Sustainable Stuff

Mend it Monday: Bog Standard



This is a short Mend it Monday about a toilet so there will be no sniggering at the back…*

A day or two ago, one of the hinges on the toilet seat broke. I believe that this is the toilet seat that the house was built with (well, I think they used the usual gamut of tools to actually build the house but you know what I mean), making it 30 years old. Although I can’t complain, I will, because it meant some DIY for me.

I wasn’t about to replace the whole seat, or toilet, or indeed house, so looked for toilet seat hinges online. Someone asked the perfectly sage question: “Are they a standard size?” The answer? “Yes, probably, unless there’re not, in which case no, not at all.”


Finding a set of hinges that looked like they might fit, I took the plunge (not something I would normally do in relation to a toilet, but there we are) and ordered them. A day later, I was ready for a mend that really should be straightforward, right?

This new seat is rubbish, it seems to be missing something.... actually, it is an old shelf to ensure I end up with the same number of screwdrivers as I started with

This new seat is rubbish, it seems to be missing something…. actually, it is an old shelf to ensure I end up with the same number of screwdrivers as I started with

Undo eight screws. Well, seven unscrewed. The eighth no longer seemed to have a screwhead that conformed to the normal laws of screwdrivers, or indeed physics in general. Eventually, after ten minutes of potty-mouthed poetry, I ended up prising the thing out, leaving the hole the screw used to occupy a bit larger.

There's always one

There’s always one

Now remove the two bolts that hold the hinges onto the toilet itself. Ah, well, there’s only one as the other became brittle and shattered about six months ago. I could not find a sensible way of obtaining another bolt of the same size (without buying a whole set of hinges) and so improvised: I used sugru (pink, no less!) to hold the fixing on. Now, I had to gouge away at the self-same sugru to remove it. It felt like the god of toilet hinge bolts was laughing hard at me.

Finally, after all that, I could attach new hinges. Guess what?


Ooh! Shiny new hinges!

Ooh! Shiny new hinges!

The screw going into the enlarged hole went in at an angle but seems to be holding OK.

I’ve even ended up with a replacement bolt thing in case one of the replacements shatters (in about 30 years’ time).

You could say I’m flus… but you’re not going to.

Even the Ducktor seems happy with the leftovers (well, there's always something with DIY, isn't there?)

Even the Ducktor seems happy with the leftovers (well, there’s always something with DIY, isn’t there?)


* Yeah, there will be, I just know it. It’ll be me.

Categories: repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , | 11 Comments

ScrapHappy October 2021: Exorcising a Ghost in the Machine with a Light Bulb

What lies beneath this ancient plate that no one has looked inside for nearly a million, well 40, years?

What lies beneath this ancient plate that no one has looked inside for nearly a million, well 40, years?

A while ago, the Snail bought a 1970s’ vintage Bernina sewing machine, which is way too scary for me to use but that she drives without a care in the world, not knowing that it is clearly haunted by the ghost of a, well, suffice it to say, a ghost. The other morning, just as the sun was rising*, that ghost manifested itself.

The sewing machine just started sewing. On its own. No one around.

For one such as I, who is terrified of these electric sewing machines (or crazy-electron-using-thread-knotting hell-machines as I call them), it was only after more than the usual number of tots of rum for breakfast that I was told the awful truth: this is a known fault and it really is simple to fix.

Calling the issue a “fault” is unfair. Bernina machines are built to last forever, presumably so that when they inevitably acquire the machine equivalent of a soul at some point, they can take over the Universe. Anyway, brushing away the image of a walking foot being chancellor of the exchequer for a moment, there is a capacitor (I’ll explain in a bit) in the foot pedal controller thingy** which is manufactured such that it has a lifetime of around just 30 to 40 years. Imagine that! Imagine a mobile phone built to last more than a quarter of a century! Nope, me neither (<goes off for a quiet internal monologue-type rant>).

OK, what in blogging hell is a capacitor, I hear you cry (or is that my internal monologue too?). Well, it is a thing that stores electricity for a bit and then discharges it, so it effectively smooths out ripples in the water-like flow of electricity (if electricity flowed like water. Which it doesn’t.). Here, I think it just makes the speed of the motor smoother as you use the pedal. This type of capacitor uses a layer of paper and a layer of metal to produce the desired effect. After 40 years, the paper has broken down (much as I did when I was 40), so the two ends are essentially connected and the whole thing passes electricity all the time, irrespective of where the pedal is and whether there is actually a human operator present. This machine is a whisker away from ticking that box that says “I am not a robot” and getting away with it.

