The tender ambiguity of failure.

While I spent some time converting the wood splitter from dirty petrol to clean solar, doing what shouldn’t be doable and succeeding against all odds,  and quite pleasantly surprised I was. I also spent time converting the garden shredder from dirty petrol to equally dirty, but more efficient diesel tractor power take off, PTO – and failed, or at least for the time being. As every failure is one step closer to eventual success.
Nothing is ever finished.
We bought a garden shredder, quite a good one from the US, not cheap Chinese. It wasn’t long before it needed parts for the engine though.
Nothing last forever.
It had a ‘Tecumseh’ 9 HP engine and I soon found out that it had gone out of production about the time that I bought it. So 2 years later when I needed parts. That wasn’t  going to happen, unless I could find old stock somewhere, or 2nd hand parts.
I had a quick look online but because I don’t know anything about engines I couldn’t make head-nor-tail of what I was finding.
I had a brilliant idea. Instead of continuing with the dirty small petrol engine, why didn’t I convert the whole machine to run off the power take off drive on the tractor?
I seemed like a good idea at the time. I stripped the old shredder down, removed the engine, which had the cutting disc attached to its own shaft. Problem 1. How to mount a new shaft on the old machine when there was nowhere to bolt it on. Just thin air, previously, everything had been mounted off the engine. Now that the engine was removed, there was nothing. I decided to weld up a sheet-metal base plate and stand, then use that as a base to bolt everything on to, to make the old machine work again. So far, so good.
Problem 2. the cutting disc of the shredder is mounted on a tapered shaft with left hand thread set screw to hold it on. I decided to turn down an old piece of steel bar to an approximate taper like the old one. A bit of careful guesswork, but it fitted OK. So that was good. This was quite tricky on my old hand-made, metal lathe and I had to buy a ‘tap’ to maker the new threaded hole for the retaining screw. I mounted the new shaft on some cheap bearings and added a splined shaft adaptor to suit the tractor PTO.
So further, so good. After re-assembly it turned by hand freely. I felt pleased with myself, even a little bit smug. A couple of weeks of spare-time tinkering, a few small items purchased and some re-cycled junk put to a better use and given a new life. I welded on a 3 point linkage mounting, primed it and painted it all bright red.
What could possible go wrong?
I back up the tractor and connected it all up. Three point linkages, PTO splined shaft drive, safety links on drive shaft cover, all good!  Start the tractor and engage the PTO drive. It all works, it rotates, it spins, it whirrs. It looks and acts like a bought one. Success!
But when I tried to put weeds into the shredder, they just wouldn’t go in, try as I might. Then it finally dawns on me that the old stationary petrol engine spun clockwise and the tractor PTO spins counter-clockwise. It’s all running backwards. No wonder that it doesn’t work!
Who ever decided that small engines should run one way and larger engines should run the other? I’m totally perplexed and completely crest fallen.
My new, bright red, grown-ups toy is never going to work like this. If it was an electric motor, I could reverse the polarity quite easily, but not a combustion engine.
There is some tender ambiguity in this failure. It’s a complete failure, no hiding the fact. But technically, it works beautifully, backwards!
Not to mention that it is a very impressive bright red colour, and very new looking and ever so shiny. So I can be proud of all that.
It just doesn’t work.
It looks great parked in the shed. It impresses everyone who sees it. I’m ever so proud of it.
It just doesn’t work – At least not yet!
Is it a failure — yes!
Am I proud of it – Yes!
Nothing is perfect.
I can’t afford to spend any more time on it now, as I have half a dozen group shows coming up and I need to fire all the pots that I’ve been making. I can’t change the shredder mechanism. It’s only built to work in the one direction. I can’t reverse the tractor engine. It’s a total loss. I’m a twat! But no-one told me!
Perhaps at a later date, when I can create some more spare time, I can fabricate a reversing gearbox out of some spare cogs on a 2nd shaft? A couple more bearings, weld up a hinged lifting mechanism to tension the system. It’s all do-able.
Time will tell.
This hasn’t been my finest hour, but I still have a few more fine hours left in me – at least I hope so!
And after all, it is so terribly red and ever so shiny.
It looks great. It just doesn’t work.
Failing is a strange kind of self-reliance
Watch this space.