Nothing is Perfect!

We have just had our latest wood firing and all went well, as usual, thank goodness. We do our best, but we can make no guarantees, only mistakes!. We found that only a few pots made from an imported Japanese porcelain clay dunted. Glazed only on the inside too. Maybe that was the problem? Apart from this it was a very good firing!

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After the firing we get out and about and get stuck into some timber cutting and splitting. I’m up and out early with the chain saws, long before any one comes to help. Chain saws are dangerous enough without anyone else being around to watch out for and keep at a safe distance. We split about half of the 40 or so lengths that I have cut and prepared, but then the throttle lever on the splitter motor comes off in my hand. Cheap Chinese made splitter! So work has to come to a halt for the day while I fix it. We spend the rest of the time stacking and moving all that we have split over to the kiln shed. When everyone is gone. I take the splitter motor to bits looking for where the bolt or screw has fallen out. How could the throttle lever just come off in my hands? I can’t see where it has come from. Where it ought to be, but there ought to be an obvious spot with tell-tale wear marks, to indicate where it belongs. A place with a missing bolt! Just like in an Agatha Christie novel. there ought to be some clues, but the more I look, the less I know. I can’t believe it. Surely I’m not this inadequate and simple that I can’t see a missing bolts hole. I have removed half the engine, the air cleaner, and part of the carbie!

All the mechanism is installed under the air filter on one side and the muffler on the other. All the linkages are under the petrol tank. Everything is hard to get to and nothing is clear. There are metal wire linkages and tiny little, fine wire, return springs. I can’t see where any of it really belongs and to make it harder, the days are so short and it is starting to get dark.

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Then, finally, it dawns on me. It hasn’t fallen off because of a missing bolt or nut. It has simply shattered in half from metal fatigue and the rest of it is still all attached. It has cracked in half. I need to remove more of the engine to get all of it off, so that I can weld it back together again. I can’t do it on the machine, next to the carburetor, and all that fuel! I take a couple of photos as I go to remind me later on when I’m re-assembling it. So that I can get it all back together again in the right order.

Years ago, I used to write all of this kind of thing down in my day book – sort of diary thing, but now I just take photos. Because I can! When I was young, my first car was an old, classic, red, MG sports car. When I had to pull the engine down the first time. I wrote everything down, step by step and recorded all the detail that I thought was going to be necessary to re-assemble it. I numbered and bagged all the parts in sequence. I had never had to do anything like this before and my father wasn’t much interested or even around to give any guidance, so I just muddled through with the help of my older brother, who also had absolutely no experience of this kind of motor mechanics, but make encouraging noises and was supportive, especially when it came to lifting the donk out. We were completely incompetent and naive, but we managed to get it all back together again and it worked! it was quite a triumph for us. Especially for me.

When it was all done and back together. I had one nut left over, and to this day I still don’t know where it belonged. but the car still worked! Nothing is perfect!

Today, I get this small engine all stripped down and then set about welding the shattered pieces back together again. I think about making a new one, but the thing is so complex and folded in so many different places with so many holes and little tags and bits sticking out, that I decide to just repair it. Nothing is perfect! I don’t know how long it will last. Nothing lasts! It is only very thin pressed metal material. I can’t give it too many amps. I don’t want to burn a hole through it, and I can only weld one side too, because it has to have a flush face on the other side, so that it will swivel properly on it’s seating.  I weld it as best that I can, after testing the amperage on a test piece, so as to get the best result. I get good penetration! What more could a man want! But there is a little burn-through in one spot on the weld, so I have to grind it back a little to get it flush and smooth.

I manage to get it all back together before dark and back into the shed. It’s a bit of a rush, but there are no medals for giving up! I give it a trial run and it works OK. Time will tell if it continues to work for the long term. I go up to the house in the dark and the key snaps off in the lock. This is just what I need! One of the joys of living in a 122 year old house is doing the maintenance. I leave it till morning to take the lock off and fix it in daylight. I can’t see well enough in the dark and fixing locks, with all the fine moving parts is something that needs to be done in a clear frame of mind and good daylight. Fortunately it isn’t too difficult and it turns out to be something that I have had to do before, so it is relatively simple and straight forward and it is all back into working order pretty quickly and before lunch time. Nothing is perfect and nothing is ever finished.

