Elna SP sewing machine… Totally stitched up.

A Sewing Machine Repair…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath book

This toy wasn’t singing at its best…

My daughter was kindly given a V-Tech Splash & Sing baby book and always enjoyed singing along to the music it made.  It’s a splash-proof book which is suitable for bath time play, but not necessarily for complete submersion at 100 metres!

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FixItWorkshop, Sep’17, V-Tech Splash & Sing baby bath time book.

It’s a battery operated toy and has an on/off switch and volume control on the front.  If the middle page of the book is squeezed in a couple of places, there are small switch buttons inside the book page itself, the corresponding the tune changes, relating to the picture on the page- I hope that makes sense.

The tunes on this book stopped changing with button presses and it became annoying to here the same tune constantly being played at bath time.  Very annoying.

The casing is held together with a few Pozi-head screws and after a bit of wriggling, the pages came free from the spine (the bit with the batteries and on/off switch).

Upon testing, the wires between the pages and the spine had broken internally and no longer connected to the corresponding page buttons.  They’d probably broken as the pages were turned over a good few uses.

This toy is definitely not designed to be repaired.  The only way to get to the wiring was to cut open the page, cut out the damaged wiring and replace it with something a bit tougher.  The previous wiring was very flimsy and it would only be a matter of time before it broke, too soon.

I decided to use some thin gauge speaker cable, the sort you find in cheap portable radios for the repair.  This worked really well and after some careful soldering and gluing of the cut-open page, the toy was ready for reassembly.

This repair probably wouldn’t cost in, in the real world, but I hate extreme built-in obsolescence and this toy showed examples of it.

Cost of the toy, circa £14.00.  Cost of repair; my time plus some old wire I had lying about.

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

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.