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Brian's Repair and Reuse Diary: August 2020

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Problem: A quite nice old wooden chair had been left out in the wet and the whole seat panel had split down the middle. Rather hazardous.

Solution: Wedge the 2 parts sufficiently apart to put wood glue on each side of the split using a thin sliver of wood to coat glue on each side of the split. Clamp up with sash clamps for a couple of days to let glue set hard then screw a reinforcing piece of 6mm plywood under the seat to further strengthen it. It has survived considerable sitting since the repair and all seems well.

Problem: Constant drip from one of two overflow pipes just below roof level.

Solution: First find the source [most likely to be either the main water tank or the header tank for the central heating system]. Both in the attic space which is largely unfloored, so there's a real risk of putting a foot between the joists and through the plaster board ceiling. Bad for ceiling and also for leg.

Then find if one of the tanks - the big one or the small one - is the source. Both will have so-called float valves that should shut off the flow into the tank. They often fail because a small rubber pad is worn out and sometimes it's a simple job to replace. [My Dad taught me although he was an accountant, not a plumber]. Both tanks should have lids and are often swathed in insulation. All this has to come off so you can see inside. In this case it was the heating header tank [the small one]. When the water level pushes the float towards the top of the tank it should move the valve into its closed position. If the valve isn't working properly, there'll be a constant drip of water into the tank.

I decided to take the valve off and see if I could repair it by replacing the small rubber pad that should close off the water inflow. Briefly, this didn't work, so I ordered a new valve.

Well, I'm not a professional plumber so how would I know this...? On all the websites I looked at it seems that everyone who sells these valves specifies them in fractions of an inch. None of this Euro Metric nonsense. I measured the old valve across the outside of the main inflow pipe - 3/4” and ordered a 3/4” valve [£29]. It arrived promptly and was obviously much bigger than the original. I then discovered that despite lock down the local plumbing supplier was open. They instantly identified the failed valve as a 1/2” and immediately produced one. I was completely unable to find any measurement of exactly 1/2” on this thing so remain intrigued to learn the mystery of the plumbers measuring system. Anyway, the new item was the right size, bolted in easily and cured the problem. And it was only £8.

Moral: Go to the local plumbing shop!

Problem: Cheap (Aldi - £30) Electric lawnmower died in mid lawn.

Solution: Likely to be in the safety switch mechanism (the type where you press a button and pull the lever to make it go).

Snag: The switch cover is attached with a special type of TORX screw which needs a tool that I didn't have.

However, a well equipped neighbour produced the vital bit and 5 screws later the cover was easy to remove. Inside is an ingenious set of levers, all plastic, that interact to press a simple off/on switch - except that they don't if they get a little worn. No problem with the switch. One press and the machine functions normally.

First attempt to fix: Lined up all the bits carefully, reassembled, mower ran perfectly – until mid lawn when it began to stop intermittently and soon totally refused to respond to the switch.

Second attempt to fix/Solution: I put on a pad of about 2mm of adhesive tape on the little green lever to increase the pressure on the switch, and another small square of tap to hold it in place. Since this treatment the machine has been working normally.

Problem: More bust chairs. Folding chairs [IKEA] broken seat slat.

Solution: Cut a strip of oak about 6mm thick to fit under the broken slat. Glue with wood glue and hold in place with 1” screws to secure in place till glue set. [Cant use screws as a secure fixing as the wood is to thin]. Once glue is really set – about 2 days – remove these screws as the sharp ends a re sticking out. Put 4 small screws in from the top, i.e the sitting-on side for extra reinforcement.

Problem: ...and all of the seat slats are loose in the other one.

Solution: On the underside of the seat on both sides screw a strip of wood onto the slats. Then screw this to the side rails of the chair. This holds all the slats in place and should last for the life of the chair. Boring but effective!

Problem: Bosch steam iron (the kind with separate iron and steam generator) shows red light and won't produce steam.

SOLUTION NO. I read the Bosch Manual and looked at several YouTube videos. The main diagnostic mentioned is to test for electrical continuity at several points in the machine. Another YouTube check. This is easy using a multimeter and following the instructions. I did all the checks – normal – no problem detectable. Then watched the rest of what seemed the best video. The technician said even if you find a defective part you have to get the replacement from Bosch and it's usually cheaper to buy a new iron.

This, I hope, links easily into one of the Repair Cafe themes -

Planned Obsolescence and what still works after several decades.

Below are pictures of 2 trusty old friends – Sony transistor radios that just keep on working. Although I have had to replace the antenna on both of them after small accidents.


No repairs needed in a long life

Sony Portable multi band radio. I Bought this to take on a work trip to Zimbabwe in 1988 and still use it every day. I replaced the antenna a few years ago after breaking the original. Four cheap AA batteries keep it going for months.

Sony Portable VHF radio, mid 1970's (?) Still in regular use. We run it on mains so I don't know about its battery life.

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