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.

Alesis (DM Lite) Drum kit without kick

Alesis Drum Kit gets a cheap repair.

A neighbour of mine is a talented musician in a local band and also teaches school children various instruments.  Some of his students learn the drums, which is most parent’s nightmare as any notion of a peaceful evening is shattered.  Luckily, electronic drum kits are an excellent way to learn with headphones, while keeping happy parents and neighbours.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, November’18, Alesis DM Lite Electronic Drum Kit

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FixItWorkshop,  Worthing, November’18, Alexis DM Lite main drum module

This kit was missing several beats and was hampering learning, so time for a visit to the workshop.  I’m no musical instrument repair specialist, but I thought that the drum kit must use electrical contacts, switches and rudimentary electrical components and I was right.

Two faults were reported; The kick/ foot pedal was intermittently not working and one of the drum pads was hardly working at all, unless you hit it with a sledge-hammer.  Time to see what was going wrong.

First up was the faulty drum pad.  Opening up the back of the pad was simplicity itself, just a few screws held the back to the pad.  Sandwiched between two halves was a sensor, a bit like a piezo flat speaker, similar to the type found in many toys with sounds.  I guess the principle here is that vibration detected by the piezo sensor is converted to analogue variable voltages by the drum kit’s circuitry.  While apart, I noticed that some of the copper detail tracks on the printed circuit board which had a standard 3.5mm jack socket (to allow a connection back to the rest of the kit) had cracked.  Looking again through my magnifying glass revealed quite a bit of damage, probably as a result of many Keith Moon wannabes.  Testing these tracks with my meter confirmed an intermittent fault, so out with the soldering iron, to repair the connection.  Plugging the pad back in, it was ready once again for more drum solos.

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Next up was the dodgy kick/foot pedal.  As the with the drum pad, the pedal would cut out intermittently.  A few screws held the pedal together, so only basic tools required.  See the slide show below for an idea of the construction.

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The fault with the pedal was similar to the drum pad.  Some of the copper detailing around the 3.5mm jack socket had failed and required some careful soldering.  I say careful, as applying too much heat at once would, likely as not, melt the casing of the socket.  One had to take care.

Once soldered, the pedal was much better.  I didn’t get a full 10/10 repair with the pedal since I think there was wear on the kick sensor, but it was an improvement none the less.

Cost of replacement:  £lots.  Cost of repair, my time, two cups of tea and some solder.

 

 

Kenwood Chef Repair

Kenwood repair in Worthing, West Sussex

Smelly Kenwood Chef A901

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’17.  Repaired Kenwood Chef A901

This Kenwood Chef developed a nasty little problem. The failure smelled expensive and the Chef even puffed out some smoke when it began to fail, it would operate, but noisily and badly, so it to the workshop it had to go.

It was in decent overall condition and has loads of accessories, so definitely worth saving since a new one is over £300 new.

Since the speed control circuitry is a common failure on models of this age, it seemed sensible to start there.  On this unit, access wasn’t a problem and the issue was quickly diagnosed.  Both capacitors had failed (spectacularly)  and one of the resistors had become weak by about 20 Ohms or so.  Repair kits are readily available online for those who are willing to save these excellent machines, so after removing the faulty components, new items were fitted.

Another little annoying problem with the Chef, was the main drive belt.  It was intermittently rubbing the main plastic body of the unit, making a horrible sound and melting some of the casing (only cosmetic).  The motor mounting spacer had compressed on one side causing the belt to not run correctly.  This was fixed with a small washer to correct the belt’s alignment.

With a little bit of grease, WD40, Brasso, contact cleaner, repair kit and washer, the whole job took a couple of hours (including fettling time) and cost me under £8.  Definitely worth the effort considering the price of a replacement Chef.

Here’s a picture of the new components fitted in situ…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, Jan’17.  New capacitors, resistors and triac fitted, fixed!