I mentioned my broken dryer in my last post. It’s not woodworking, but it’s ‘making,’ and I thought it might be of mild interest here.
So a few months ago I heard a loud bang while doing laundry and soon realized the dryer was no longer spinning. The motor was running, but the belt had popped. Not knowing how to access anything, I must have spent an hour fighting it away from the wall and digging through internals, unscrewing panel after panel, hitting dead ends, before realizing you can just forcefully pull away the bottom front panel to get to where I needed to be. The tensioner was something of a tavern puzzle to me, and must have taken 15 minutes that first time to comprehend and get refitted.
Flash forward to this week, another bang revealed the tensioner had popped again. It had been riding rough ever since the previous fix, and this time, finding the pieces sprinkled around the inside, I was unable to get them all back together. I decided the brass bushing in the plastic tensioner wheel had ground away on one side, creating a conical through-hole that no longer fit the axle, the pegs on each side of which too no longer well fit the bracket holes. I’d have to build something.
I used a gear puller to press out the worn central brass bushing from the plastic tensioner wheel. I found some aluminum rod in my collection that was slightly wider and turned it down to fit very snugly. I drilled a small through hole and eventually found some thin brass rod to fit through that to act as an axle. Brass wears nicely, so I figured that would do it. The pin was just wider than the bracket holes, so I hammered on them to ‘smoosh’ the brass into the holes, which worked, but also bent up the rod inside the new aluminum bushing, making it spin terribly on the brass pin. It also peened out the brass on each end, locking the whole thing together with the bracket pressed tightly against the wheel sides, so it didn’t spin well at all. I fit it and the wheel wouldn’t spin. I drilled out the brass pin and hammered it free of the aluminum bushing. I fit another length and had it working great, then one tap to lock the brass made it all seize up again. I sort of had it working, but the central hole hadn’t been drilled concentrically from one end to the other, so the wheel was bouncing back and forth on one side so loudly I had to immediately turn the machine off in disgust. It would tear itself apart. I gave up for the day.
Today, renewed by sleep, I went at it again with a new idea. I had peened the aluminum bushing I’d made so it would stay in place in the plastic wheel when hammered in – something I learned from the peening on my planer’s cutterhead shaft. I had to use the gear puller to get that back out, as even a hammer and rod wouldn’t budge it. That’s actually good, as I wanted that part locked to the plastic wheel. I decided today to walk to the hardware store and pick up some nesting tubes and just build up the bushing in the middle. I got a handful of nesting brass tube, as well as a small stainless steel tube, and stainless pin that would fit in that and seemed about the right size to work as an axle through the bracket’s holes.
At home I found several brass tubes in a bin that were the same as what I’d bought, and realized I hadn’t gotten tubes up to the size of the plastic wheel’s through-hole. No matter. I chucked the aluminum bushing in the lathe, used a Sorby micro tool holder and largish drill bit to manually drill a hole through the middle, large enough to get the lathe’s internal turning tool in there, then turned it up to the OD of one of the nesting brass tubes. I cut that tube to length, then another brass tube for inside of that. Now I was down to the stainless steel tube size and used a pipe cutter to cut that – harder than brass, but it worked pretty fast. Then it wast the stainless pin’s turn. I marked it a bit wider so I could trim down the sides’ ODs to fit the bracket holes, and gave up when the pipe cutter wouldn’t get through it. I cut it with a Dremel with cutoff disc, cleaned up the cut in the lathe, then turned the ends down a bit to fit the bracket holes. It all went together well, and because of all of the nesting tubes, and slippery brass, it spun beautifully. Fitting it all back together, the dryer made very little noise – back on par with how it was when I first moved in a few years ago. I did 3 loads of laundry.
Here’s a shot of the mess following the making of the whole thing this morning:
Here are the nesting pieces, and note the aluminum bushing I made that’s pressed tightly into the plastic wheel:
Closeup – the shoulder of the little dovetailed end is normally flush with the rest of the nested tubing ends, but is being pushed up by the surface upon which the wheel rests:
Everything fitted together, ready for reinstallation in the dryer:
Back in the (old, internally filthy) dryer, it works!!!
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator