Monthly Archives: January 2011

When Good Garage Door Openers Go Bad.

For many years people called to ask me why their garage door opener would not work.

“You can hear the motor run, and sometimes it moves for a few inches, but then it stops!” they would tell me.

Sadly, the only explanation I could give was the nylon (plastic) gears had stripped out and replacement of the entire unit was the most economical solution.

In their own right nylon( plastic) gears are something of a miracle for medium to light duty gadgets.

Reasonably robust, they will serve well for many moons. (Some of the garage door openers I replaced were 10-12 years old.)

Difficult gear configurations are very inexpensive to cast (by the thousands) especially compared to the machine tooling required with metal gears AND they will do (almost) the same work!

Manufacturers Links:


The trouble starts when they are overloaded for some reason and the gear teeth strip out.

Then, Houston, we have a problem.

Here for your edification and entertainment is video of one of these stripped out nylon (plastic) gear trains.

It is hard to see the extent of the damage, but notice the shavings on the round horizontal gear

Notice also the motor (and control panel) work perfectly. But the springenwerk is kaput!

If your door opener is of the high end variety it is possible to order replacement parts:


But for the garden variety opener, the price point for a replacement unit is still competitive.

With this video archive of the motor running my next step will be to disassemble the gear train and post some close up pictures to demonstrate just how badly the gears are shredded.

In the meantime, as an example of sudden nylon gear death examine this main gear from another assembly. It came from a pretty handy electric chainsaw-used for clearing brush and miscellaneous firewood chores.

One day the blade hit a knot in the wood and stopped and the motor kept turning and the gear kept spinning and it was instant kaput for the little chainsaw. (Click on Image for high resolution detail)

Nylon Gear From Chainsaw


This guy popped up on the tin shed roof out in farm country one morning and just watched as I videotaped him.
We never saw him again and think he may have escaped from some confinement.

Unlikely to be a free range dove, he be a lucky critter to fly around in the wild with his highly visible white plumage!


So there was this 60 foot Black Walnut tree soon to be claimed by highway construction down in the front field of a little place in farm country.

We knew at some point the construction contractor would cut the family yard tree but no one knew exactly when.

One day I get THE phone call: the tree has been cut down.

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So where to find a stairwell window guard when you need one?

Well, if it is an odd size and only one is required, it is about as much trouble to make one as to find something that will meet the specifications.

A simple enough job shop assignment but still with many steps between start and finish.

So here, in a brief video montage, an overview of a basic shop assignment because, realistically, there is no such thing as a simple job.

Custom Window Guard Ready For Paint!


The chroniclers of all things Raleigh at Good Night have written an eloquent eulogy for the Horne Street Post Office.(Link)

My memories recapitulated below as posted at Good Night (with minor additions and inclusions):

Yes, I lived at the Post Office! (See my 1976 Driver’s License image)

As a “resident” since 1975 “University Station” has been the cornerstone of my life in the “village” of Hillsborough St.

When I first set up camp Horne Street Post Office literally had the look and feel of something right out of the 1940′s and 50′s.

Just like a Humphrey Bogart movie the entry vestibule featured probably the only (or one of the few) revolving doors in Raleigh with some fine vintage stained woodwork and trim to complete the mid Century ensemble.

I forget exactly when they “modernized” with additional boxes and relocated the service counter to the left of the entry way, painted everything green with matched paneling and replaced the revolving door with a feeble stab at energy efficiency which featured a type of airlock arrangement with two sets of glass doors enclosed in a glass box to keep heat and cooling costs down.

It was NOT an improvement by any standard.

The “airlock” setup was a short lived experiment which changed(again!) to the current single french door arrangement a few years later.

The Bureaucrats-that-be have tried to close “University Station” since the 1980′s but some old time professors at NC State and a fellow by the name of Otis Jones would raise holy heck every time the topic arose.

Those guys are all gone now and I believe the School now has their own mail processing center to replace the trucks which formerly drove over from campus once or sometimes twice a day.

Mail Service to us civilians had high spots and low spots over the years.

One real high spot was a young lass who would put up mail on Sunday on her own time to “get a jump on the Monday mail trucks”

If she was working and a fella had a package pickup, you could holler over the wall and she would come out from the behind the locked door to give it to you even though it was not *Official Business Hours*.

Some of the low points were funny and sometimes not so funny.

Back when mail order computer programs came on 5.25 diskettes a $125.00 piece of software arrived folded in half to fit my tiny box.

Needless to say, hilarity ensued with that little fandango.

To be fair, no one behind the counter knew what a computer really was or did in those days, so my little Apple IIc had to suffer without programming for several weeks.

About two years ago I suspect we old timers were deliberately assigned an “axeman”– a Temporary Postmaster who just raised holy heck with customers and boxholders.

Signs went up about improper cell phone use, a red line appeared on the floor behind which everyone was instructed to stand until called to be served, and most obnoxious, a vinyl notice on the door which outlined the penalties for armed robbery of a postal installation.

In 35 years I can not remember a single instance when I thought someone was about to go “postal” until that Postmaster and sign appeared.

Maybe such incidents might have been common in other parts of the country, but not on Horne St. She sure seemed to have an idea she could make something happen right here in Raleigh.

In little over six months traffic at Horne Street crashed and nearly halted completely.

No doubt that particular Postmaster has gone on to a bigger and better job at the Transportation Security Agency because the traffic statistics mysteriously justified a cutback in service after her reign of terror concluded which further diminished patronage so lo and behold the “little Post Office that could” was finally doomed.

In any case, I am now one of a small group of refugees forcefully relocated to Cameron Village en bloc-our address intact complete with our own zip code.

I suggested to the current Postmaster there should be a closing ceremony complete with speeches and a brass band.

He is a nice guy but he did not seem to understand my meaning or the reason I thought it would be appropriate.

An earlier episode (link) of Handyman Blog featured the hand powered grinding wheel I use to sharpen my field chisels to a razor sharp edge.

So came the question: You have a chisel you can use to shave or scribe paper but can it cut wood? Is it a real “working edge?”

Well, I thought that was understood without comment, but in case it was not I am here to comment now: YES! It is a real working edge!

So today, for the edification of my audience, a video of several ordinary generic chisels as they cut curls from soft white pine crossgrain and even feather the factory edge of an undressed board.

Discerning viewers will understand the import of this exercise.