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Because crap things always seem to come in threes, at least that is how it appears today. The water tank springs a leak. It has been leaking with a slow drip for a year or more now, but today, it springs a proper leak and The Lovely comes in to tell me that as she walked past the tank stand just now, and it felt like it was raining. This happened a couple of days ago too and she thought that she might have been imagining it. But today she is sure. We go and have a look. The timber tank stand deck is all wet underneath, just as it has been for a few years now, where the slow drip is, but now there is a little fountain pissing from the far side. It’s only very tiny, but it is surely a leak in the side of the tank now. I get the ladder and check it out at close quarters. The water has corroded through the zink coated corrugated steel sheeting. My highly imaginative and creative thinker thought that she was imagining it a few weeks ago when she felt a little fine water spray on her as she walked past the wood shed near by the tank stand. At that time, she imagined that it might be a cicada pissing from high up in a tree, or some other explanation. But now we know that it is real and not imagined. It’s a very tiny, fine spray of water from the pin prick sized hole, but once these things start. It’s always terminal.

I order a new tank, it’s all so specific these days. The height, the diameter, the colour, the inlet, the outlet side etc. It all goes on and on. This is not a current or popular size and configuration however. We will have to go on the waiting list. He rings me back the next day, They have one of those in stock it seems and so I can drive in and pick it up. Amazing! It has to be pretty much the same, because I don’t want to have to change over all the plumbing into a new configuration. When working up a 6 metre ladder. right at the top, it’s scarry enough.

I ring my friend Dave with the crane truck. he can come very late today on his way home. I drain all the water out of the tank and strip it of all its fittings and connectors. I swap all of these onto the new tank. Now we have no water in the house to cook, wash or flush with until it is all put back to rights. I hope that Dave doesn’t forget. He rings to say that he will be a little late, but he is here before dark. Which is good, if you are working on a narrow ladder rung, right at the top of a 6 metre ladder, up from the ground, you don’t want to be doing it in the dark.

It all goes smoothly and all the fittings that I swap over are all in the correct place and in the right direction, or orientation for further use.

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The old tank comes down and the new one goes into its place without a hitch. I only have to reconnect the inlet and outlet pipes.

Once it is back in place, Dave leaves for another job, I have to start the pump to refill it with water again, so that we can get on with our normal life.

The Wet One thinks that this tank is only a few years old. I think that it is probably a bit more than that, but not too old. Not more than ten years!  Nothing lasts. However, when I check out the paperwork, it turns out that it is actually 20 years since we put it up on the tank stand. The earlier tank had lasted 21 years and would have lasted longer, but the tank stand rusted out first and fell, crashing to the ground with the water tank still on it. Needless to say, neither survived, nor did the wood shed that it landed on.

I’m just a bit concerned that this new water tank is made of plastic and not galvanised steel like all the others have been. I wasn’t ever happy with the first tank that was made of galvanised steel and sealed with lead solder! But it did last for over 20 years and our first storage tank lasted for over 30 years, but the zink finally corrodes and they start to leak, so we replaced them with new ones. These newer tanks were made from zincalume coated steel, so couldn’t be soldered, that’s good, but they had to be sealed with silicon rubber glue. Not too happy about that either. Nothing is perfect! The last metal tank that we bought was lined with a plastic membrane heat sealed on to the inside of the zincalume sheets. It was called aquaplate, but didn’t last any longer and it was silicone sealed as well. Nothing is perfect!

Plastic is in everything. It’s OK while it lasts, but what will happen to this plastic tank when it finally gets eaten away by the sunlight or what ever is its fate? Can it be recycled? Al least the steel ones can be. I still have and use my parents old galvanised steel water tank. They bought it second-hand in the fifties, so it’s been in constant use in this family for over 60 years and is clearly a lot older, it shows no signs of corrosion yet. It was made out of thick steel plate and hot dipped in molten zinc. That was a product made to last. I have been told that it was a ships tank, but I don’t know. In future I may have to weld up my own tank and get it hot dipped galvanised, just like I do with my kilns. I like things that are made to last as long as possible.

However, I’m also aware that nothing is ever finished, nothing lasts and nothing is perfect.

You live and learn!

Best wishes