Friday, November 21, 2008

Paying For Research

Or the lack thereof.

Back in the Spring, I sold an old rototiller to a neighbor. This being the 'Year of the Rototiller', everyone putting in gardens.

She used it, until it spit it's drive pulley, came off while churning the dirt. Then she borrowed her daughter's rototiller, dragged it down from Nashville. Rototilled the rest of the garden, then decided to do another patch.

While starting it, the engine pull rope didn't retract and got snatched up by the rototiller tines. This snapped the starting rope. Now she had two rototillers, neither one of which worked. She called me.

Did I want to trade work, fix the daughter's rototiller and get my old one back?

No, I don't need any more rototillers, that's why I sold two of them this year. Didn't do any good, my father bought more at an auction. We won't go there.

Would I fix the daughter's rototiller? She wanted to take it back to Nashville. I agreed to this on one condition. The rototillers were not coming to the shop. I would fix them at her farm. Last thing I need is more immovable machinery in the shop.

I went out to her farm one morning, took the daughter's rototiller apart, rewound the spring, attached the rope and put it back together. Then the rototiller wouldn't start. Pulled the spark plug, it was fouled. Cleaned it, started the rototiller. We went over to the one she bought from me.

It was too easy. The drive pulley had come off because a small metal 'key' had come out of the drive shaft. The key rides in grooves in the driveshaft and the pulley, which locks them together. I glance at the driveshaft, pick up the pulley and inspect it. No damage to either one. I think I know what I'm looking at.

I figure that I have a 'woodruff key' for the pulley back at the shop and leave. The only ones at the shop are too big. I'm going to town the next day, so I stop at the hardware store and get two woodruff keys. They are half-moon shaped and come in different lengths, but are the same thickness. I check them in the pulley.

That evening, I'm back at her farm, ready to fix the rototiller. When I spin the driveshaft over, so I can put the key in from the top, I realize my mistake. It's got a straight-cut key, not a woodruff key. I needed a 3/16th square piece of steel key stock, not a half-moon key.

I didn't do my research, so I got to pay for it.

It gets better.

I thought I had the right bar stock at the shop. Close, no cigar. I had a piece of 5/32th stock. So, I call the rototiller lady, ask her if she will stop at the hardware store to get the right material. Sure, no problem she tells me. She goes into town almost every day. I've already called the hardware store, to be sure they have the right key stock. They do and everything should be fine.

The next evening I'm back at the rototiller lady's farm, ready to fix this thing after three attempts. She proudly hands me the foot-long bar of metal key stock, little white ID flag flying.

It looks small. I put it in the rototiller pulley. It's way too small. Then I look at the little ID tag. It's 1/8th stock.

She didn't look at the tag when the hardware store lady handed her the key stock.

Which goes back to my previous post about research. If you do it, cross-check it. If you let someone else do it, you still have to check it. Otherwise you both pay for it.

I handed the rototiller lady her pulley, so she can match the key stock with the groove.

At this time, the rototiller still isn't fixed.

You have to have the right key.

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