Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dishwasher Fixn's

So, early June our Frigidaire dishwasher decided it's scrubbing days were over.  When we turned it on, we could hear water go in, it would sort of stagnate with making noises, and then we could hear the drain pump kick on.  Dishes seemed to be a little wet, but the length of cycle was way short, the noise was wrong, and our dishes weren't even close to clean.  We tried a few more runs, and each time we were getting the same (maybe even worse) results.

So like normal Americans, we just called a repair guy and paid $200.

I'm so funny.  Okay, no, we're not normal.  Of course we tried to DIY it.  What harm could it do?

Jon did most of the work on this one, since it he was most vested in the whole dish-washing thing (though I chipped in a bit when the dishwasher was benched)... and it required some heavy lifting.  Although, Jon said it was way lighter than he expected.  So, heavy for my pregnant self, I guess is what I mean.  It is just a big empty tub.

Okay, so the first thing, pretty much right away, was taking off the bottom panel and check for leaks.  We also checked that there were no leaks under the sink.  We had no leaks, which was great news.  No one likes water damage.


The next part was checking that that we could feel the water in the water pipe (under our sink) go from cool to hot when the dishwasher turned on.  It did, which meant it was drawing hot water fine.  Didn't tell us much about the fill rate, but it confirmed what we were hearing.  Water was heading in there.

From there, Jon started cleaning everything he could, just in case it was a nice and cheap clog.  He did the basic cleaning inside the tub, but didn't find much. Then took out one of the few accessible parts from the front, the inlet "water switch" to clean it. He did find a lot of buildup of mineral deposits and was hopeful cleaning those out would fix it for free.  He put it back in.... Nope.  Sad trombone.

Then, life got in the way (okay, we probably were just working on other projects) and we let the dishwasher sit for a week. Once we had a weekend, things got real.  We took that bad boy out.


At this point, we had done a little a googling, and found that of all the components that were in the dishwasher (actually not many), the motor that pumps the water was the most likely failure point.

So, as indicated by the red arrow above, we pulled it out to see if we could see anything (it's not in the picture above).

And a ton of black power came pouring out of the end.  We quickly stuck it it in a nearby recyclable jar.

You can see the powder below.  So that was the first sign it something was up.  We thought maybe it was graphite, used to lubricate bearings.  But there was so much, we knew that this amount was beyond normal.  Jon checked the electrical circuit with his multimeter, and it seemed to check out okay.  So it did seem more mechanical than not.

At this point, we probably could have ordered the part with some confidence, but it was the most expensive part in the whole thing (around $130 OEM), and we wanted to be sure.

And I'm super curious.


So we started disassembling it.  There was a cover for the back side, the one outside the dishwasher that was leaking powder.  It came off easy.  Along with a lot of powder.  My thought was that black impeller was just for cooling.  It's attached on the same bar as the white impeller on the other side that pushes the water through the machine.

Fun fact, my job is in manufacturing super high performance impellers (in metals, of course) for cars, trucks, airplanes and rockets.


So this is where I got really confused and show my ignorance when it comes to some basic mechanical devices.  So much for my mechanical engineering degree.  (Okay, they don't actually teach this stuff in college). I rocked differential equations though.

The bearings, as far I could tell, didn't use graphite.  So I started googling what that black powder could be. One of the comments on this video about powder led me to watch it.  It is an amazingly helpful video.. and answered all of my questions without having to take apart the whole thing, and likely injure myself... and others.


He said that there were carbon brushes for the motor, and those wear down over time.  I knew how a motor worked in theory... but not in practice.  Led me to more youtube gold.  I searched for"brush motor".



Okay, so now armed with science, I looked back at our motor.  Our motor looked just like the video, two brushes, commutator, coiled wire, etc.

The brushes, however were really worn, and worn unevenly.  One side had almost no carbon left, and the spring was extended a lot (less force).  The red below is the holder for the brush and the "good" brush.


When I looked at the "commutator", it had an odd contour to it.   Didn't seem to be by design, so I thought maybe that was worn too.  


So now it all made sense. The black powder was actually 'graphite', in that it was ground up carbon. We expected that commutator was worn as well as the brushes, we decided not to be super cheap about it, and instead of ordering nice cheap $5 brushes, but just went ahead and ordered the replacement part.  We found amazon had the best price at $80, and free shipping (Yay amazon!), so we ordered it. 

