Wednesday, November 18, 2020

a minor household repair - very creative!

A text only post as I didn't think to take pictures while working. 

 My mother has a brass bed frame and some of the bolts that hold it together are loose. I will write a little about my repairs if I think I can make them clear and interesting - enough to explain my thesis, anyway. That thesis being, unskilled repair people have to be very creative indeed to solve problems they didn't understand when they arrived at the problem. 

 One part of the challenge in describing the event is also the problem with being unskilled. When I discuss 'fasteners' it is because I have no idea what the name of the actual part is. I also don't know if this name is common knowledge and to save time I will just say 'fastener' rather than describe in detail - which would also be painstaking and awkward as I lack that vocabulary as well. 

 Here is what happened. My mom's brass bed frame was coming apart at the junctures where pipe met pipe. I found the whole thing was kept together by 'headless-threaded bolts' perhaps fifteen cm long. At one end, a decorative brass globe screwed on. But inside the pipe was a fastener that had been pushed back quite deep into the pipe, far beyond what the bolt could reach. My first thought, having lived in Asia for many years, was chopsticks. Some disposable chopsticks we had at hand had a lump at one end so I pushed the stick past the fastener and pushed up on the fastened while pulling back. I think I had some success but mostly I pushed the fastener as high as it could go and it stuck in place. Then I got needle nose pliers and they were now long enough so I could pull the fastener out, learn how it worked and replace it. I threaded it on the bolt and tried it in the hole.
 But now I couldn't remove it. These fasteners went in easily but were hard to pull out. 

Alright, let me try to describe them; they were basically domes with a hole in the centre. Huh; that was easier than I had thought. You put the dome in the pipe so it was concave to the opening and it went in fairly well but was hard to pull out.  

So now I have to push the bolt, already connected via the dome-fastener to a pipe, to the main bed frame. But of course the frame post was slightly twisted so I could not just push it through. I needed to twist the main post, slide the bolt through without knocking it deeper into the pipe and fit the decorative end on. Three hands were clearly needed. 
On my third try, holding the pipe in my hand and my fingers on the bolt, I used my other hand to twist the frame post and slide it on... and succeeded! I quickly put the decorative end on and was done!
 Time to look over the rest of the bed. It seems the bed frame was three inches longer than the mattress. and the angle-iron mattress-holding part of the frame was loose where it contacted the brass.
 I cut a two-by-four into three inch lengths, then cut gaps about an inch deep into them for the bolts holding the iron to brass fit. I tried to tighten the iron frame to the brass with my fingers.
I couldn't find a wrench head the right size. So I opened a ratchet set my father had given me nearly forty years ago and used it for the first time! Thanks, Dad. 
So I was able to tighten the parts of the frame together, tighten the brass piping, and even clean under this bed for what appeared to be the first time in months. 

 Someone who knew what they were doing would have taken ten minutes, I think. They might even had pushed the dome fasteners deeper and used fresh ones as that would probably have been better time/money efficient than salvaging the original ones. 

 My creative exploration and journey took over an hour and included, among other things, balancing a flashlight on my shoulder so that the light was a eye level to look down the pipe while also holding that pipe and probing it with a chopstick. 

 And I think this is the big lesson; naïve creative work can complete a job as well as experienced-step following work but it will take a lot longer.

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