Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ms. Fix-it: or Confessions of a chronic Do-It-Yourself-er

This blog post is about a different type of creativity…  Ever get frustrated with corporate America's planned obsolescence?  I do.  Imagine... you're using one of your trusted tools or gadgets when suddenly it stops or no longer performs properly.  So, whenever  a product I own decides to die, I do a search on the internet to find any available information to diagnose and fix the problem.

So, about a month ago, in the midst of whipping up a batch of home-made bread, my Kitchenaid stand mixer made a funny noise and simply stopped running.  In aid of eating foods that are as minimally processed as possible, (i.e. no chemicals), I make my own bread.  I knew I would be wanting the help of Ms. Kitchenaid in a week or two to make the next batch of bread… what's a girl to do?
I should mention that we live on a one income budget, so we are very crafty with how we spend our money.  Also, I tend towards extreme environmental consciousness, so the thought of tossing something like this to the landfill is unacceptable.   
I first called the 1-800 number located on the back of my machine.

After the nice customer service person told me: 1.  That my bread recipe was ½ cup more than what my model could handle (really? I've been making this same bread recipe with this machine for many months with zero signs of a struggle till this point);  2.  That he couldn't diagnose my problem over the phone; 3. That he highly recommended that I pay for the mailing kit to send my machine to the factory for diagnosis and repair; and 4. That just the mailing kit cost $35, and that didn't include any part of diagnosis or repairs…. Realizing that I can buy a refurbished machine on ebay for likely just a little more than I'd spend sending them the damn machine and paying the factory labor and parts costs for fixing whatever was wrong with it; I thanked him for his time and kindly said that I'd look into all my options before purchasing the mailing kit.  I then headed to the internet for some research.  There are some sites out there that helped; these sites got me to a preliminary diagnosis and realization that I could possibly fix this myself for less than the $35 shipping kit cost!  The sites I found were this:   and this:
It sounded as though my machine had the same issue that was described, a broken worm gear (which apparently is the most common problem when these machines break down).  It seems these gears are made out of nylon (read plastic).  We're talking about a $4 part... Yep, this machine with a heavy metal exterior, leaving one to think the machine is built to last, has plastic gears inside.  The company claims these plastic gears are designed to break down, as to prevent the motor from burning out; though it sounds logical, I admit to being a bit skeptical about that reasoning alone for plastic gears.  Neither of the two websites listed above had many visuals to go with the instructions of dismantling the machine.  Frankly because I'm a visual girl, the how-to instructions on their own left me less than 100% confident that I knew what I was doing.  Never one to let that hold me back when a chance to experiment is at hand… and hey, what did I have to lose by just taking the thing apart?  I set to work, screwdriver in-hand.  After I got the thing successfully apart, I decided that I should do a blog post on this topic, to help anyone else "out there" fix their machine.

 My model is the Kitchenaid Classic 4 ½ quart capacity.  (**Note: it might be of benefit to read through both of the previously mentioned websites and through all of my instructions before you have a go at it! **)  So here are the details…

First, gather the tools you will need to take the machine apart.  Here's what I used:  a small flat head screw driver, a phillips head screw driver, a metal punch tool (not sure of technical name) and a large flat head screw driver; you will also need a hammer:

1.  Make sure your machine is unplugged!  Then, at the back top of your machine there is a phillips head screw located on the top of the rounded part as seen in the next photo, unscrew this screw to remove the rounded cover on the back of the machine.

2.  After you remove the rounded back cover, you will see the two small phillips head screws which hold the outer band in place, unscrew both these screws (see red and yellow arrows).

3.  Remove the outer band by stretching outward slightly and slipping it off the machine.

4.  Next we will remove the round band at the front of the machine head, take your small flat head screw driver and place it in one of the little grooves you will find at the top of that silver band, then nudge the band downward (careful not to scratch the paint on your machine), it should shimmy loose so you can remove it.  Note: This band is not fastened with any screws, so when you put the machine back together you want to push this band up far enough so that it will stay in place.


5.  Next take your metal punch tool and place it on the pin that you see on the planetary, the pin is located near the shaft which holds your beater attachements (this entire piece that rotates is called the planetary), as seen here:

Hammer the end of your metal punch tool to draw out the pin and remove it.  Note: when you put the machine back together, the holes on the outside of the planetary must match up with the hole on the inside shaft, if you can't see clear through all of the holes, simply rotate the planetary until you can see through it and then you will be ready to reinsert your pin.

6.  Now you can pry down the planetary (the part that rotates).  I did this by inserting the long shaft of my screw driver between the planetary and the top of the machine (like a mini crowbar), then wriggled the screwdriver shaft up and down until I was able to pull the planetary off the rest of the way with my hands.  This takes some force, but it will come free.

7.  Next you will unscrew and remove the 5 flat head screws on the circular area that were revealed just now after your removed the planetary (seen below)

8.  Unscrew and remove the 2 flat head screws just under this circular area as seen here:

9.  At the back of the machine there are 2 more flat head screws that are recessed into the butt of the machine which need to be removed, you will find one on each side of the machine as seen below:

10. Now the top of your machine should be free to lift up and off, again this may take some force (I also used the shaft of my screwdriver to help here) but it will come off... Once it is free, be sure to slide the plastic housing at the top of the cord wire out of the base, as the wires are attached to the mechanics in the top part of the machine but the cord is seated in the base (you don't want to set the top down with this still attached to the base, as it could detach wires from soldered points)  Be prepared, a lot of black gooey grease is housed in the head and may fall out so you might not want do this on your best table cloth or while wearing your favorite outfit!

This is only a small portion of the black icky grease that was in mine, a lot of it fell out as I was taking the top off and a lot of it was in the top part of the machine. 

