January 22, 2014

Equipment Bummers

Sometimes, I get slowed down because my body is uncooperative. And sometimes, it is my equipment that fails me. That happens much less often than body issues, because I have top notch tools and machines, and maintain them well. And usually if something breaks down, I can get it up and running very quickly.

My work generally is not very dependent on machines. Obviously, the lathe is crucial; to a lesser extent my sharpening system and my chainsaw are important. Since the emphasis of my work is hand-crafting, most of the other machines here are useful, but I can keep working without them.

One machine operates in the background: my Ingersoll-Rand T-30 vertical 80 gallon, two-stage, 5 horsepower compressor. It is tucked away in a closet of my workshop, so I don't really see or hear it very much. I use the compressed air to:
  • blast air through the side-walls of my wet lampshades to dry particular areas
  • force the dust and shavings from inside the shades while I am carving
  • clean the shop every day by blasting forced air into all the nooks and crannies
  • blow off the shavings and dust from my clothes before I go back to the house
  • operate some hand-held sanding tools
Writing out that list, it doesn't seem like such a big deal; but it turns out I am practically helpless without the compressed air. This beautiful, simple machine has run faultlessly for 18 years. It is connected to a well-designed distribution system (the network of pipes and hoses that deliver the compressed air to the places I need it).

Three weeks ago, the air compressor made a very loud clunking noise that I could hear at the opposite end of my workshop, and then proceeded to shut itself down. I figured I could easily find someone to repair it – for example, the company that sold it to me those many years ago. But it turns out they are out of business, and it took a remarkable amount of research to find an alternative. Finally I did find an air compressor repair specialist in Southern NH, and two days later a tech was here. He diagnosed the problem, ordered some parts, came back two days later and 'fixed' it. Except it still didn't work. So he took the motor back to the shop, they did something simple to it and brought it back, and it worked. For one day. So then he said the entire motor needed to be replaced. And that took a couple more days.

So then it is working again, and I am out of pocket $1400+. Which is not a happy situation, since a brand new compressor would be around $2500, but I am happy to be back to work for three days. Then this morning, it breaks down again. Lots of loud noises, and the compressor has shaken so much that it has "walked" a few inches across the floor.

Eventually, this thing will be fixed. The repair company is apologetic, is not going to charge me for labor or mileage any more. I have no idea at this point if they are incompetent or if I am just unlucky. But I am frustrated. I have a backlog commissions to be working on, and I am at a stand-still. I have run out of projects that can be done without the compressed air. I have done my the work of preparing for tax season, at least a month earlier than I usually do. And look – I am adding something to my blog! So all that is good. And I am stuck in neutral.

FRUSTRATION RULES TODAY. Hopefully I will soon be back to the work I love.