Fixing the capacitor is, in theory easy, provided you have the right replacement capacitor. Now, you can buy ones specifically for such pedals OR you can use a light bulb, obvs.

As I have ranted on about before explained before (here), modern energy efficient light bulbs (the compact fluorescent and LED kinds) have some electronics in to make them work. When the light-making bit stops making light, all the electronic components are destined to be, at best, melted down, at worst, left in landfill. Whether energy efficient bulbs (CFs or LEDs) are better overall for the environment is a whole other rant for another day. For this day, such a circuit board was recovered and a suitable capacitor – right capacitance value, size and voltage rating – was rescued from a melty/landfill future to live its life in the volume***, I mean, speed pedal of a sewing machine. I bet its what that capacitor grew up wanting to do.

After 40+ years of loyal service, this capacitor has gone all gooey on us

After 40+ years of loyal service, this capacitor has gone all gooey on us

473K400? But you don't look a day over 25...

473K400? But you don’t look a day over 25…

I assumed that it would take me ages to scavenge a new component, but a bit of an old CF bulb was lying on my workbench, actually on top of the junk, er, useful things that live there. And you know what? That brown sweet-looking thing marked 473K400 was perfect – being, as it is, a 0.047 microfarad 400 volt capacitor and not a piece of gone-off strawberry chewing gum. The original capacitor was also not a piece of gone-off strawberry chewing gum but was, in fact, a 0.05 microfarad 250 volt capacitor. Happy days, if you are a nerdy electronics geek like me.

New capacitor, ready for 30 years' service

New capacitor, ready for 30 years’ service

As you can see, the new capacitor is much smaller than the old one and rated at 400 volts rather than 250, which means it should be even better! Whether it will last longer, I wouldn’t like to say. Ask me in 30 years…

Help! There's a bee using the sewing machine!

Help! There’s a bee using the sewing machine!


* Apart from the implicit plagiarism of song lyrics, the sun did not so much rise as hide behind the rain the whole day.

** Sorry, being technical again.

*** Oops, I play electric guitar and am way more used to volume pedals.



Many other people contribute to Kate and Gun’s wonderful ScrapHappy every month – check out what they have been up to too!

KateGun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Claire, Jean, Jon, Dawn, Jule,
Gwen, Bekki, Sunny, Kjerstin, Sue L,
Vera, Nanette, Ann, Dawn 2, Bear,
Carol, Preeti, Edith, Debbierose and Esther

Categories: recycling, repair, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

Mend-it Monday: Ink or Bin


Our (T)rusty HP Printer

About 15 years ago, Chez Snail traded in its old HP printer for a new HP printer. The old printer no longer fed paper through, but after two years of “encouraging” it (sanding the rollers, tightening things up etc.) this wasn’t surprising. I would love to have had it repaired, or repaired it myself, but at that time, I couldn’t. So, reluctantly, we traded it in (there was a deal at Staples at the time) and bought our HP C6180.

And, as you want with your printer, it basically just worked for the next 15 years, very boring, very reliable. We fed it with scrap paper, nice new paper and photopaper. We kept it watered with genuine HP ink, because we’re nice like that.

Now it appears HP have made our printer obsolete. I mean, they haven’t supported it as such for about a decade, but now they seemed to have stopped making the ink cartridges for it. This isn’t a trial since there are a plethora of “compatible” cartridges out in the world, but being forced into the situation is quite galling.

We bought the 100% compatible cartridges and put one in. This is where it all becomes messy, but not in an ink-all-over-your-arm way. The printer decided it was having none of it and came up with a failure error, a long nasty-looking error number (in hexadecimal to scare you more – fortunately, I can still think in hex when the need arises, so I wasn’t put off) and then refused to print.

Well, the simple solution was to put the old cartridge back in and muddle through: old cartridge replaced, printer turned-off-and-on again et voilà! Same error message. What had been a printer 30 seconds before was now, apparently, a rather large doorstop, and not even a nice coloured one at that.