And then we waited.  And waited.  Five days shipping seems like a long time when you're washing dishes by hand... and have this thing sticking out in your kitchen.


In the meantime, I gave the kids a lesson on motors :)  I showed them the video and had them take a look at it to see if they could troubleshoot the problem like we did.  Nothing like good teaching moment, right?

To wrap it up, the part came, Jon put it in quite uneventfully.  Looking it over, the commutator was supposed to be straight, so I am glad we got a new motor.  He hooked it all back up and by the time I got home from work... the dishwasher was on its second load!  One thing we noticed too, our dishwasher actually had more cleaning power because the motor was new and working well.

Happy ending for everyone!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dropping money like it's hot!



We bought our house almost 2 years ago.  Can you believe that?  Two years this July 24th!  With all our focus on improving the basic structure of the house, we've put very little time or money into furniture, decorations or big tool purchases in the house.

With the exception of a closet maid cube organizer I bought the week we bought the house, an ikea poang chair and small things like the four $5 Target floor lamps (replaced with our ceiling lights - whoo-hoo!) I haven't really put much into making our house a home.

Now that the end of is sort-of, kind-of, in sight... and our finances are more stable (thanks car fire!), I'm starting to look more towards filling the house with the furniture and tools we want.

So... onto some of our recent "big" purchases.

This sideboard seemed to find me.  My mom and I had gone shopping for maternity clothes.  So, we hit up outlet stores in Kittery, Maine. So naturally I came home with two t-shirts, some shoes for the kids... and this:



End of story.

Um... not.  So we happened upon a Crate and Barrel outlet store and perused some of the furniture.  It is really not often I'm actually drawn to any particular style, but I really liked this one a lot, despite the fact it was missing a door. Outlet store, you know.

It was marked $284 ($300 with tax), which seemed a little steep for our budget ($100 - $200).  Especially since we would have to get a replacement door, which was going to cost us who knows how much. I had been looking on Craigslist and not much was lower than $200, even used. And nothing I'd seen on Craigslist had been anything close to what I liked.

Still, if I could talk her down to $200 it would have been an easy decision... but she said that this was the lowest it would actually go before they donate it... and it wouldn't be marked down again.  After looking it over in detail and calling Jon (who surprised me with immediate agreement), we decided to go for it.  It was solid (heavy) wood, with lots of storage and had soft close hinges.  Pretty much what I was planning on building, but 5x better.  And after building some furniture already, I knew that I wouldn't even be able to get half the quality materials for that cost.  So, even if more than we wanted to spend right now, it was a deal we couldn't miss.


Odd enough, my Mom had taken the second row of seats in her van for a camping trip earlier that week and we could take it home on the spot.  Once their delivery guys loaded it into the van we were off with our very heavy, but super awesome purchase.

Have you noticed the emphasis on heavy yet?  Well, it was so heavy that we had to leave it in my Mom's car for the night until we could get three friends to help to bring it in the next day.  Once we were all done making our friends wish they never met us, it was in our house!


Up until we got it in the house and unwrapped, Jon hadn't really seen it.  Surprisingly, he really likes the style too.  It's more modern than our usual taste, but we figure if we hate it in a few years, or it doesn't wear well, we can put on a second top, to pull away from the boxy look. 

Oh, I should link it up.  It's the Big Sur Sideboard in Charcoal, and it retails at... $1899.  Ouch.  You can certainly see the quality in it though, so the price isn't bad... for those who have the budget for it.

 We're lovin it!  The heartwood corners are really eye-catching.


 It's got two shelves and drawer on each side.  All ready to be filled with stuff!


And... I have to admit, we had my Mom's white plastic folding table in our dinig room since Easter, collecting mountains of clutter.  Only picture I have with is is from one of our homeschooling photos, but you can see it in the back.  Classy, huh?


So, while it makes our dining room look way more grown up than ever, there is a downside...  Now our other stuff looks worse :)

I added some more photo frames... still to be filled with photos (not shown below) so that's helped a bit with the sparse decor.  And our kitchen table was already due for a replacement (we really want one with a leaf or two), so now that's moved up on our priority list slightly.

 Next up on our big purchases list.... is our new lazy-boy chair.


