Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cleaning and Re-Greasing a Mid-Century GE Fan

Old people always talk about how things aren't made like they used to be. Sometimes that's even true. In the case of this fan, that's both good and bad. It's super quiet, it looks great, it's durable, and it moves a lot of air. The faint whir of those metal blades pushing air sounds like an airplane. But those metal blades also have a sparse guard, which makes it unfriendly for little fingers. Stick your hand in there and you could get hurt pretty badly.

I love this fan anyway, but though it's something you can maintain, that doesn't mean anyone has maintained it. When I turned it on at low speed, it would work hard to spin up. If I wanted it on low, I'd turn it on high first to get it started, then turn it down. I thought it was time to take it apart and see if there was something I could do. (The picture above is from after the cleaning. The shiny brass logo piece was tarnished to the point that it was the same color as the brown wire around it.)

The guard and blades come off with simple screws. In fact, the whole thing comes apart with just a couple flat-blade screwdrivers. That nub hanging off the center contains a wick that carries lubricant up to the bearing, but the wick was hard and the lubricant well was dry. I'm not sure if it took oil or grease originally, but whatever it was, over its decades of neglect it had become almost a hard wax. I filled it with multi-purpose grease when I reassembled it.

Note the almost complete absence of plastic components. The coils are wrapped in what looks like wax paper. The strain relief on the cord is just simple string. Here you can also see the wear on that shaft from the lack of lubricant in the sleeve bearing.

See the heat marks on the rotor. I think the lack of lubricant was overworking the motor.

Once I had the rotor out, I unscrewed the back half. This is the gearbox that controls the oscillation function. If this thing had been better maintained, this might not be necessary, but you can clearly see this could use a cleaning. Otherwise, the cover on the gearbox comes off without swinging out from the main motor housing.

There it is. Nothing but black, hardened grease.

I dug the stuff out with Q-tips, toothpicks and my Gerber multi-tool. I also sprayed in some brake cleaner to help loosen the stuff up, but the black wax seemed near impervious to it.

Most of the gunk had to be removed by manual rather than chemical means.

My wife was kind enough to wash the fan blades and guard for me. Simple soap and water did the trick.

I filled the box with general-purpose automotive grease, and the front reservoir with motor oil. It spins up much faster and operates more quietly than before.

Making a Lamp from a Crankshaft

After thoroughly overhauling my WRX's engine, I wanted to do something with my bent Subaru crankshaft. I've always wanted to make a table using an engine block, a la Top Gear. I have yet to get my hands on a block I can use for this, but my end tables made from tires have turned out really well. This crankshaft, then, had to become a lamp.

I went to Home Depot to look for a lamp-making kit, but I thought they were kind of pricey ($15 or so) and only came in a bright brass finish. This obviously wouldn't match my style. Then, while looking for lampshades at Target, I found a lamp on clearance for the same $15, but with better, black-painted hardware and a clear (instead of yellow) cord. So I bought a good lamp shade and the cheap lamp and headed home.

I took the cheap lamp apart and figured out how I wanted to put it together. Then I went to a machine shop.

There's a protrusion at the flywheel side of the crankshaft. It's what centers the flywheel on the crankshaft as you install the bolts. The pilot bearing sits inside this protrusion. Since that prevents the crankshaft from standing flat, I had to get it machined off. A local machine shop did that for me.

The guy at the machine shop also drilled and tapped a hole inside the crank snout (the timing belt and accessory drive end). He threaded the lamp socket post to match. This way I could feed the wire from the socket through the first main journal and out the center of the lamp. 

I originally cleaned the crankshaft by soaking it in a bucket of Simple Green solution, then doing a quick spraydown with brake cleaner. After that, tried to protect the crank with a clear spraypaint, but the paint quickly cracked and peeled. I got some paint stripper and removed it all. Primer may be necessary to get paint to stick to raw metal, but I want to keep the crank's look; it bears the indicators of spun bearings. 

I'm instead just leaving it bare, hoping that the oils from my hands will keep the crank from rusting. I rubbed it all over with my hands. It's worked so far, but if it does end up rusting, I don't think that'll hurt the look.  

Whirlpool Washing Machines Have Guibos

Our Whirlpool washer wouldn't spin anymore. So I tipped it to replace the belt, but alas, there was none. A little digging on the internet showed that this clothes washer had a guibo-style coupler between the motor and the bowl drive system. I've seen these before as vibration isolators on the driveshaft of my old Mercedes 240D (and I've heard they're common on German cars). But I couldn't figure out how to get at the one in my washer until I found a video (which I have since lost).

Instead of tipping the whole unit over, the video showed that you can remove two screws from the base of the control panel. Flip the panel up, pop a couple metal clips loose, and the whole outer shell can simply be tipped forward and pulled off the chassis. It's remarkably easy.

The motor is held in place by a couple large metal band-style clips, which are secured by a couple small bolts. Once you remove the bolts and bands and wiggle the motor loose, you'll find the busted guibo--something you might call an isolating coupler, if you're not talking about automotive driveshafts. This is part number 285753A, which is the updated version with a metal sleeve reinforcing the guibo. You can see the failure point on the original bit; the metal piece should make it much more durable. If memory serves, this replacement was about $8 from some online vendor. The shafts and guibo are a pretty tight fit, so it helps if you apply a little grease when you try to put it all back together.