I’ve been so fantastically lazy these past 3 weeks of pseudo-laid-off time. I wanted to use this unexpected break to go nuts in the garage, as it’s what I’ve dreamed of for more than a year now, but I think the anticipation of hard times ahead, and light anxiety of not having a steady income at the moment (first time in 6 years – since shortly after moving to CA) has sapped my motivation almost entirely. I’ve done almost nothing but wait. I’ve had some things I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t wanted to spend any money on them – things requiring lumber and plywood, and so they’re just on the back burner. It’s looking like I might have to find another job soon after all, sadly.
But enough of that. I did work up enough motivation today to try to make a little oak grip device I’ve wanted to make for a few weeks now. I found a piece of scrap thicker than the usual 3/4” stuff of which I have tons, cut it into 2 lengths, then spent about 20 minutes going at the 6” Jet jointer with derusting agent, steel wool, and finally applying a coat of Johnson’s paste wax, now that I have some. It’s been half a year since I’ve used the jointer, and it’s just been holding tall stacks of drying turning blanks, as I had no other surfaces upon which to set them. I moved them finally to a temporary place outside. I’m trying to push to finally have a shop [albeit, tiny] wherein all tools are accessible at all times. Piles really get in the way and kill my motivation to work on projects even more. It’s virtually impossible to get anything accomplished when literally every tool and worksurface has a tall pile of junk on it, and there’s literally nowhere to move any of it to in such a tiny garage – not until I build some storage solutions that will hold it all up on walls or hanging from rafters (which I’ve begun to do). Leaving that aside for now, the paste wax really does make a difference on the jointer. Wipe it on, let it dry a moment, buff it off with paper towels, and wood slides across it like an air-hockey puck. It should help prevent more rust, too. The jointer worked great, and a few minutes later the narrow oak pieces had a perfectly flat side.
The planer was a different story. I noticed a change in its sound early this year when I was using it on some shelving. It started to sound like it was fighting just to spin, and instead of winding down when I’d turn it off, it would brake very quickly. It seemed like something was jammed, but I could never find anything. I still worry about it, so today I had a more forensic search, and still found nothing. Unplugged, turning it by hand, I did find locations where it felt like the rotation was sticking. I couldn’t figure out why, and it’s a carnival of unremovable walls in there, so I couldn’t get to the root problem. I just went with it, hoping the tight spots were magnetic things involving the motor. It still sounded rough as it had earlier this year, but I managed to plane the two oak pieces down to 1” thickness in several passes. I was going to make one more pass (they were actually 1-1/128” thick) to get them to size, but the whole planer jammed before I could insert the pieces. I jumped back and kicked the huge E-OFF panel with my foot. I really hate the noise and dangerous feeling of that machine, and having it jam, making a squealing rubber sound (the belt) really shook me. As my heart slowed back down, I unplugged it and set about to do a full autopsy. I’ve determined that this is nearly impossible.
This has to be the most vault-like tool ever made. The 4 mount holes are nearly impossible to get to, with literally 1/16” clearance in certain directions laterally, and maybe 3/4” vertically on some. You really can’t get tools in there. Trying to remove the sideways hinge bolts that hold the tables on showed me that there isn’t clearance for even the short end of a standard allen wrench. There’s cast aluminum in your way everywhere. I had to go in partially at a diagonal, slipping out with each attempt just to get a little looseness in the screw, then just use my fingertips to undo them the rest of the way. The panels on the sides don’t come off. There are screws I found way up inside, but there’s no way to get a screwdriver to them. I can actually touch the screwdriver head to the screw heads through the handle holes from the outside, but only at about a 45° angle, not enough to engage them. If I could remove them, I’d then have to go through a host of other screws to disassemble everything, including the vertical rods that hold the adjustable height head to be able to get under it. I’d worry about screwing up the accuracy across the 4 posts doing that. The motor is molded in entirely. I can’t find any way to remove it. It’s not a free motor bolted in place. It’s like it’s part of the entire carcass. The chains and gearbox are tucked behind several walls that simply can’t be removed, so I can only peer into a slit with one eye and a flashlight. The bottom of the machine is all solid cast aluminum – no ports in, a fact which I found out after fighting out those tight-clearance mount bolts I mentioned. Wasted [huge] effort. A half hour to remove 4 bolts is absurd, Craftsman.
When you lift the lid on the top to see in, it only goes up about 30° before it bangs into the rest of the machine, so I had to find and disassemble its hinges, which sent 2 small pieces of metal falling into the machine. I managed to fish them out eventually. I can’t imagine that this thing wasn’t designed to make it really hard to self-service, either to avoid people hurting themselves and suing, or to ensure the need to hand it over and pay for maintenance, because it’s like a bank vault in a heist movie. I cannot get inside this thing after hours of vigorously trying. I’m nearly ready to search ebay for a stethoscope so I can try to figure out what’s going on in there. I cranked it to the top, which gave me about 5” of clearance underneath to fit my hands and fight out screws with an allen key, which sent springs I didn’t know were in there shooting all over (sigh…). I can’t take the belt off. It’s tight as hell, and the grooved pulleys do not have a looseness adjustment. It would appear (to my one eye with a keychain flashlight held just beneath it, both peering in through a crack in the side of the machine) that the belt must simply be pried off of the fixed wheels, but there’s no way to develop that leverage while blind and reaching through a tiny opening with my fingertips. I want to see if it’s the blade roller or the motor that’s frozen, but I won’t know until I can free that belt, which btw burned a bit, sending a lot of black rubber powder around that area when it jammed, before I could hit the E-OFF.
Right now it’s laying on its back on the shop floor, piles of unhelpfully disassembled pieces around it and on the workbench, its rollers (and their freed springs) sprawling across its insides, unattached, with the blade cylinder still frozen completely. I tried sticking a hex key in one of the screws that holds the visible blade [of the 3] in place to use as a lever to turn the wheel, and it is frozen solid. It doesn’t even wiggle. It’s like it’s part of the cast housing. I have a feeling this is all I’m going to be working on tomorrow, and I’m hoping that unlike my ancient Apple Performa 6400 PowerPC with its completely cemented on top access panel, I won’t resort to drills and dremel, destroying the planer’s plastic side panels in hopes of finding some way inside the monolith.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator