Compressors that Don't - Why do we hold on to things?

This might be something unique to Farm Life, or at the very least something that Apartment Dwellers are not familiar with. Let me see if I can set the scene for you.

I grew up on a grain farm in Alberta, then I joined the US Navy to seek my fortune, or adventure, or what ever they were advertising back then. Since I moved around a lot, I tried to keep my pile of stuff under control. Not always successfully, I might add, but I did try!

After the Navy, I lived in a long series of apartments, so again, not a lot of room. I did get storage lockers, but it doesn't take long to figure out if you stored something for a year, you could probably have replaced it for less money!

So, my motivations for keeping my pile of stuff short were being too lazy to want to move it all, and being too cheap to store it! If you've known me for any amount of time, you'd know that I still had a lot of stuff, depending on when you knew me! There was a while where I actually had 2 apartments, and still put some stuff in storage, and borrowed the boiler room at the apartment building too! But I was the manager then, so I kinda had an excuse!

Since that time, I had a few moves where I really had to cut down, to the point where if it didn't fit in the van, on one trip, it was either on the curb, in the dumpster, or my former roommate got it.

Ok, think that's enough of the set up, on with the story already! I'm currently parked on a farm, awaiting the next mission, or maybe I'll just go start something on my own. But while I'm waiting, I'm helping my Mom and Brother Kevin (no, he's not a Monk, he's my brother, Kevin. anyway) so I'm helping out while I'm here. Some of my projects were grabbing the weedeater grass trimmer thingy and pushing back the jungle. You know, if there is wild grass, it is hard to tell where the lawn ends and the jungle begins right?

Well, you'd be amazed at the kind of treasures you find in the jungle of tall grass that surrounds the yard. At first I was amazed, then confused, then slowly it started coming back to me. I used to see my Dad do the same kind of thing. You come back from town, or an auction sale, or the dump. You had some new shiny thing in the back of the truck, that you didn't really need, exactly, but it was too good to pass up.

Like one time, I saw my Dad unloading a truck load of bumpers. Maybe not a full load, but I'll bet there were 8 or 9 bumpers there. Chrome ones, painted ones, one had black and yellow "caution" type markings on it. As best I can figure it, he bid $5 for the lot of them, and no one else bid. So he "had" to bring them home!

On the yard I am at now, its like that. Cases of hydraulic fluid, sheets of metal siding, rolls of electrical wiring. Tool boxes, buckets full of chain. Buckets full of pipe fittings. All carefully placed in neat rows sometimes, a few feet back into the tall grass.

I suppose its similar to when women go shopping, and come home with shoes. You probably don't "need' shoes, anymore than we need a truck load of bumpers. But you "might" need them, and dang is it a buzz kill when you really do need a new bumper and you have to go buy it!

And here's the clincher, storage space here is kind of free. Yes, someone could say that land could be used for something else, like a garden or what ever. Sure, ok, you wanna come grow some potatoes? I'll mow you a patch of jungle, go crazy!

A couple weeks ago, we needed to air up a tire on a trailer. There are probably half a dozen old shacks with stuff stored inside. All the shacks are lined up kind of in a row. Odds are they fell off a truck that way, like the bucket of pipe fittings! Anyway, looking through the shacks, I found several old car batteries, and 3 air compressors. No wait, there were 2 actual compressors, and one big tank. Several air hoses, a decent looking tire chuck. 400 feet of extension cord... probably 40 feet was usable, the rest had been cut by a lawnmower or burned somehow.

Well, after mucking around a while, I finally had to face the fact there were no functioning air compressors on this end of the farm. Brother Kevin, our wood working genius I mentioned earlier, has a good, functioning air compressor. And we've decided to keep it hidden, and functioning! So hopefully none of the maurading scavengers who share the farm or its out buildings and pastures ever read the blog!

Being the Mr Fix It of the place, at least when everyone is away at their real jobs, I decided I'd see if I could fix at least one of the air compressors. Its always been a hobby of mine, perhaps a sick, twisted obsession, to take things apart that are dead. Not animals, no that would be gross. I work mostly with machines. Sometimes with computers. Once with a TV, but after burning the tip of a screwdriver, I'm going to stay away from things that might actually kill me!

So I put the dead air compressor up on the work bench. By work bench, I mean on the back of a pickup truck with a flat bed. Just happened to be parked near a power cord that did work, so I thought it was a good place to operate!

