Jonathan Deer the III

A Christmas novelty toy gets a new lease of life…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, December 2019, Jonathan Deer III.

I meet some really interesting people with this hobby of mine with some quirky things to fix, often with personal and meaningful backstories.  This repair is one such item.

Make and model: Jonathan Deer III rubber deer thingy

Fault reported: Not running

Cost of replacement: About £0

Cost of parts: £0.00

Hours spent on repair: 2

Tools needed: Cutters, screwdriver and soldering iron

Sundry items: Contact cleaner

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: 0

Someone got in touch to see if I could repair a festive family favourite Christmas novelty, which was a big hit with the children, back in the day.  Jonathan Deer III has become a family legend and Christmas simply wouldn’t be complete without him.  Intrigued, I agreed to see the injured deer.

A few days later, a parcel arrived and upon opening, I was greeted with a deer’s head made of rubber.  Not one’s average delivery.

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‘Jonathan Deer’ was available about 20 years ago in the UK and I suspect the US as a novelty singing Christmas toy, designed to hang on the wall, to bring festive joy when anyone walks past the deer’s motion sensor.

Sadly, or maybe fortuitously, depending on your perspective, Jonathan was now silent and despite new batteries, it was dead.

The thing about Christmas decorations is that they get used for about 4 weeks a year and then packed away, usually in a loft or alike where it’s not necessarily that warm or dry for the remaining 48 weeks.  Cold, damp and draughty conditions are not good for small electrical items.  Batteries left leak and metallic contacts corrode and these ailments had affected poor old Jonathan.

Repairs completed:

  • Battery terminals were corroded from battery leakage and therefore cleaned with a small toothbrush and protected with contact cleaner
  • Opening up the casing (several small screws) revealed a broken negative lead.  A Small re-soldering job fixed that

Still no action.

  • Lastly, the on/off switch didn’t seem to be working.  I was able to separate the small tangs holding the switch together and gently clean the switch wiper/ contacts with cleaning agent.  I didn’t replace the switch as it’s a bespoke item and getting a replacement would be difficult.  The repair I made seemed to work OK.

Once the switch was cleaned, Jonathan burst into life.  Upon switching him on in demo mode, he woke up by blaring out James Brown – I Feel Good.  Moving the switch to on mode, he worked as he should via the motion sensor.  Wonderful.

I was then able to return the deer to its owner to enjoy over the festive season.  Result.

Musical keys

A child’s set of keys gets repaired in the workshop

It makes a nice change to repair something like a childs’ toy.  I know that if the repair works out, it’ll usually make someone very happy.  However, having just said that, the repair I’m about to discuss, didn’t bring joy for all…

First off, I’ll get a moan out-of-the-way.  Too many kids toys take too many batteries – it’s been like that since I was a kid.  This does two things; makes the toy expensive to own and damaging for the environment when the batteries expire.  Now, I know there are some very cool kids toys that rely on sophisticated electronics to make them work, but manufacturers:  Please try to think harder about the toy’s overall impact on the environment and it’s in-life running costs.

OK, rant over.

On with the repair.  This kids-chew-musical-keys is supposed to mimic an adults’ set of car keys.  It doubles up as a teething chewy thing as well as an imitation car alarm blipper remote fob thing, that plays a tune.  Delightful.

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FixItWorkshop, March’19, kids car keys.

This set of keys had stopped playing a tune, when any button was pressed.  To some, that might have been a good thing.

The battery compartment contained two LR44 coin batteries.  These are found in many items and are readily available, if you know where to look, but are not commonly stocked in supermarkets, where I suspect most people buy batteries.

Taking the batteries out revealed some light corrosion on one cell, but no dramas.  The other one was corrosion free.  However, a quick test with the multimeter revealed that both batteries were kaput.

I usually keep a pack of LR44s (as one does) in case of toy key emergencies like this and luckily on this occasion, I had two shiny new ones to fit.  But, upon installing them, replacing the cover and pressing one of the buttons for the first time there was still no sound.  How odd.  What I thought would be a quick battery change had escalated in to a full toolkit situation.

Whipping the back of the key fob apart revealed a simple integrated circuit with the battery terminals, all in good condition.  The small piezo speaker was held behind the main circuit board and on closer inspection, I saw that one of the soldered connections had broken away from the speaker.

Solder repair jobs like this are difficult as excess heat can quickly transfer from the joint being operated on, to the whole component, causing damage if too much heat is conducted.  I had to be careful.

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After some careful soldering, the broken wire was reconnected, circuit board re-installed, casing screwed back together and batteries re-fitted.  A quick tap of one of the buttons then revealed musical joy.  After a couple of presses I then began to regret the repair…

Cost of replacement:  Not sure, £5 ish?  Cost of repair: A bit of soldering.