Vacuum Tube Repair After a Spectacular Failure

[Eric] has an Atwater Kent 55C AM radio from the early 1900’s. He’s been trying to restore the radio to proper working condition. His most recent pain has been with the rectifier tube. The tube is supposed to have a complete vacuum inside, but that’s not the case here. When the tube is powered up, it glows a beautiful violet color. It may look pretty, but that’s indicative that gas has leaked into the tube. It needed to be replaced.

[Eric] had a tube that would serve as a good replacement, but it’s plug didn’t fit the socket properly. He was going to have to use this old broken tube to make an adapter. Rather than just tearing the old tube apart, he decided to have some fun with it first. He hooked it up to a variac, an ammeter, and a volt meter. Then he slowly increased the voltage to see what would happen. The result was visually stunning.

The tube starts out with the same violet/blue glowing [Eric] experienced previously. As the voltage increases, it gets more and more intense. Eventually we start to see some green colors mixing in with the violets. [Eric’s] reaction to this unexpected result is priceless. As the tube gets increasingly hot, the anode starts glowing an orange-red color. Finally, the filament starts to crackle like a sparkler before the tube just gives up and completely fails.

After the light show, [Eric] moves on to replacing the tube. He begins by tapping on the old tube’s socket with the end of a screwdriver. After much tapping, the glass starts to come lose from the socket. After a bit of wiggling and twisting the tube finally came free from the socket. [Eric] luckily had an unused octal socket that fit perfectly inside of the old socket. All he needed to do to build his adapter was to connect the four pins from the old adapter to the proper pins on the octal socket. Piece of cake.

…Or so [Eric] thought. After testing some new tubes with a tube tester, he realized he had soldered all four pins incorrectly. On top of that, he had super glued the adapter together. He eventually got the two pieces apart. This time he removed all of the unused pins from the octal socket so he wouldn’t get it wrong. Another run on the tube tester confirmed that everything looked good. After plugging the tube into the radio, it worked just as expected

If you need fabrication rather than repair, we’ve got you covered there as well. Check out [Charles Alexanian’s] process for making new vacuum tubes in his garage. Now if you just have too darn many of them around, you can always decorate your pad with ‘em.

Continue reading “Vacuum Tube Repair After a Spectacular Failure”

Fixing a Broken Postage Scale

[Starhawk] had an old Pitney Bowes G799 postage scale that wasn’t working as it should. After years of faithfully measuring packages and cooking ingredients, the scale stopped working. At first it fell out of calibration. Then the power up sequence stopped working. The scale normally would turn on, light up the entire display, then change to dashes, and finally set itself to 0.0 lbs. In this case, it would get stuck at the dashes and never change to 0.0.

[Starhawk] ended up purchasing another duplicate scale from eBay, only to find that when it arrived it had the exact same power up problem. Using deductive reasoning, he decided that since the scale was broken during shipping the problem would likely be with a mechanical component. He turned out to be correct. The cheap momentary power button was at fault. When pressing the button, the contact would get stuck closed preventing the scale from zeroing out properly. [Starhawk] easily fixed his problem by replacing the switch.

Next [Starhawk] replaced the old scale’s LCD module with one from the new scale, since the old one looked to be on its way out. The scale still had a problem correctly measuring weight. [Starhawk] tried swapping the load cell from the new scale to the old one, but he found that the new load cell had some kind of problem that prevented the scale from zeroing out properly. The solution ended up being to use the newer “analog board” as [Starhawk] calls it.  The end result was the old scale with two newer circuit boards, an older load cell, and a new power switch. Next time it might be easier to just build his own scale.

Repairing Burnt Speakers with a Steady Hand

[Martin] seems to have a knack for locating lightly damaged second-hand audio gear. Over the years he’s collected various types of gear and made various repairs. His most recent project involved fixing two broken tweeter speakers.

He first he needed to test the tweeters. He had to remove them from the speaker cabinet in order to gain easier access to them. The multimeter showed them as an open-circuit, indicating that they had likely been burned. This is an issue he’s seen in the past with this brand of speaker. When too much power is pumped through the speaker, the tiny magnet wire inside over heats and burns out similar to a fuse.

The voice coil itself was bathing in an oily fluid. The idea is to help keep the coil cool so it doesn’t burn out. With that in mind, the thin wire would have likely burned somewhere outside of the cooling fluid. It turned out that it had become damaged just barely outside of the coil. [Martin] used a sharp blade to sever the connection to the coil. He then made a simple repair by soldering the magnet wire back in place using a very thin iron. We’ve seen similar work before with headphone cables.

He repeated this process on the second tweeter and put everything back together. It worked good as new. This may have ultimately been a very simple fix, but considering the amount of money [Martin] saved on these speakers, it was well worth the minimal effort.

Repairing a broken microwave keypad

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[Alexandre Souza] needed a microwave pretty badly, but he didn’t have a lot of cash on hand. He located one for a great price, but once he got home he found that things weren’t working quite like they should be (Google translation).

After some investigation, he narrowed the problem down to a bad keypad membrane. Unfortunately for him, this model of microwave was never sold in Brazil (who knows how it got there) and the only membrane he could track down had to be shipped in from the US at a cost of $80.

Rather than pay such a high price for a simple membrane, he opted to fix the microwave himself. He dismantled the control panel and thoroughly traced the keypad matrix to get an understanding of which pins toggled which functions. With a piece of protoboard and almost two dozen push buttons in hand, he built his own keypad and wired it directly into the microwave’s control board.

With labels written in marker it might not be the nicest looking thing you have ever seen, but it works a treat and is a great money-saving hack.

Breathing new life into a broken iPod

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[Craig] had a busted 2nd Gen iPod Nano that was well out of warranty. The play/pause button no longer worked, leaving him unable to play or pause music, nor power off the device. He didn’t want to scrap the iPod, so he figured out a way to add an external play/pause button instead.

He ordered an iPod dock connector from SparkFun and found that it had just enough space inside for the electronic components he would be adding. He consulted some online references for pinout information, then got busy cramming an ATiny13 and a pushbutton into the dock connector.

To minimize the drain on the iPod’s battery, he puts the ATiny into sleep mode when it is not being used. When the button is pressed, it wakes up the microcontroller and sends the proper signal to the iPod. Based on his estimations, it would take nearly 250 years for the ATiny to drain the iPod’s battery completely, so he’s pretty comfortable leaving the dongle attached at all times.

If you have an iPod with similar issues, he has made his source code available so you can save yours from the trash heap as well.

There I Fixed It: A blog about hacking, poorly.

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Thereifixedit.com is a site filled with dubious innovations. Some of them are cool, some of them are clever, and most of them are terrifying. Anyone who has ever stood in front of a broken household appliance with a roll of duct tape, one screw driver with a bit chipped off the flat part, and determination will laugh themselves silly browsing through this site. Maybe some of the ghetto hacks we covered before should be in this list.

[Thanks for the link Dad]

Robert Crumb ghetto hacks

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[Robert Crumb], the celebrated artist who created the commonly recognized keep on truckin, Fritz the cat, and mr natural can be seen here doing a ghetto hack. His record was warped, so he had to melt it in the oven to flatten it out. While [R. Crumb] may not be the epitome of celebrity and wealth, he got us wondering, what celebrities do ghetto hacks? More importantly, what ghetto hacks do you continue to do, even though you could afford to just simply replace the item? In case you missed the ghetto hacks thread, here it is.

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