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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!

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Testing, testing, 1-2-what?

My Fairlady sings again…

When my wife isn’t looking after our daughter, she sings part-time in and around Sussex and uses a simple portable microphone and amplifier set for gigs. The amp and the rest of the kit lead a hard life, being transported between the car boot and venue and on one occasion, the microphone was dropped from a height.  I guess things could have been worse, it could have been the amp!

The microphone now rattled badly and seemed to cut out when connected up, even when turned up to 11.  Not a good sound when she was in the middle of ‘Moon River’.

The microphone actually came from a Lidl karaoke set and is made by Silvercrest, a Lidl brand.  It’s a heavy, metal bodied microphone with a decent quality feel and metal grilled top.

The rattle seemed to coincide with the cutting out, so it seemed sensible to open up the mic.  Three Phillips screws hold the casing together and upon opening it up, the problem quickly became apparent.  The metal weight inside had come away from the inside of the casing and was occasionally ‘shorting’ the connections on the back of the on/off switch.  Not good.

While in bits, I checked all the wiring for continuity, no problems there and decided to clean the switch with contact cleaner for good measure.  Once all the electrical side of the mic was proved, I reassembled the casing with the parts, adding a little hot-melt glue to the metal weight to prevent it coming in to contact with the back of the on/off switch.

This wasn’t the end of the song (sorry).

Upon hooking the mic up to the amp, it now worked again without cutting out, but I couldn’t help but notice that the lead connecting to the base of the mic seemed to be causing a slight crackle.  Not a nice sound effect.

Opening up the three-pin mic connector revealed a simple design, three poles soldered to the microphone’s wiring, one core and one screen.  A quick cut, strip and re-solder and the lead was ready to roll once again.  Before I did the cable crimp back up, I added another dab of hot melt glue between the cable outer and flex guard, to ensure the cable couldn’t twist, which might cause the connector to fail again.

Cost of a new microphone £20+.  Cost of repair; Time plus soldering and a bit of glue.

‘My Fairlady’ sings again…

 

 

 

 

Opening a can of worms (or not)

A little repair for my trusty Probus can opener…

Readers of this blog would have worked out by now that I’m a little bit sentimental.

A short story:

When I moved away from home, many years ago, my mum made me a ‘moving out kit’ in which contained a trusty Probus Butterfly can opener, the classic British design can opener type.  Today, it broke.  I was gutted.

You can still buy the same tool for just over £1, so it clearly doesn’t usually cost-in to repair such an item.  However, all that seemed to be wrong was a broken pivot or spindle.  The original riveted fixing had worn and eventually sheered off today when opening the cat food.

All that was needed was to re-rivet the can opener and all would be well again.  Luckily, I had some rivets lying around of the right size.  I grabbed my pop-rivet gun and 5 minutes later, it was ready to open cans once again…joy.

 

Parrot BeBop Drone knocked off perch

Sadly, I couldn’t save this Parrot

I seem to be having a run of failed repairs at the moment and while it’s disappointing to write-up a repair that didn’t succeed, it’s important to learn from failure.

A colleague asked me to look at a Parrot camera drone recently as one of the drone’s motors wasn’t running correctly.  The fault developed after a visit to a lake where it got a little wet.  It turns out that this model isn’t water-proof, despite the £300.00 price tag!

After drying out, when powered back up, one of the four motors wouldn’t spin at full speed.  These motors seem to operate in several phased windings and it would appear that one of the motor’s phases was missing.

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FixItWorkshop, Aug’17, Parrot BeBop drone

Upon opening up the drone, I discovered that the PCB had indeed suffered water damage along its main processor.  However, three of the motors were fine and camera was working OK.

The double-sided printed circuit board (PCB) presented me with a dilemma.  This PCB was fitted with extra tiny components and multi-layered board technology, presumably to save weight and cost, so a repair using conventional soldering techniques was unlikely to get good results as the excessive heat would more than likely damage other components.  Located near the wiring connector that connects to the motor that wasn’t working properly, were several tiny surface mount fuses, one of which appeared to have failed.  Assuming I could locate the right component, attempting a repair on a PCB like this would more than likely yield a molten mess! At this stage I could have used a conductive glue to bond in a new component or temporarily bridge the fuse, but on the basis that I couldn’t guarantee a repair and the fact that there seemed to be water ingress to the whole PCB, I decided that a complete PCB replacement was probably needed.  Sadly, I had to return the drone back to the owner with the bad news.

