Who ya gonna call?

It doesn’t matter how good your equipment is. Sooner or later something is going to break. And you can pretty much bet that it will break at the worst possible time.

You can also pretty much bet that it will be the thing you need most right at that precise moment. That’s just the way of things. Machines are not infallible. They all have moving parts and most of the newer ones also have a lot of incomprehensible non-moving parts like circuit boards and mysterious little black square things with wires sticking out of them.

Even if your malfunction occurs at a convenient time like in the middle of the day when all of the repair people and parts dealers are still at work and you get totally lucky and the repair guy is just sitting there waiting for your call, you can bet that you are going to be out some serious dough.

My father-in-law used to run a big cattle ranch in Nevada and he always said that you’d better know how to fix stuff yourself. They had a shop with welding gear, machine-shop equipment and enough tools to tear down the space shuttle. If something broke down, they fixed it. There was no calling the repair guy.

I have never been too good with electronics but I know how to replace switches, motors, capacitors, cords and most of the other basic stuff that falls more into the category of electricals. And I have always been the go-to guy for any mechanical failures on my equipment. Over the years I learned how to fix just about anything that could break in my shop. And if I didn’t know about something specific, a call to the manufacturer would almost always produce a tech support person who could clarify things.

I have a friend who told me that he once watched a repair guy standing there scratching his head (at $125 per hour). He told the guy, “Hey look, if you don’t know how to fix it, just say so. I don’t want to pay you $125 an hour to scratch your head. I can scratch my own head for free!”



  1. James Thompson wrote:

    I am a retired Millwright. While I was still working I got a call from a local shop whose huge metal cutting bandsaw would not work. This bandsaw could cut through a beam that was 36″ square. The beam remained stationary and the saw advanced through the work. The owner told me had had called the factory guys out several times, and they had fixed it, but the problem would recur in a short time. He had no idea what they fixed.

    After a lot of checking I discovered that the backing bar for the blade would not enter the kerf. I had to dismantle the machine to remove that backing bar, and I found that it was bent. I straightened it and had it surface ground, then replaced it. The saw worked fine.

    A week later I got the same call. Went to check and the backing bar was again bent. This made no sense, but I fixed it again, then told the operator to let me watch him operate the saw. He put a beam on the conveyor, travelled it to the saw and proceeded to cut off the end to square it up. He did this in “Auto Mode”, and the cutoff scrap fell down, and then the saw attempted to return to the start position. It caught the scrap behind the blade and again bent the backing bar. I asked why he didn’t use the “Manual Mode” because that would allow him to remove the scrap before the machine returned to start. He said nobody ever told him to do it that way. He didn’t even know what “Manual Mode” meant.

  2. Chuck wrote:

    Woodworkers have an advantage over some of the other trades. Most of our equipment comes with good instructions and clear parts diagrams, and the major factories have excellent customer service departments.
    One thing I have never been able to do is to straighten a motor shaft. A few years ago, I ordered a 12” band saw that arrived with its motor shaft bent. The manufacturer rectified the problem by shipping me another band saw with instructions to scrap the original. Seeing this as an excellent opportunity to have an extra machine dedicated to scroll saw type work, I spent way too much time trying to get that damned shaft to turn straight, but with no luck. Is there anyone out there who knows how to do that?

  3. Duncan wrote:

    A motor shop might be able to straighten the shaft with a press, or they might be able to turn the shaft to a smaller diameter and straighten it that way, or they might be able to replace it with a new shaft or armature but the simplest way would be to replace the motor. If you did any hammer pounding or applied similar shock loads on the shaft in your attempts to straighten it, you should replace the bearings too. By the time you pay for the parts and the labor, you will be close to the cost of a new motor, but a new motor’s still less than the cost of a new band saw…

    It’s good to have the skills to fix stuff but when your time is money, it’s also important to know when it’s cheaper to replace the broken item, or call in a pro to fix it

  4. James Thompson wrote:

    About the bent motor shaft. If the shaft diameter is 1/2″ you have a chance of straightening it. Use a dial indicator to tell you which way to go. Put a back-up piece as far back from the end as possible, at the motor, then use a brass or lead hammer to tap the end of the shaft, increasing force as necessary. You might be able to bring it close enough to work. But even if you don’t, you haven’t lost anything.


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Comments *

* Required fields
Read our Comments Policy