10 Reasons It’s STILL Cool to Fix Things

CoolFixNearly 3 years ago, this was one of this blog’s first posts. In the spirit of the renewed New Year (and to get myself blogging again) I’m reposting it, because it still rings true.

Why it’s STILL cool to fix things:
1. We live in a throw-away society, particularly here in the U.S. Repairing the old whatsit, so you don’t have to go buy a new whatsit, may seem like placing one small twig to hold back the flood of consumerism, but if everybody started doing it, we’d eventually have built a big ol’ dam, and become a more self-reliant people in the process.

2. There is beauty in function, and satisfaction in restoring it. This is true whether you’re finally hearing an engine roar to life when you turn the key, or watching a webpage load flawlessly after you’ve debugged the code, or fastening the new button you sewed on your old shirt. Fixing something feels good.

Read on…

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The Signs, They Are a Changin’

Well, the shop’s been without a sign for well over a month. The old one was looking really faded, and a failed touch-up and stencil attempt by one-who-will-remain-nameless had left us with just the word JOHN’s — with a backward-facing N! — on one side.

Overheard a neighborhood couple walking by one evening. The guy said, “Hey, their N is backwards,” and his wife replied, “Oh, that’s been that way for years.”

Ouch.

Peter and Will with the new sign

Peter and Will with the new sign

But — drumroll, please — John’s now has a brand-new sign, courtesy of famed Santa Cruz artist and muralist Peter Bartczak of Clownbank Studio. We built Peter a compressor, and he painted us an awesome new sign.

And — longer drumroll — we’re talking plans to put an actual mural on the big blank wall along the side of the shop. Peter’s designing a homage to Nikola Tesla—inventor of the AC induction motor, among many other visionary things. A fitting artwork for an electric motor repair shop for sure. More details coming soon.

Signing off for now…

Nameless no more!

Nameless no more!

The King Snake’s (Really) Bad Day…

Ruthvens_king_snake_photo_by_Mark_Kenderdine

California king snakes—a good thing. These non-venomous constrictors are found throughout California and the west. They play an important role in the eco-system by controlling rodent and frog populations and killing rattlesnakes. They are popular pet reptiles because they are attractive, easy to care for and can be tamed.

Pump motors—also a good thing. They keep wells working, fountains flowing, irrigation systems sprinkling, and spa and pool water circulating.

Snake crawling into a pump motor—not a good thing. For either one.

IMG_00000035Cause of this motor malfunction was obvious. Unfortunately, this 3-foot-long mountain king snake met its doom inside. We were able to fix the motor, but not the snake.

(Apologies to ophiophilists for the sad pics…)

Intact king snake photo by Mark Kenderdine.



IMG_00000034Motor Haiku 19

curious king snake
pumps and reptiles do not mix
wish we could fix you


Born-Again Birthday Cake Stand

100_0800This was one of those eclectic but fun-to-do jobs that come in every once in a while—a revolving musical cake stand, circa 1964, a fixture of one family’s birthday celebrations for over 50 years!

100_0801The small motor wasn’t repairable, but, undaunted, Will managed to find one of a similar vintage on e-bay. Only issue was that it played Happy Birthday in a different key. Still undaunted, he was able to adapt the music box to put it in the old key with the “new” replacement motor. So future birthday cakes can keep turning to the old familiar tune.


Motor Haiku 24

family tradition
fifty years of birthday fun
cake stand spins again


The Big Red Compressor

This one was a bit of a “franken-project.” Our customer brought us a craigslist find that consisted of a 300-gallon tank, compressor and motor. The pieces were bolted together, but none of them matched or really went together, and it didn’t run (which probably goes without saying if it was there in the shop). It was missing some key components, like a check valve and air lines. The mounting platform had been cut, welded and painted over. The challenge: to turn this collection of mismatched parts into a viable compressor.

RedCompressor1It took a while. One of the first things we did was swap out the motor, exchanging the 1 horsepower that was on there with a rebuilt 4 horse we had at the shop, and drilling holes in the mounting platform to align it. We modified a check valve and brazed it in place. Probably the biggest challenge was the air lines. We couldn’t use rubber or plastic hose, and the teflon hose that could take the heat of the compressor wouldn’t bend enough to make the connections. So we wound up custom-bending some copper tubing.

Hmmm. Writing it up like that makes it sound a lot easier than it was. But after seven or eight failed attempts that all led to other adjustments, we finally got it running. Pumped it up and let it sit under pressure for 24 hours to make sure it would hold air. Success! Nothing like hearing a collection of mismatched parts purr to useful life. And our customer got a 300-gallon working compressor for less than 1/3 the price of a new one!

Pretty sweet deal all around.


RedCompressor2Motor Haiku 41

big red compressor
we build up like Frankenstein
air flows—it’s alive!


Of Mice and Merlot

The Crusher

The Crusher

This was one of the fun jobs that came in last fall—a wooden grape crusher from a local winery. Was working fine when it went into storage after last year’s harvest, but now the motor wasn’t working at all. But we had a clue: “When I went to move it from storage, a mouse ran out.”

mousemugshot

The Culprit

Sure enough, the mouse had chewed through some of the wiring. Rewired the motor, and this neat old machine lived to crush another day.

In keeping with the harvest theme, that same week we repaired a cider press for Mountain Feed and Farm—one of finest farm, garden and homesteading stores you’ll find anywhere—just in time for their Preserve the Harvest Festival.


grapecrusher2Motor Haiku 23

pick the ripe red orbs
wine making waits for no mouse
grape crusher restored


10 Reasons It’s Cool to Fix Things

CoolFixWhy it’s cool to fix things:
1. Let’s start with one of the most obvious. We live in a throw-away society, particularly here in the U.S. Repairing the old whatsit, so you don’t have to go buy a new whatsit, may seem like placing one small twig to hold back the flood of consumerism, but if everybody started doing it, we’d eventually have built a big ol’ dam, and become a more self-reliant people in the process.

2. There is beauty in function, and satisfaction in restoring it. This is true whether you’re finally hearing an engine roar to life when you turn the key, or watching a webpage load flawlessly after you’ve debugged the code, or fastening the new button you sewed on your old shirt. Fixing something feels good.

Read on…

New Year, New Blog

A blog for an electric motor repair shop? Seriously? Well, these days it seems like everyone online has got a blog and gotta blog, so why not give it a go.

To date the John’s Electric Motor Service website has had nearly 700 views and close to 300 visitors. OK, hardly earthshaking, and perhaps some simply got lost in their search for Papa John’s Pizza. But for a local, long-time old-school motor repair shop that just got on board the Internet engine last July, it’s pretty exciting to have people find us online. And, thus, we begin the John’s Electric Motor Blog… because it’s cool to fix things.

Stay tuned for posts about:

  • What’s On the Workbench (some of the interesting jobs that come through the shop)
  • Electric Motor Lore (for the motor geeks among us)
  • Question Box (things people ask us through the website or in person)
  • Motor Haiku (the zen of motor repair and finding the poetry in the practical pursuit of making things work again)

Motor Haiku 1

how the world is run?
electromagnetism
motors everywhere


Let us know what you think. (Wheaton’s Law applies…)