Monday, December 18, 2006

A Brave New World Shall Arise From The Ashes

Sunday. I arose with a renewed sense of purpose and made tea. Retrieving my multimeter I determined to check the fuses in the plug for the broken string of lights in the Festive Bush O' Dangling Crap.

Accordingly, I began the process of locating the start of the string so I could trace the wiring back to the cluster of plugs and determine the plug I was interested in. It took a bit of time but I found it.

Dangling loose in the innards of the tree

I did a short extract from The Bonehead Dance, then it was the work of a few seconds to plug the dead string of lights into the power supply, at which point I was greeted by a glorious multi-hued burst of light. I took this for a good omen and a sign that the malign anti-handyman spirits that had infested the house on Saturday were either gone or dormant.

I drank my tea while I contemplated all things plumbing.

I nipped out to Arse Hardware and bought two screw-fit shut-off valves on the suspicion that I had melted the seals on the dripping hot water one by too enthusiastic application of heat. Plus, the screw-on shut-off valve that I had installed on the toilet water supply had worked sans leaks, drips or dribbles from day one. QED.

And so I began to take apart the broken bits. I desoldered the old hot water valve and dropped it in a bucket of water to cool off, then made a new pipe to replace the one that was leaking cold water. Of course, I couldn't get the bloody pipe to drain out could I? I was in no mood to be thwarted by such bagatelles and so deployed Mr Compressor in short order. I opened up all the shut-off valves and applied 80 PSI to the toilet shut-off to blow the pipe clear of water. It was, I reflected later, a great triumph if one overlooked the fact that water had shot out of the cold water shut-off and sprayed all over the ceiling, me, my tools, the walls. Pretty much everywhere in fact.

In a trice I had the pipe dismounted (once again the T-piece joint melted and the whole thing rotated alarmingly) and it was the work of a few minutes to make a new one with a screw thread on the end. Once everything was soldered in place (and the T-piece had had one last wiggle to show it's independance) I screwed on the new shut-off and turned on the water supply.


I was so enthused I immediately began the process of fabricating the new wastepipe. This was a different class of plumbing, replacing the hazards of hot pipes, flaming propane, poisonous flux fumes and dripping molten lead-free solder with possible asphyxiation from chemical fumes and long-term health problems brought on by contact with Methyl Ethyl Ketone. Magic stuff.

I already had a PVC pipe gluing kit in the basement from some job I did so long ago I've forgotten what it was. A quick check showed all the components still liquid and redolent.

I began by fabricating and assembling the parts dry. I had to cut three lengths of pipe on Mr Chopsaw and managed to not screw that up. The pipe would also have to twist around a couple of structural members of the house, which isn't recommended in waste-pipe design. Straight is best. The nice man at Arse Hardware explained loudly and slowly that the best way was to cut holes in any intevening studs. I explained back that doing so would probably drop the roof into the bathroom. In the end it was my problem so we did it my way. Truth be told, I would rather have used copper but I couldn't get the fittings to make the required bends.

The new wastepipe will be PVC schedule 40 pipe (the white stuff you see everywhere) attached to the old copper pipe by means of a reducing rubber fitting.

To glue PVC pipe you take the pipe and coat it liberally with the purple primer. This is a solvent of some sort that takes off the top layers of plastic, writing and filth from the pipe. You do the same to the inside of the sleeve fitting on the corner elbow or whatever you are using. Then you apply the MEK adhesive to both surfaces and push them together. It is exactly the same principle that used to be at the heart of making an Airfix plastic Spitfire. You melt the plastic with a solvent and weld the pieces together. Since I had 6 joints to make in less than thee feet of pipe, I got quite a dose of MEK, proven to be very bad for you if you sniff it enough. I just felt sick and had to break for tea, lunch and "Cat Ballou" which started as I sat down.

Mrs Stevie appeared with lunch and I explained that I had to leave the PVC to set up. Furthermore, attaching it prematurely to the wastepipe system could cause a buildup of explosive gas in the pipes. She sniffed but couldn't argue with me as I hadn't told her that I would be using PVC and therefore she'd had no time beforehand to research it on the web.

Once lunch was digested and Kid Shalleen had saved the day, I went and attached the PVC to the copper and began constructing support hardware for it all. A few offcuts of 2x4 do the job nicely. I was required to be at a production the Stevieling was appearing in at 5:30, so I washed up and contemplated the last two days of sheer heck. On the one hand, the job had taken twice as long as I had budgeted for and required the throwing away of a lot of hardware. On the other, most of the milestones of my usual plumbing jobs had been completely bypassed. These usually include:

  1. Cutting into pressurised pipe with Mr Pipecutter by mistake, getting a facefull of water and making another repair job for myself.
  2. Setting fire to clothing, leg hair, hair hair or parts of the house by inattentive use of the torch
  3. grasping hot pipe with bare hands
  4. Grasping the hot end of the torch with bare hands
  5. Getting water in the electrical system

Obviously I simply wasn't trying this time around.

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