Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Backwoods wiring...

So Neal, one of my fellow East Nasties, came to me the other day apologizing that he was unaware of my profession and the fact that I'd been voted Nashville's Best Handyman in 2008 & 2009 - Yeah, I was too busy doing other stuff to win last year. 8) No biggie at all, Neal. I don't go around touting that award...I'm too busy touting all my other, far more lucrative abilities.

Anyway, Neal asked me if I'd be willing to come look at a ceiling fan, and a vintage media console for him. He'd actually done a fine job installing the fan himself, but the wiring in his place was causing some confusion. The console had been working fine, but upon a little bit of moving the power cord, it just stopped working.

The fan was a pretty straighforward fix (for somebody like myself...Neal was right to be confused), and I even got to wire up a couple of remote controls for the fan. I've probably mentioned my enjoyment of electrical work. Generally speaking, it's clean...I don't have to play in sewage or get covered in drywall, and when you're done, the payoff is getting to see a light turn on, or an outlet work. Plumbing offers similar payoffs, but you often have to get at least wet, if not "yucky" to get to the payoff.

Fan - Check. I moved onto the console. It was one of those cool old consoles that looks like a piece of wooden furniture, but discretely houses a stereo usually featuring a turntable, a radio, sometimes a cassette player, and maybe if you're really lucky, an 8-track player. Neal seemed to think the cord may accidentally have been wrenched loose, causing the unit to refuse to power up.

I took the back off and began digging around, but couldn't find any shorts or breaks in the power cord, so I dug a little deeper. After another couple of minutes I came across a small set of RCA jacks. They looked as though they were from the same vintage as the console, so I'd overlooked them before. This time, however, I noticed scotch tape and safety pins, which are not components that manufacturers typically use when fabricating electronic audio devices. It was a sure sign of backwoods rigging!

Whoever had this console before tried to rig up an auxiliary speaker output jack. They did so by pushing safety pins through the existing speaker wires, then looping them through the respective contacts on the jack. Then they used the scotch tape to "insulate" them so they wouldn't touch.

I'll give them credit...this was pretty resourceful, and somewhat ingenious. I've done plenty of projects @ 2am, when Hope Depot is closed and I'm limited to whatever parts I've got sitting around...something tells me that wasn't the case here. I took the safety pins out of the wires and the unit fired back up. (Honestly, I'm not sure what that had to do with the power not coming on, but it works now...maybe I'm just overlooking something.) At any rate, Neal & I had a good laugh about it, and were both glad to see that thing making music again.

Anyway, thought you guys might get a kick out of that...I know I did. 8) For anybody that cares, I've included some facts below. For everybody else - or maybe just everybody - catch you next time!

Boring facts:
  • They actually make wire splices that do something similar to what the safety pin was doing...but those actually work.
  • Safety pins aren't actually bad conductors.
  • Scotch tape is NOT a good insulator.
  • Most speaker wire connections INSIDE a stereo unit will be soldered. The safety pins were just dangling...sometimes making the connection, sometimes not.
  • It's generally a bad idea for any two wires (speaker/power/etc.) to touch if they are not meant to be touching.
  • feel free to add your own...

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