Okay.  We found it on the roadside, for free, in front of our house.  It's not as bad as it sounds though. It was actually at our neighbors' garage sale for $20, the day earlier... where we got some high quality kid stuff.  We live on the corner, so when our neighbors dump their "free stuff", we see it right away.  We knew it wasn't outside for long, and it came from $400k house... so the likelihood of coming with bad bugs was really low.

Still, we knew they had pets, and this chair, though vacuumed, was covered in hair/dander.  And I'm allergic to cats and dogs.

Between me, Jon and my mom, this thing was completely cleaned out. In no particular order, it was vacuumed at least ten times, beaten with a bat and some scrap wood, covered in baking soda, steamed washed a few times, leaf blown, completely covered with a lint roller at least 3 times and hand washed.  Again and again.

The first phase was mostly aimed getting rid of hair.  The second was aimed at bringing the dander to the surface and getting it off of the chair.  The final was getting rid of any odor or bacteria.

There might have been more we did that I don't even remember, as we were each giving our own independent approaches to it.  At first I couldn't be within 3 feet of the chair without allergies, but after a few weeks outside, I was able to sit in it no problem.

Such awesome timing.   Feels like Godsend, as I really needed a chair to sleep in when I have heartburn, and rest in when my body hurts.  So far it's been amazing.

Moving on... not so much furniture, but much needed... we finally got my own miter saw!  I decided on getting a 10" sliding saw, instead of one like the 12" stationary one I was borrowing from my parents (and very used to).  Looking at pros and cons, it seemed like the best type of saw for woodworking (and some construction).

I went to stores and tried some out, looked online, read reviews, and finally I decided on the craftsman compact miter saw.  It sells for about $230.  Once I saw it in person, I knew it was the one I wanted.  (Be aware though, the similar one that is not compact is lower quality... I wouldn't recommend it). So far I've used it about a month, and I love it.




Welcome home, Craftsman, welcome home.


Last, but not least...  I bought a battery powered finish nailer. This 16 Gauge Ryobi, in fact.  I'm getting sort of big with this pregnancy, and I was having a really hard time getting some of the trim up.  And we have a fair amount to put up still.  More than a few hormonal tears were shed one afternoon (hitting my thumb twice didn't help) and I could see I had just a few more weeks left before standing up and nailing wood to the wall would be nearly impossible.  So, I decided to spend the evening looking at finish nailers, to see if it was even feasible to get now.

I've wanted one pretty much since I heard of them, but it really is a luxury item that we couldn't afford. At $220 (with battery/charger), I decided it was worth taking a big bite out of my allowance (instead of our normal accounts) to get myself it now, instead of waiting years. I'm actually really glad I did.  While it's not perfect, it is a really nice tool to have around.  Plus, without anything but a battery, I know I will be using it more frequently than I would a compressed air nailer in the future.

(stock photo)
So... that's about it.  I know we'll have more furniture purchases soon, as we're wrapping up Eve's room, and she still has almost no furniture.  Plus, we need to evict Isaac out of his crib for the baby and get one of our kids (TBD) a new bed.


Friday, July 3, 2015

In the middle of every project all the time, always, good time, beach party.

 Well, we're making forward progress and we're in the middle of... everything.  While I have some energy and mobility, I've been trying to kick out as many TODOs on my list as I can.  A lot of them focus on woodworking, because those are the projects that I like to do and that I would rather not pass on to anyone else.  So here's a quick update of some of things that I've been pushing through.

(Oh, and the title is one of my favorite 30 Rock clips)

Garden is all loaded up with dirt and we planted some seeds:


Everything has popped up!

Here's the low-down on what we planted.  We went super simple, as we're doing a CSA this year.


I made the first of the two pullout pot drawers I wanted.  The other one is... half done. Of course.


It works great!


I'll need to do another update, but our deck is "safe" now.  We supported the falling section, and it nice and sturdy.  Need some things like.. stairs.. and rails though.  We got a cheap Craigslist ladder installed too, since our old one needed a deck to use it.


Strange intro, but my Mom's neighbor died a few years ago.  It was a heartbreaking second bought with cancer.  He was a contractor, and we had even spoke to him about helping us build a house back in the day.  Regardless, his wife had set up a garage sale getting rid of his tools and supplies.  We were able to make out with a whole lot of cool things.  The haul below was $3, with most of the items being free.  We have plenty more not pictured too.