Samsung S4 mini GT-i9195 -cracked screen

I take on a phone screen replacement

I’ve never replaced a phone screen before, but since there’s a wide range of spares at reasonable prices available out there, I decided to take on this repair for a friend.  The screens on these and other smart phones are fragile.  They are made of finely machined glass, made to extremely high tolerances and therefore susceptible to damage from knocks and scrapes.  At this point usually, I might whinge on about how manufacturers do this deliberately to some extent, to bolster built-in obsolescence, but on this occasion, the break was due to the owner falling off his bike (off-road) and the phone hitting the deck, while in his pocket.  I’m amazed the damage wasn’t worse.  No hospital treatment for the owner on this occasion, just bruising and a dent to his pride.

The repair kit for such damage came in at a reasonable £8.99 and the eBay vendor promises to have the kit within a couple of days.  I’m sure you’ll all be waiting with baited breath to know how the repair goes.  I will of course keep you all updated.

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FixItWorkshop, Aug’17, Samsung G4 screen replacement.

Stay tuned.

17/08/17

The repair kit has arrived and there are lots of components in the box.  After watching a few (very good) YouTube videos on the S4, I think I’ll need a clear evening to repair the phone…

Duff CDA Microwave WD900DSL23

I couldn’t repair this one…

I don’t normally take on microwave repairs.  I don’t have reasonable means of testing, even if I managed to get something working.  However, a friend asked me to look at this one to see if ‘something simple’ had failed.  This particular model also fitted nicely in her kitchen on existing wall brackets and the thought of refitting all the brackets for another machine seemed daunting!

The microwave was doing something strange:  With microwave plugged in, the turntable turned slowly on its own, the display and control buttons completely unresponsive.  Disconnecting the power first, it was time to completely ignore the ‘do not remove cover’ sticker and remove the cover.  Hey, someone must have assembled it to start with?

A quick look at the control board revealed no obvious faults and all the thermistors and micro-switches seemed to work OK.  Since there was no other item controlling the components in the oven, it was off with the control panel PCB.  After basic testing of the surface components, I decided to run the soldering iron over the connections, in the hope that I might clear a dry joint.

This was not to be.  With the PCB reconnected, the oven powered up, the same thing happened, the turntable operated by itself.  The board was duff!

Sadly, this microwave is heading for the great scrapyard in the sky since control boards for these ovens are outrageously expensive with the cost of replacement far outweighing the cost of a complete machine.  This is such a great shame.

I doubt that many parts vendors sell many of these PCBs as most owners wouldn’t bother to order at the prices I’ve seen.

Still, we tried to save it.

Repair club in Worthing? A good idea?

An new idea for Worthing?

I enjoy repairing stuff.  Anything within reason.  Even if I don’t fully understand how something works when it comes in to the workshop, I enjoy the learning process, getting to know how and why something works.  Am I the only one? No.

There are existing groups that meet around the UK with the aim of promoting the ‘art of repair’, re-kindling the idea that things can be mended. This ultimately enriches skills while getting more life and enjoyment from every day items we often take for granted.

I’ll bet that 70% of vacuum cleaners alone that get dumped at Worthing’s Amenity Tip could be repaired and therefore saved from landfill.  I have no actual evidence for this statistic, I just made it up based only on my experience of the things I see for repair with minor faults.

Organisations like the Restart Project https://therestartproject.org hold meetings to promote electrical repair and waste reduction at various locations around the country.  I haven’t met the organisers yet, but it looks like a great scheme that’s doing really well.

Do you think a regular ‘FixIt’ meeting in Worthing would work?  Perhaps a ‘pub meet’ where people can share knowledge, tools and a drink over an appliance repair. That probably sounds like a weird idea, but many households have items that need repair or fettling every week, so there must be a demand of some sorts.

Could this work?  If you think I’m mad, get in touch.  If you think it’s a good idea, definately get in touch!

Email me…

Matt.

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Nice customer feedback: Bosch Athlet

A customer got in touch to say thanks. Always appreciated.

It’s always good to get feedback on the stuff I write here and produce for YouTube.  I welcome it all, good and bad.

Here’s a nice one, relating to my Bosch Athlet repair, I received recently.  Makes it all worthwhile.  https://fixitworkshopblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/flimsy-bosch-athlet-25-2v-cordless-vacuum-cleaner.

From a chap who’s repaired his Athlet using my video.

Just a thank you.
I went looking for a solution to the intermittent cut-out on my Bosch Athlet and found your solution. It took all of about 2 minutes once I’d found a suitable length screw and works perfectly. Like it was designed that way.

In your video you thought maybe the handle was removable to allow the attachment of some accessory. It isn’t. It’s just a way of making the box smaller for shipping.

Which means if Bosch put the hole in, and supplied a screw, it would be a much better product. (But of course, then they could sell it as no assembly required:)

But seriously, thank you. I love the Athlet, but that bloody intermittent cutting-out was really beginning to bug me. If I’m ever in Worthing I’ll buy you a pint.

Name supplied.

Well, I know a few good pubs in Worthing!

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FixItWorkshop Aug’17, Bosch Athlet repair

Happy repairs.