What’s in your man-drawer?

I discuss some basic tools that should be found in every home…

I think it was Michael McIntyre who first referred to the man-drawer as ‘the funniest drawer in the kitchen’, full of all the ‘that’ll come in handy items’ that we accumulate over time.  It’s brilliant observational comedy, and he nailed it so well that today, we often refer to the ‘man drawer’ as a thing in our homes.  The reason that the joke still resonates today is that it’s true.  But, what should be in a man (or woman) drawer for the conscious home maintainer?

Toolbox talk!

I want to talk about the tools that I think every home should have. Tools that could empower you with a fighting chance of having a go at fixing something yourself. The tools that will help you get the best from your appliances, make things last longer and help save you money.  If you already have a good selection of tools, skip the next paragraph and head straight to the ‘common jobs, useful tools to have’ section.  If not, do read on.

Let’s bust some tool-related myths. Firstly; tools are expensive.  Sure, like anything in life, you can pay through the nose for a set of screwdrivers or spanners if you want to, and there’s a tool quality to suit all circumstances and pockets.  But here’s the thing, for most DIY purposes, a reasonable set of basic screwdrivers costs less than a tenner and the best part is that you’ll get that money back again and again when they’re put to use.  Secondly, you need to be an ‘expert’ to use tools.  Well, a knife and fork are tools and we all (hopefully) use those, so don’t be deterred by people who might dissuade you from tackling jobs yourself.  I’m wary of the term ‘expert’ anyway.  In my experience, experts are a rare thing. Luckily, these days, most of us have access to YouTube.  Search for the thing that’s foxing you and the chances are that one of the 2.3 billion users have an answer. 

Before you reach for your phone to fix a dripping tap, if you haven’t got some already, you’ll need to arm yourself with some basic tools.  Below is a brief summary of tools I think every home should have and what I think they can be used for.  Some jobs are obvious, some less so.

Common jobs, 6 useful tools to have

1:  Small flat-blade electricians’ screwdriver. I think it’s possible to write a thesis on the usefulness of a small flat-blade screwdriver, but I’ll spare you that for now.  For small change, you can buy one and use it to: Wire a plug, adjust light fittings, get batteries out of a gadget, scrape-off old paint from a surface, prising something open, cleaning nooks and crannies. A screwdriver like this has uses beyond screws.

2:  Pliers and cutter combination tool.  Really useful for cutting and shaping garden wire, fixing Christmas lights, fixing kids toys, recovering items that have ‘fallen down a gap’ not forgetting cutting and trimming wire.  If you have a bike, a lawnmower, taps or doors in your life, then you need pliers and cutters as adjustment of those items will be needed from time to time.  Do it yourself, and you’ll save yourself time and money.

3: Adjustable spanner. If you don’t have space/ need/ cash for a full spanner set, consider an adjustable spanner instead.  OK, so they’re not ideal for regular nut-spinning, they are useful for those less frequently required tasks such as; adjusting a bike saddle, tightening a tap and adjusting a radiator valve.

4:  Cable ties and electrical tape. OK, not strictly tools, but honestly, I can’t think of more useful tool/fixings to have in your own man-drawer.  Cable ties and electrical tape has a million uses, are cheap, readily available and can fix so many things either temporarily or permanently including; tying cables, mending a broken handle on a hoover, fixing a backpack strap, mending a buggy, making a hook loop, tying a door back.  I always keep both in my mobile tool wrap to fix something, on the go. Get some today.

5:  Screwdriver set. If you’re going to tackle more jobs around the home, invest in one that contains at least; big and small flat blade screwdrivers and large, medium and small cross-head screwdrivers. From kitchen appliance maintenance, kids toy adjustment, door hinge fixing to furniture assembly, a basic screwdriver allows you to keep things running for longer and to do the job properly.

6:  A small set of Allen keys.  Allen ‘hex’ screws are used on lots of things now including bikes, home appliances and children’s toys. As with the other tools mentioned here, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a set of keys that will open many common household objects.

Don’t worry if you don’t yet have the knowledge to fix your coffee machine, just a quick search on YouTube will show you how to remove the doofer to access the widget to clean the thingy. Using a few of the aforementioned tools will allow you to complete the job like a pro, saving you cash, saving the appliance from landfill and giving you the power to do more.  Just remember to unplug from the socket first.  Tools also make excellent gifts, so the next time you’re wondering what to buy a loved one, have a sneaky peek in their man drawer, make a note of what’s missing for your gift list.

