Saturday, March 28, 2009

The $50 Sock

It all started when I noticed that the washing machine was sitting idle last Sunday evening with a tub that was filled with a king size set of sheets, a whole bunch of laundry besides, AND a pillow. The sitting idle wouldn't have been so very awful if it weren't for the fact that they were completely submerged in lukewarm rinse-water, as well. I knew my weekend was not going to end on a high note.

I figured that the washing machine may have shut itself down due to an imbalanced load (not to mention a load that looked far to heavy for our basic residential unit), so I removed the pillow and attempted to restart it. Nothing but a loud hum coming from some indeterminate location. Crap.

I bailed a few gallons of water from the tub and again attempted to restart the machine. Again with the same loud hum from some mysterious location in the depths of the machine. I didn't like where this was going, but I knew what had to be done - I pulled out my least favorite (but most useful) book, the one about fixing your own appliances.

That book has helped me out of many a jam involving the self-same washing machine, its errant mate the dryer, and my gas stove, as well. I haven't had to deal with the refrigerators or the freezer chest yet (knock wood), but I'm sure that book'll help me figure them out.

I referred to the section at the top of the clothes washer section's first page: "Washer won't start". I hate starting at that one, because the very first suggestion is "Is the washing machine plugged in?" and I always have to smack my head and exclaim "Now, why the heck did I not think of that?!" Then I start in with the real fun stuff. I went through checking the electrical connections throughout, then tested the resistance on the timer and the timer motor, and checked for bubbles in the water level tube.

Then I fast forwarded to where I had a very bad feeling the problem really lay. I followed the instructions in the book about checking the continuity of circuits between the various leads going into the motor, and discovered that there was one pair of leads that didn't seem quite right. "Aha!" thought I, "they're a great band from Norway who had that cool hit song from 1985 with the really awesomely artsy pencil-drawn video!" Then I remembered that I was supposed to be solving this motor mystery.

I concluded that the motor was likely burned out from the heavy load, so I looked up new motors on line. Hoo boy - the three or four places I found dealing with this kind of motor wanted anywhere from $120 to $145 for a new one. Then I remembered to try eBay, and found a used one for $25 (plus $25 for shipping). I couldn't justify dropping a new motor into a 15-year old machine (let alone a machine that's seen us through two adults' and six kids' worth of laundry day in and day out for all that time), so I bought the eBay motor.

When the new-used motor arrived Thursday, I eagerly got into the job of replacing the old one with this one. Of course, that meant dismantling the washing machine again (but by now I could do it blindfolded), then put everything back together again with the new-used motor. I hit the start button with high hopes, only to be met by that same frustrating hum again. I used a few words I'll not repeat in a family-friendly account of the proceedings, then took to the book again.

Among the many pages in the book dealing with washing machines, I finally found a small little paragraph going through the best steps by which to perform troubleshooting of this nature, and just before checking the motor itself was something about checking the pump. Ohhh, the pump. That part that would normally be able to pull the water out of the tub of the washer when you're otherwise hearing the electric hum of the motor along with it.


So I pulled the plastic pump off the new-used motor (which didn't seem to quite fit right either), and peeked inside. And that's where I discovered The $50 Sock.

It's the attack of The $50 Sock

After wrestling for another 20 minutes trying to pull the stinking sock out of the pump because it was wrapped entirely around the impeller (and you can't take the pump apart because it's a solid body unit), I finally got the sock out, put the pump back on the washing machine (after putting the old motor back on because there probably wasn't anything wrong with it after all - and when confronted with a choice between two evils, one should always go with the evil they're more familiar with anyway), and hit the start button again.

Yay! This time there was success (and much rejoicing)! So now we can do the laundry again, which when I spell it out and look at it like this, isn't really all that exciting. And of course there's the extra spare motor I've got sitting in a box out in the garage. But hey, it was something to do, right...?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hot Date Night and the Arrow of Light!

Long time, no see!

Yeah, it's been crazy busy here at SmileMoon Labs as well as at Chez SmileMoon! Just this past week saw us with our oldest home from school for spring break and me completing a small project for my sons' Cub Scout organization. It was an Arrow of Light display for the crossing over ceremony (Webelos to Boy Scouts) and represents the only badge the scouts are allowed to keep from their Cub Scout days as they progress up the ranks of Boy Scouts.

Arrow of Light Display

The finished piece is made from a glued up plank of walnut (42" by 18") for the face of the display (salvaged from award plaques found in a closed down industrial facility) and poplar (purchased specifically for the project) to make the lightbox (40" by 17" by 9"). There's a fluorescent light fixture inside the lightbox, and tapered holes drilled into the top of it for the ceremonial candles. The carving of the design on the face was done freehand with a router from scaled measurements made from the Arrow of Light badge.

The piece was shown at the Arrow of Light ceremony on March 19th and was well received by the leaders and other parents. Sadly, it's been put in storage until next year's ceremony. On the bright side, I've still got one more son in Cub Scouts and one more who may join in the fall, so I'll still get to see the display pulled out and used a few more times.

Date Night

Mrs SmileMoon and I went out this weekend for a bit of a date night at the local watering hole. Neither of us is a huge party animal, and the venue we selected was unusually quiet for a Saturday night, so this suited us perfectly. While we were relaxing with our first Blue Moons, my lovely young bride took a pen out of her purse, and proceeded to set up a game of hangman on her placemat. "Hee hee," thought I! "This should be no problem!" Well, I went down in flames in the first match and she guessed the phrase I'd set up for her with only two wrong guesses.

Before long, the phrases took on a pattern of thought involving many of our pet phrases and (very) brief descriptions of events in our relationship. Phrases like "mushroom swiss burger" (her meal on our first date - unpretentious and showing me she was not afraid to be sloppy in my presence), "skirt of the month" (a fictitious club thought up to celebrate the limited wardrobe of one of our former neighbors), and "giant bandaid" (this would take too long to explain and probably wouldn't be funny to anyone but us, but she still gets tears in her eyes laughing about it 20 years after the fact) were among many of the choices we had to figure out for each other before our greasy comfort food was served.

This was such a funny way to bring up events that we've laughed at in the past, I felt it would be fun to share it as an idea, especially if, like us, you've got a few years invested in your relationship and have more to laugh about than not.