Now that your machine is apart, you need to diagnose the problem. Clean off as much of the old grease as you can with some paper towels.  Check all your gears to see if any teeth are broken off or shredded.  Not only was the worm gear on mine shredded, but the pinion gear below it was missing teeth - because the pinion gear is metal, those missing teeth were still lodged in the center pinion gear that it connects with, so I had to go through each gap of the center pinion with my small screwdriver to slide out any broken bits to be sure it wouldn't mess up my new replacement gears.  Be sure to inspect all your gears before you order your parts...  I almost missed the pinion gear issue but luckily caught it right before I placed my order.  Go to this website, to view a machine diagram (look for the "enlarge the image" for easier viewing), to determine which gears you need to replace.  This site also has the best price point that I foundon the internet to order the worm gears :   Be aware that when you put it all back together ***you MUST replace the grease!!*** (the manufacturer actually recommends you replace the grease every 2 years or so, but this was the first time I'd done it in the 13 year lifetime of my machine).  You MUST to use a food grade grease such as Benalene, which you can also buy at the Mendingshed website, it comes in a small pint sized can:

So here's my bright new shiny worm (the worm gear is the cream/yellow colored part) and pinion gear box that I replaced, before I greased it back up and reassembled the beast... The cost of this shiny new part was about $7, the can of grease was about $18 and then there was shipping, but I think I got the job done in the range of $35-$40... and I still have a fairly full a can of grease ready for the next time I need it:

When your parts arrive in the mail, swap out the old parts for the replacements by unscrewing the old parts where you see them attached.  Remember to add a generous amount of new grease (comparable to what you cleaned off the parts) and reassemble by following the directions in reverse. 
And there you have it, how to disassemble your Kitchenaid stand mixer... 

Mine has been singing along perfectly since the replacement, as my oven will attest, and I've learned to do my bread in 1/2 batches so I don't break another worm gear!

I'm dreaming of owning an Electrolux mixer someday, but I don't think I'll have a spare $600 to $1000 any time soon, so I have to make my Kitchenaid last as long as she can and with this knowledge, she should last for many years!

I've done this same Ms. Fixit routine for my ibook and my MacBooks.  Thanks to for perfect instructions paired with photo visuals of each step, for the past 13 years when I've had a computer problem I fixed it myself on the cheap.  I also buy my new-to-me, previously used computers with "issues" to get a bargain that I can fix fairly inexpensive.  So, next time something breaks, before you just toss it, head to the internet to see if you can learn how to fix it yourself!  You might just impress yourself, or your spouse... I love hearing mine say (and he does often), that he married the right woman; one who's just as handy with a power tool as she is with a kitchen utensil, sewing machine... (insert random homemaker tool), etc.... ;)   Good luck with your machine, if it should ever break, and leave me a comment with any questions!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Special Thank You

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to vote for the May 2013 PCAGOE challenge!  I was honored to have my Peacock Mosaic Serving Tray (seen here) chosen by both the public and by the guild as the 1st place entry.  As is the case every month, all of the pieces deserved an award, as all were well thought out and executed ideas.

 A special Thanks too, to friend and guild mate Marie Young of Young Creative, who mentioned me on her website... Thanks Marie!  Marie also placed in the challenge, with her innovative Peacock Crazy Quilt Mosaic Light Switch Plate tying for the 3rd place public vote.  Please go check out Marie's website post; and while you're there, stay a while and read through some of her other posts.  She does with her website what I wish I would do with this blog...  she posts regularly (much more often than my typical once-a-month posts), she features artists who inspire her, and she talks about her current projects and her creative process to achieve each piece, including things she's learned along the way from trial and error.  I'm signed up for her email list and I always enjoy getting the email when she creates a new post.

Thanks again to everyone!  I'm planning an unusual blog post for my next posting (hopefully within the next few days, and hopefully I can get it done before the next challenge blog post).  Check back to see what I have planned, especially if you own a Kitchenaid stand mixer... 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Going to pieces

This time of year is so crazy busy for me with garden work and preparing the house for summer.  May always seems to be a month where I feel like I'm running from the time I get up until the time I collapse into bed.  So... this is a quick pop in to post about the challenge for this month and my entry.

This month's theme was mosaics.  And as always happens, many great interpretations on the theme were crafted.  Here's a sampling of the entries:

Please remember to go to the PCAGOE blog to vote for your favorite 3 entries before midnight 5/7/13 EST.

Here's a larger photo of my entry: 

I began designing this piece in my head in the middle of March and it literally took all of April to pull it together.  The polymer clay tiles were created using various techniques.  The brilliant blue tiles were created with mica shift, the lime green back feathers were simply a skinner blend of greens, and the darker green tail feathers were a take on Lynda Moseley's controlled marbling technique.  For the green of these tail feathers I did a controlled blend of teal and emerald greens with one contrast of rust red, then I took the blended sheet and cut it into strips which I assembled bargello style before I cut all of the individual tiles.  The tray's background was created with a blend of clays and mica powders to create a look similar to Travertine marble. The hundreds of pieces were all hand cut and individually glued in place, then a grout was smoothed over the entire piece.  The piece was sanded and buffed and coated with a protective finish.  This piece will likely end up in my mother's hands, as she loves peacocks and I think she'd love receiving this for Mother's day.  She has always been such a strong influence on me and what I create... when I begin creating something special like this piece she's never far from my mind, so it's no wonder I tend to create special pieces themed with subjects that she deems beautiful.  And it's no wonder that when I feel like I'm scattered by all that awaits on my schedule, thoughts of my mom can always ground me.... truly an amazing woman.