Now, I am a chilled person at heart and maybe, just maybe, I would have given up at that point, made up some new swear words, and ordered a new printer online – they are insanely cheap these days. But, these are these days – days where we have eaten our way through the planet’s resources whilst systematically removing the right or the skill to repair and thus stopping the need to use up more precious materials.

Online I went, and after several encounters with clickbait sites (claiming to know how to fix your problem but at a price including your bank details), I found a solution (although this sequence of actions was the solution to a slightly different problem, in fact). A really easy solution:

  1. Switch the printer on
  2. Hold down left arrow and help buttons
  3. Press OK
  4. Use the right arrow to move through to the Hardware Failure status menu
  5. Click OK
  6. Click OK (this clears the hardware failure error)
  7. Click Cancel until you have exited all these hidden menus
  8. Restart the printer

Now we have a printer that still works and we should be able to get cartridges at least for a bit longer. Nice of HP to mention that this is a fix to it not liking non-HP cartridges, right? Nowhere does HP seem to refer to this menu, nowhere that I can find, including the original documentation that came with the printer. It’s almost like they don’t want you to sort it out, isn’t it?

A Mend-it Monday that required no physical tools, just bloody-mindedness and the internet. As there were no pictures, here’s one of Daisy being cute:



Categories: computers, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: | 21 Comments

ScrapHappy September 2021: Scythe o’ the times – Again


Too good to scrap

Before the once upon a time started, there was a scythe that was used and hung up after each day’s toil in a slightly-too-big-to-be-called-a-shed shed. This happened a lot until one day, it stopped happening at all, and the scythe hung there, quietly awaiting the day it would be taken down, to feel once more the yielding of the blades of grass to its blade of steel…

Once upon a time, some Snail friends moved into a house next to which was an old barn-like building. In this building-of-indeterminant-status, there was a very old scythe, hanging from a rafter. This was a happy scythe – it had done its work and was resting and rusting in peace, while the world outside went on its way, presumably growing very tall grass and cutting it down again with very sharp, much newer blades.

Time passed, about 12 years to be vaguely precise although in scythe years, that’s about three weeks (they can live an extremely long time). One day, Mr Snail appeared and then things happened…

I mean, you can’t let a scythe rust to nothing without an attempt to rescue it, right?

This piece of scrap really was quite a challenge. I use a scythe reasonably regularly (see here) but I am still learning, particularly when it comes to the black magic that is peening. This is where you repeatedly whack the edge of a blade to make it better at being sharp, which it certainly isn’t immediately after having been whacked with a hammer. I have peened one of my own blades a couple of times but, because I don’t scythe rocky fields and so start to damage the edge, any difference I have thought was there before and after peening might be down to wishful thinking.

This old scythe was an opportunity to see if my peening technique was actually doing something since, when I tried to cut grass with it, it mostly folded the grass over, without actually doing any cutting. The snath (shaft and handles) seemed OK (it’s metal) although the wooden grips could do with a coat of varnish.

This blade was so blunt I nearly called it Emily. Or Anthony.

This blade was so blunt I nearly called it Emily. Or Anthony.


Peening jig (not a dance)

Peening jig (not a dance)



Other bit of peening jig (still not a dance)

After peening, the blade was definitely sharper, but the set-up was clearly wrong. A couple more hours of playing and now it will cut reasonably well – ultimately, I think a new blade will be the answer but until then… scraphappiness abounds!


Proof that the scythe can now do what it claims

One man went to mow etc. etc. Sorry you can't see his legs, his wearing camouflage...

One man went to mow etc. etc. Sorry you can’t see his legs, he’s wearing camouflage…


P.S. A warm welcome to Jule, the newest Scraphappy member!

Categories: gardening, repair, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 25 Comments

ScrapHappy August 2021: Late to the Party

The New Toy

Sorry everyone! I had hoped to write a post about the new hot air gun/soldering rework gizmo I bought a while ago to help me retrieve workable electronic components from scrap but the time has gotten away from me this month – I’ll try harder next month!

In the meanwhile, have a look at everyone else’s posts, people who were clearly better at managing their time in the last month than I was…

The first LEDs removed…
Minus LEDs , a push button and a few bits and pieces…

Categories: ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: | 22 Comments

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