Friday, September 7, 2018

How I fixed my deadbolts with a pencil

Recall from my previous post about door locks that the pin tumbler locks that are standard on most doors these days use a rotating cylinder full of little pins that have to be correctly aligned by inserting the correct key.  Well, sometimes these little pins get kind of stuck because the lock gets full of grime, etc.  This makes it hard to take the key in and out of the lock.

Two of my deadbolt locks were having this problem.  The key didn't want to go in and would have to be jiggled around, and then it didn't want to come out.  Once it was in there, the lock turned just fine, though.  This is a symptom of stuck pins that need lubrication.

You can buy lock lubricant in a tube, but apparently they just use powdered graphite for this purpose.  It's nothing particularly special.  In fact, you can use a pencil "lead", which is actually made of graphite, for the same purpose.

I rubbed the tip of my pencil all over my key, put the key in the lock, and took it out again.  I repeated this a couple of times, and just like that, the problem was solved.  My key now slides in and out of both locks flawlessly.  Magic!

And now for some trivia: While pin and tumbler door locks date back at least 6000 years, wood-encased graphite pencils are much newer, dating from around 1560 in Italy.  Initially, these wood pencils were made by inserting a stick of actual graphite between two halves of a wood cylinder and gluing them together to encase the graphite stick.  Later, people discovered that you could powder the graphite, mix it with clay, and then bake it into little rods that were easier to work with.  The amount of clay could be varied to adjust the hardness of the pencil.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My British male shower hose

My shower has a spray hose, one of those lovely handheld things that let you spray the water wherever you want it to go.  Unfortunately, the hose was starting to leak, as they do when they get old.  The internet said that some past genius had invented a standard connection size for shower hoses, so you don't have to figure out the size or anything.  You just buy any old replacement hose and screw it in.  Easy!

Of course, no house project is ever actually easy.  When I uninstalled my leaking shower hose, I found that it was not, in fact, a standard shower hose.  Standard shower hoses have female connectors, meaning that the thread are on the inside.  My hose had the threads on the outside; it was a male connector (cuz, you know, anatomy).  Guess what!  It's a boy!

I took the assembly to Home Depot to see if they had a male-to-male converter. One male end would screw into the faucet, and the other male end would screw into a standard female shower hose.  (This item is more properly called a male-to-male nipple...this entire project led to plenty of interesting internet search results.)

Home Depot didn't have anything, so I went to visit my buddies at Pro Pipe and Supply in Yucaipa, who had helped me out with a previous problem with my weird shower (which doesn't appear to have a brand name anywhere on it).  We noticed at this point that not only was the shower hose male, but the threads weren't even the same size as the standard female hoses.  The guy was pretty sure it was BSP threading, which is a British standard used commonly outside the US rather than the NPT threading used here.
Not actually British or male shower hose

So, uh, I have a British male shower hose?

Pro Pipe and Supply didn't have a converter in stock, and when they called their supplier, the part had been discontinued.  I started getting really frustrated and thought I was going to have to replace my entire faucet just because my stupid hose was leaking.

Before giving up entirely, I started searching for adapters on Amazon and thought I found two I could string together to do what I needed.  Just to be absolutely sure it would work, I removed the entire hose assembly from my shower again to measure it, and much to my surprise, something unexpected came unscrewed from the hose. An adapter!  Apparently my shower hose was an American female after all, only masquerading as a British male. (Its accent was impeccable and its costume quite convincing).  The adapter had been screwed on tightly and looked just like the hose, so I hadn't even noticed it was there.

So, problem solved with no need to order anything, and no need to have wasted multiple hours visiting plumbing stores and searching the internet for things like "male-to-male nipple".