Rule number 1, always Verify the Descrepancy! Or, said simpler, make sure its really broken, before you go taking it apart! So I plug it in, flip the switch, and you know that weird sound, or almost lack of a sound, when you try to start an electric motor that can't move? Its trying, you can kind of feel it twitch, then nothing. Ok good, its for sure mostly dead! Now the fun begins!

Unplug the beast. I always make it a point to place the end of the cord where I can touch it, see it, and no one else can sneak up and plug it in, thinking they're helping me. Some of these lessons may have been learned the hard way. Its also possible I have some repressed memories. Think about that last sentence. If you had repressed memories, would you know it?

Ever notice all the safety guards that are on power tools now? I mean, its almost like they are purposely trying to keep you from putting your fingers into the moving parts!

So, the next step, obviously, is to remove the guards! We need to get our fingers in there! Ok, now that's better. Hehe, it looks kind of naked now!

Well good, now there is a fan I can put my finger in. Give the fan a bit of a poke, and wow, look at that, now it moves. That was easy, lets go ahead and see if it turns on now! Plug it in, hmmm the power switch is kind of close to the fan. Almost wish the guard was on now! Steady, flip the power switch... Whooosh! Wow, its alive!

Hmmmm ... that was way too easy. Odd, too, the electric motor is running really good, but things sound... wrong. Oh right, there isn't that popping sound of the piston in the compressor doing its... popping sound! Ok, switch off, unplug. Wait for the fan to stop spinning. Something about a fan, I just can't resist putting my finger in there! Yup, the motor sure spins freely.

We can officially say the motor is not the problem. So lets remove the motor! Few screws, few wires, a good solid smack with a hammer. Of course I didn't just hit the motor with a hammer, that would be... irresponsible of me! I found a stick and hit the stick with the hammer. I am a trained professional you know!

Motor removed. Spin shaft, yeah thats bad. Shaft should not spin that easily. Spin out a few bolts, and another smack with the stick and hammer duo, and the cylinder head pops right off. Looking in the cylinder I can see the piston. Thats weird, there shouldn't be a piston in there, it should be some how connected. Think, brain, I took this class once... Oh D'uh, Pistons are connected to the Crank Shaft, with a... wait for it... Connecting Rod! Seems almost obvious right? So, there is a piston, but most of the connecting rod is missing.

Some people might jump to the conclusion that a devious fiend stole the connecting rod, then put the whole air compressor back together. Now that would be a funny prank to pull! But no, that didn't happen!

Tipping the compressor around a few ways, finally in the bottom of the oil I can see a broken connecting rod laying in there. So, either the piston seized, from getting used in "below freezing weather", which according to the BIG RED STICKER you are not supposed to do, or it might just be a random material failure. It could happen. But I suspect it was used last winter, since it was kind of close to the snow plow that has a flat tire!

Well, I gotta say, about the time I saw the broken connecting rod, I was a bit disappointed. Not like I'm going to be bringing this one back to life right?

This brings us back almost on topic. Do I put it back in the tall grass, and save it for spare parts? Or throw it away, cause its dead. Or is there another option?

In case you've never seen a "walk around tank", or a portable air tank, basically, its a tank, with an air hose, maybe a pressure guage, but no air pump. Sounds kind of useless right? Picture this, though. You have some bikes at home with flat tires. Rather than loading all the bikes into the SUV and then driving to the gas station to air the tires up, you have this tank. Next time you buy gas, which if you are driving a SUV, is probably more often than you buy soy milk, right? So buy your gas, and then drive over to the air pump, Pay your money, and instead of filling tires, you just fill the tank instead.

Then you get home, and pump up all the bikes from your handy tank. Genius! Added bonus, without the extra weight of the motor and air pump, the tank itself is pretty easy to carry.

So, with this in mind, I made the only logical decision of the day. I unbolted the motor and pump, and dropped them into the nearest dumpster. Then I taped off all the open connections, so bugs or moisture didn't get inside the tank, and I stuck the tank in one of our old storage shacks. Next time I'm at a hardware store, I'll get some pipe fittings, maybe a valve, and we'll have a handy dandy portable air tank.

In case you were really paying attention, yes, I did look in that other bucket of fittings, and not one of them were even close to the right size for what I need. I know, I was shocked too!

Moving down the line, I took one look at the next victem, an even older air compressor, and I just stripped the motor off, and dropped it in the trask next to the first one. The tank of course I kept.

At this rate it will take while, but every time I get a spare day, if I clean up another corner of the farm, in 20 or 30 years, we'll be able to mow all the grass with out fear of running over hidden treasure!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2010-10-08 22:20:36