I started sanding the larger coat hangers...


To give them a good spraydown!  Oil rubbed bronze, of course.  They turned out great (not shown) At some point, we'll get these finished and hung up too.

Speaking of ORB, we also sprayed down some of the used knobs for the new upstairs hall closet door.  I also finally got around to painting our bi-fold closet door handles as well (5 of them, I think).

I got my Mom's router back (which was some of the hold up), and started on some more projects.  This is to put next to our bathroom tub.  I needed to cut a slot the back because some mortar was sticking up at the corner.  Not installed yet, of course.

 And I cut these transitions:

For these ugly looking things:


Better?  Again, not installed.


In the random, why-in-the-world-would-I-start-a-new-project category, we have our downstairs bathroom.  I mudded these walls and bought paint OVER A YEAR AGO!


Even before I mudded, these walls were pretty ugly. That green spot is the old color, I guess, probably from the first owners.  The second owners took down a cabinet, added those cabinets... and never painted.



Kinda like us third owners.  Because we also took down that same cabinet they had moved.  Then of course, muddled, and never painted over there.  Still haven't painted over there, so don't get your hopes up.


Okay, well.. I spur of the moment decided that it was time to paint... the other half.  So not like me.  I could only do part without Jon's help though.  So... only half is done.


Classy, huh?

We also picked up a new clothes rack for the room.  We actually got that hung up over the counter already, despite not being done with the painting.  We really did need one of those things, and I'm loving it.

I don't have a picture with it hanging but check out this sweet packing Amazon gave us.  The nice big brown box was holding that tiny little blue one.  Spectacular waste of money, I would say.


Moving onto things I'm more proud of working on... Eve's room! Drywalls done, primer and paint is actually up too!  (Pictures are just with primer)
 Yay!  The stupid part of me left the old paint cards at home picking up another can of paint, and I got 'semi-gloss' instead of 'shell'.  It's totally noticeable... so we might be repainting some of the other sections as well :(


And finally, we hit up our first build a grow!  Not too much to do with houses, but it's Lowes... and I'm proud of heading to one of these while my kids are all in an age they could enjoy it.


Okay.  There's a whirlwind of what we've been up to this past month.  Nothings finished, but we're certainly not stagnant!  Only 3 weeks until my third trimester... gulp. 

Hoping this post will help me with my motivation  Eeek!

The Computer Desk That is NEVER Finished

I realize I haven't updated the blog on our office space in a while.  A lot of little details have been wrapped up.  Here's where we left off.  Note the cords, router and lack of shelves:


Last December I added a few stragically placed holes for wires in the desk.  That way our desk could sit flush against the wall, like it is actually a built in.


 Then I threaded the cords through the hole ...

And over to the computer.  I stapled some hook and loop cord wraps to keep the cords behind the wood support.  Since we moved the telephone jack from behind the bookcase, we were able to settle on a spot for the wireless router.  I screwed that to the underside of the desk while I was cleaning up the desk area.


Here it is about a month ago.   The our cords/router were looking better and it did actually make a big difference... despite the overflow of clutter.


A big part of the clutter was stuff I brought downstairs that was taking up space on my bedroom floor.  This was *after* sorting.  I also added some baskets and the one shelf I finished. Plus I took care of the cord mess inside the shelving unit by mounting some power strips and using zip ties. Plus we installed a KVM switch, so we could swap between windows computer and the mac easily.  It's what every app developer dreams of, right?

I think that was all done around late winter, just before I was too pregnant-sick to do anything else.


 Anyway, now you're up to date to about a month ago.  So with the second semester burst of energy, I did some more woodworking.  I added in two shelves, one upper and one lower. Makes a huge difference in the ability to actually use the baskets and storage we wanted to.  Way cleaner looking. 

The other big addition was that of a printer shelf. Not a huge deal, but it makes our life a little easier.

Pull out the shelf, and...  


 ...we can actually use our scanner.  It really helps with things like making electronic versions of our paper files (there's an autofeed on this model) and copies of homeschool stuff.



That's the update.  Still to do:
     Make 2 pull-out, flip down keyboard drawers (not looking forward to those hinges)
     Make a little paper divider for the stacked papers we store in there
     Buy and install doors 
     Install molding to give it the "built in" look