The thrill is gone

The song was a major hit for the recently departed B.B. King, possibly the work that made him a household name. But when we lose our inspiration, it hardly seems like something to sing about.

It happens to everyone at some point or another, regardless of the pursuit. And when it does, it’s enough to give us an instant understanding of what is called “the blues.ā€ And it seems like the harder we work to shake it off, the harder it grips.

It’s like one of those Chinese finger traps, the small braided tube that you stick the index finger of each hand into. Easy to get into but getting out is a whole different story. The harder you pull, the tighter it grips. The only way to extract yourself is to relax and, counter to instinct, push your fingers into the tube instead of trying mightly to pull them out. So it is when we lose inspiration. When everything suddenly seems pointless and new ideas are nowhere in the horizon. For whatever reason, you got the blues.

There are many ways to reignite the spark but all of them have one thing in common: They take your mind to another place for a while. My favorite technique it to find the biggest, nastiest mess I can and clean it up. If it’s a big enough mess that it takes a couple of days or a week to clean up, that’s even better. Usually, by the time I am nearing the end, I can already feel the juices flowing again.



  • 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.

  • Chuck says:

    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 12ā€ 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?

  • Duncan says:

    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

  • 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.

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