strip back and solder job and the wires were connected back where they needed to be.  A little dab of hot-melt glue on the cable grip and a re-tighten and the cable was not going to move anyway.

With the plug re-assembled and the screw put back, the microphone tested perfectly on the amp, ready for karaoke once more.

Cost of a new similar lead: £10,  Cost of repair: 15 minutes, dab of glue and solder.  Nice.

Hubble bubble toy’s in trouble.

This bubble machine needed more huff and puff.

About a year ago, we bought an Early Learning Centre Freddy the Fish Bubble Machine for our daughter and it’s been a great addition to summer garden fun, as it unleashes thousands of bubbles per minute.  It’s been truly bubble-tastic.

However, it’s decided to become a little temperamental of late when switched on.  With good batteries and a full tank of bubble fuel, the machine would sometimes cough and sputter and generally be a disappointment in the bubble-making department.

The toy is shaped like a fish, like the name suggests and has a small reservoir for the bubble mix and a carousel of bubble wands operated by a motor which is ‘blown’ by a small fan inside, to inflate the bubbles to the optimal size.

The fault:  The fan would sometimes, by itself, vary in speed, reducing the speed of the air though the bubble wand carousel, which would limit the quantity and quality of bubbles produced.  Most disappointing.

The toy is held together by small Pozi-drive screws and the whole things comes apart in two halves.  It gets a bit tricky inside as there are a few small components held in place using the internal plastic parts.  After testing the batteries, I thought I’d start by testing the action of the on/off switch which seemed to click on/ off OK, but I wondered what the quality of the electrical mechanism was like.  A quick test with the multi-meter revealed slightly variable resistances, indicating either damp or dirt had entered the switch, highly likely considering what the toy does.

IMG_4091.JPG
FixItWorkshop, Sept’17, Early Learning Centre Freddy Fish Bubble Machine

The switch is reasonably well protected from the elements, but I suspect it had become immersed in water, not really what the switch or toy is meant to handle.  It’s not Ingress Protected Rated (IP).

The switch isn’t really designed to be repaired, but after a few minutes bending the small tabs holding it together, I revealed the switch contacts.  A quick clean with switch cleaner and blue towel and the switch was working as it should once more.  Once reassembled, the toy performed well once again and was soon filling the garden with bubbly magic.

Turning back time: Bentima mantelpiece Westminster chimes clock

A little clock repair

Someone got in touch regarding a family heirloom clock that wasn’t running.  The Bentima clock itself was in good overall condition and considering its age, had been in the same family for a couple of generations or so.  The owner really missed the clock ticking and chimes on the hour.

WP_20170922_12_02_47_Pro
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Bentima mantelpiece clock.

Access to the clock’s mechanism is pretty straightforward on this type of clock as there’s a simple wooden door on the back with a catch.  Opening up that door reveals a weighted pendulum with escapement above.  It was clear that someone, at some point, had replaced the pendulum spring and that all that was probably required was a minor adjustment to make the ‘tick match the tock’, or in other words, get the clock back ‘in beat’…tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock… evenly spread.

WP_20170922_12_00_46_Pro
FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, Bentima mantelpiece clock, mechanism.

On this mechanism, all that was needed was a level surface and a small flat-bladed screwdriver to slightly move the pendulum pivot point. Once running, a small adjustment to slow-down the running was needed (time was too fast), but this was easily adjusted using the knurled screw on the pendulum.  I recommended that if a flat level surface at home couldn’t be found, 1 penny pieces could be used under the clock’s feet to restore balance.  A nice little repair.

Cost of a clock like this:  Check eBay.  Cost of repair; my time.