the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur (plonq) wrote,
the Sweet Smell of Burning Fur

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I'm all handy and stuff (pictures unrelated)

When my boss told me to take the second half of the day off work yesterday, my brain struggled to come up with something productive I could do with my day and for reasons only it can appreciate, it decided that I should mow the lawn. In fairness, the lawn did need mowing, but that is hardly the kind of thing that I would choose to do on my day off. Still, it is never wise to cross your brain, because if you do that too many times then the next thing you know, you have bodies buried under your basement.

But I digress.

The ground was still a little muddy on the east side of the house where I started cutting, and the mower was struggling a bit in spots. I have heard it struggle worse, but as I cleared the worst section, the mower suddenly died. I assumed that I had blown its breaker. I have never blown its breaker before, but it is starting to get up there in years, and breakers start to trip more readily as they age. I pressed the breaker button to reset it, but to no effect. Hm. Then it occurred to me that I may have broken one of the breakers in the house.

Rewiring the house is one of those items that is on our long-term check list, coming a step or two down from landscaping the yard, replacing the bathroom and restoring the hardwood floors. Our house is wired in an interesting fashion. We have effectively two breakers; one that powers everything, and one that we can't figure out what it does1. I ran down to the basement, but none of the breakers appeared to be tripped. On a whim, I grabbed a trouble light from the garage and tested it in the front outlet that I was using for the mower.

The light lit.

I plugged the mower back in, pressed its reset button once more and tried the power lever again. The mower spun right up, but the moment I moved it forward, it died again. Although I did not hear the arcing, I narrowed it down very quickly to a broken wire in its power cord. The wire was just barely exposed from the control box mounted to the mower's handle, and I knew that fixing it would involve stripping the control mechanism apart - assuming I had the right tools to do that.

I wheeled the mower around to the back of the house and fetched every set of screw drivers and pliers that I could lay my fingers on. I removed the screws holding the control box together and pried it apart. After some prying, it literally flew apart, and two springs that I assumed were probably important flew off in opposite directions. I found one, but the other proved to be very elusive. I figured out pretty quickly that the spring that I had found (the lever return spring) was much more important than the one that I could not find (the button return spring).

To use the mower, you press down a spring-loaded button and then squeeze the dead-man's handle to power it up. Squeezing the handle would rotate the button, which in turn would press an internal button that powers up the mower. As long as you kept the handle squeezed, the button would remain locked down. When you released the handle, the button would rotate back to its neutral position and spring back out to its rest point. It seemed a bit Rube Goldbergesque, but it worked.

Once I had it all apart, it was easy to find where the wire was broken. I could trim the broken part away easily enough, but there was an added complication that one of the wires had an insulated female end crimped to it that I would need to cut off and replace. This was easily done if, say, one happened to have a package of female ends handy, and a crimper. I had neither, so I bided my time figuring out how everything would go back together - sans button-return spring - and then I bundled up all of the parts and put them back in the garage.

After we returned home from the farmers' market today, I told atara that I was heading off on a holy quest to seek a female connection. Fortunately I was holding the connector in my hand at the time, and she was aware that the lawn mower was broken, so there was no awkwardness in that exchange. I asked her to keep an eye out for a missing spring that, while ostensibly unimportant, would make the lawn mowing a more ergonomically pleasant experience.

"What kind of spring?" she asked.

"One like this," I said, bending down and picking up the erstwhile lost spring. It became obvious that I had not spotted it yesterday because I had been standing on it. The spring was in a very sorry, flattened state. Fortunately some delicate work with a pair of needle nose pliers brought its name and its state back into happy harmony.

At this point I need to launch into a brief lament over the slow disappearance of electronic hobby stores that used to be so ubiquitous back in the 70s and early 80s. I remember when Radio Shack (or The Source as it is called up here now) used to have one whole wall devoted to parts. There were all the resistors, transistors, wires, connectors and tools that most casual hobbiests might ever desire. We have one not too far from our house, and I vaguely remembered them having a pathetic little collection of connectors the last time I was in there.

Not only did they not have a very common female wire end, but the girl who helped me acted as if she had never seen such a thing. The store has slowly morphed into a mini version of Best Buy, with nothing but the latest trendy consumer electronics. Bah. Fortunately there was a Canadian Tire in the same mall, and they had the parts that I needed.

In the end, I managed to reassemble the mechanism without electrocuting either of us, and without setting the house or the lawn mower on fire. It worked on the first try, and because I fixed a couple of misaligned parts in it, it works better now than it did before it broke in the first place. I feel all handy and stuff.

As much as I miss some of the summer vegetables at the farmers' market (like asparagus), I think that the fall market is my favourite. It is so wonderfully colourful in the fall when all of the gourds and melons, tomatoes, peppers and fall flowers are all coming together at once. I won't bother describing the pictures below because I think they are pretty self-explanatory.

Assorted Peppers


Fall Colours

Fall Flowers

Peppers and Tomatoes

1OK, it's not quite that bad, but we have way too many things wired up to individual breakers in the house. The garage plus the bedroom. Back of the house plus the basement. Whole front of the house except for that one light, etc.
Tags: electrical, handyman, lawn mower, market, peppers
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