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Electricity for Permies: Got Repair Skils?

 
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I didn’t make a spelling error in the title, just a really bad pun. Sorry!
In this post I talked about AC motors, but I also mentioned I got a pretty sweet haul from the scrapyard. That is, I got two tools for $6! One is a Skil circular saw, and the other is a Ryobi reciprocating saw.



I took them home to open them up and explore, but also to see if they could be fixed. They were certainly fixable! The reciprocating saw is back in action, and the circular saw seems to be functioning again too as well. So what sort of dark magic did I perform to get them running again? I replaced the power cords. Yes, that is it. *Edit I also replaced the end of the power cord for the Skil saw. Still not too complicated!!

Here’s to getting tools for cheap, gaining repair experience, and maybe even earning a bit of money if I decide to sell...talk about hitting three birds with one stone. Enjoy the photos of the process. Sorry about the lighting in some, all I had was a lamp.
Initially I made some real quick and dirty connections for the circular saw to see if it actually worked. I didn't want to go to the hardware store and go through the trouble of putting on crimp connectors if the issue was somewhere else. Here's my temporary connection.


Everything seemed to work just fine, so I continued on with the repair. I made a trip to home hardware to pick up a pack of connectors. I specifically saved one connector so I had a reference, but of course I managed to lose it before I actually arrived at home hardware. Oh well, I still managed! Once back home I cut the old crimped ends off with my wire strippers (but any tool that can cut copper cleanly would do just fine too). I then got to work stripping about ~1cm of copper to put in the new crimp. Once I was done, I put the connectors on. Wow! Great! Well, not amazing as you can see some copper poking out of the neutral (white) conductor. Try to avoid this so you don't have things shorting out.

I screwed them into the terminals, and was feeling proud of myself. Then I realized I needed to put the cord protector (also called ‘bend relief’ on one parts website) on. There was no way it would go over the conductors with the crimp connectors on...well damn.I love repair because first it builds up your confidence - “Wow, maybe I do know what I’m doing” -  then knocks you down a bit to keep you humble. Good thing the case I bought had six connectors instead of just three. I snipped off the old new ones, slid the protector on, then re-did the connections.

It was a bit of a challenge getting the casing back on but with some shimmying I eventually got everything back together. Then for the moment of truth:
. Woohoo! The blade is a bit dull, but the saw itself is doing great.

How about the reciprocating saw? It was even easier to do. I removed the old power cable, and added another I got from a dead angle grinder. Something you do want to note when replacing power cables is to make sure they are capable of carrying the amperage that the machine requires. The majority of power cables will be either 14 AWG or 12 AWG. AWG stands for American Wire Gauge. A 14 AWG wire is smaller than a 12 AWG wire which is counter intuitive, but oh well. In my case the saw pulls a maximum of 12 amps, and 14 AWG is all set to carrying 15 amps. Often the maximum amperage is what is used at startup to get the motor moving. If I had to guess, the saw would pull a continuous 3-6 amps continuously once started up, depending on what it's cutting through. A side note: we have a plug in kettle at work where I think the wires are undersized. Those kettles pull a lot of power...ours here in the home kitchen pulls 12.5 amps. The thing is, the kettle at work has 16 AWG wires. I think it was made a while ago, because it says "MADE IN THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA" and not just Made in China. The cord doesn't get hot when the kettle is running, but it gets very warm to the touch. This means that the wires are offering a good bit of resistance to the electron flow because the wire is a bit undersized. On the extreme side of things, overworked wires can melt their insulation and/or start fires. Anyways, back to the repair.

There were no crimp connectors inside, just some screw terminals. So I stripped the ends, slid the wire in and screwed down. I put everything back together, strolled out to the garage, and stuck a blade in.









And now for the moment of truth!



I think I may end up giving these tools away. I already have a great reciprocating saw and I know we’ve got a circular saw buried away somewhere too. I’m just happy to give these tools a new lease on life. I will put a disclaimer to say they were NOT professionally repaired so if they do break down at some point I am not liable.

So if any of you out there are on the fence about trying out some repair, I say go for it. Check out your local scrapyard, thrift store or antique store. Some ‘dead’ drills you see in fact just need new brushes and they’ll be happily drilling away once again. Or maybe the power cord is frayed and needs to be replaced. The absolute worst case scenario is that you can’t do the repair and you bring the tool back where you got it, or maybe somewhere else if you have completely dismantled it or messed it up. Either way you will end up learning a lot about how the electric things we use every day actually work. In my book, that is well worth the couple bucks you drop on these forgotten tools. And as always, be careful when you’ve got the repaired tool plugged in for the first time. I usually put some safety glasses on incase there are some unexpected sparks or movements. If you have the casing open, maybe clamp the tool down so it doesn’t go flying when the motor starts up. All the best, and have fun bringing tools back to life!!

This is the second post in a series I’ve started called Electricity for Permies. I’m on the path to become an electrician, so I’ve got the very basics of electricity mostly nailed down. My goal with this series is to introduce folks to the basics so it doesn’t seem quite so mysterious. If there is a topic you’d like to see covered let me know. Oh and if I make any mistakes, call me out on it. I know some basic stuff but I do not claim to be an expert on these matters. Until next time!


 
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Excellent info Cam. Well done!

haha The strain relief doohickeys can be a real pain sometimes. They are an important safety item though.

The pic of the stripped wire in the animated gif looks like it might have some discoloration due to oxidation or corrosion. That can eventually cause problems. I think if the wire were cut another inch or two before stripping the ends it might have nice clean copper exposed.
 
Cam Haslehurst
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Mike Barkley wrote:Excellent info Cam. Well done!

haha The strain relief doohickeys can be a real pain sometimes. They are an important safety item though.

The pic of the stripped wire in the animated gif looks like it might have some discoloration due to oxidation or corrosion. That can eventually cause problems. I think if the wire were cut another inch or two before stripping the ends it might have nice clean copper exposed.



Glad you liked it! And thank you for the tip. That was for the cord end so I can strip a little further and redo those connections quite easily which I will do.
 
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