Until the next time… Do you have a DIY fixing related matter that you’d like me to explore in this section?  If so, please get in touch.

Hooray for Henry!

A Numatic Henry vacuum cleaner gets the kiss of life…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Numatic ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a (to be exact).

There are times when only no-nonsense suck will do.  Other vacuum cleaners offer the moon on a stick, but rarely live up to the repeated abuse of everyday life.  Henry on the other hand is tough, no-nonsense and above all, reliable.

Reviewers of this kind of thing, seem to agree.

Make and model: Numatic International ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaner HVA200a

Fault reported: Dead/ not running

Cost of replacement: About £130, give or take

Cost of parts: £17.25

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Cleaning tools/ cross-head screwdriver

Sundry items: Silicone spray/ cleaning rags

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 1 bourbon, I think

I have friends in trades who will only buy and use Henry ‘hoovers’ as they last, always work and are easy to use. And above all, who doesn’t like an appliance with a smiley face?

The example in the picture above had been used by a local Worthing taxi driver everyday for the last 15 years without any problems and was in pretty good nick.  The filter was clean and apart from some wear and tear scratches, still looked like the current model.

One day, Henry failed to switch on and after the owner had checked the fuse in the plug, he decided to get in touch with the workshop.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, March’20, Henry’s on switch.

The HVA200a has two speed settings, one at 600 Watts power and one at 1200 Watts power, selectable by a red switch and indicated in a red tell-tail lamp.  When plugged in, nothing was happening.

Time to perform surgery.

Opening up Henry’s casing was straightforward and top marks to the designers for creating sensible parts that fit together logically.  Henry is designed to last and be repaired.  All very pleasing.

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With the lid removed, all electrical checks were made from the plug to the end of the flex, down to the motor.  The flex was in good condition with no snags, shorts or earth faults.  The cable winder on this model is a simple handle operating spindle and was a bit sticky.  The contacts inside the gubbins were also tarnished, so while it was all in pieces, I decided to clean all of the electrical contacts with cleaner and make sure all the sliding parts of the cable winder were clean and had a small dab of silicone spray for smoothness.

Testing for current around the circuit revealed that the speed control board was where things stopped.  The speed control board was dead and required replacing.

To prove this fact, I was able to temporarily by-pass the controller and connect the mains switch to the motor, which revealed that the motor was strong.

A quick bit of shopping with my favourite parts suppliers yielded a replacement (updated) speed control PCB for under £20, which seemed like good value to me.  After making a note of the wiring (see slideshow), the new PCB was connected up, the casing back together and Henry was ready to run, once more.

I also decided to give Henry a little polish too, just because.

 

 

A bit of 70’s fun: Sona J996 Coffee Percolator

An office find, escapes the scrap yard.

Despite the 1970’s kitsch-ness of the electric percolator, they are very good at making coffee and the delightful coffee smell you get when brewing-up is sublime.  Here’s an advert from the time.

Top tips for keeping your coffee percolator in good order:

  • Descale using a kettle descaling solution as needed
  • Keep the coffee strainer clear of debris
  • Make sure the lid always fits between the strainer and the percolator body

A colleague found this percolator while clearing out an abandoned office cupboard.  I suspect that this one might have been bought as a wedding present way back and had ended up in the office when someone had decided play the role of barista at work.

It was missing its power lead and was headed for the recycle bin, when I intervened.

The power lead needed was an obsolete design used on British appliances of the era and was similar in design to the more modern and current, IEC C13 or ‘kettle lead’.  However, modern kettle leads did not fit this percolator.

More drastic action was needed.  Luckily, I had an old appliance I no longer needed, so I scavenged a board mounted IEC C13 socket from it and replaced the one originally fitted.

After some soldering and a bit of jiggery-pokery, this Sona Percolator now brews coffee using an up-to-date power lead.

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Cost of replacement:  £40.  Cost of upgrade: £0.

Dyson DC40 missing a beat

A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.

A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny.  But not this one.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40.

Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:

  • Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
  • Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
  • Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray

Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.

I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products.  They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.

This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop.  The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly.  The beaters were not spinning either.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40 beater head.

The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip.  The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control.  The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit.  So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit.  As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection.  Upon testing, it was not working.

The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony.  Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem.  The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.

Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.

After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more.  Result.

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After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.

Cost of replacement machine:  £000’s.  Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.