Friday, August 27, 2010

Saving The Life of A Machine

The two of us who are members of the Surau near our home was almost done with the vacuuming of the carpet in the small surau after the Friday Subuh prayers when the vacuum machine suddenly went quiet. We tried to restart the machine but it was to no avail. When I touched the body of the machine, it felt pretty hot. After letting it cool down we tried again after checking all the cables to see all the power supply was intact.We even changed the point from where the machine was plugged into. Since after such attempts were made the machine refused to come to life.
I took the machine home and told my wife that the machine ain't working anymore. It could be a burnt coil. Since we had been using the machine for several years already we thought the machine has had its day and called it quit. We decide to buy a new one the next day as we were going to Kota Bharu on Saturday. We will buy a similar model, a Panasonic by National. Since we are buying a new one, I decided to have a go with the machine and open it up to see what is wrong with it. Knowing that the worst that can happen is replacing the machine, I didn't have to worry if it will be good again or not.
There were not many visible screws to unscrew and the few that I saw were already out and yet the machine refused to be disemboweled. After further scrutiny I found a few more screws under a removable body part. Yet the machine can't be opened up. Using flat screw drivers I forced open a section of the body and suddenly I heard a small crack, indicating that a small part had given way to the force and broke up. Removing the piece I saw another single screw that needed to be opened before the whole machine can be opened. What a way to learn things by experimenting and relying on hunches.

The motor was removed and cleaned of dust.

At last I could open up the machine and was able to check the motor inside. Upon closer scrutiny, there was no visibility burning signs on the coil. That is a good sign, meaning a simple machine like a vacuum machine is not overly damaged if the coil is still intact. To confirm the coil is OK I called on my neighbour Chong who is an electrician and he confirmed my hunch that the motor is OK.
He suggested that I just clean up the dusts in the machine and fit them together again to try and start it up. Rebuilding became a bit of a problem as I had not really observed the steps I took when opening up. Since there were not many parts inside, I finally did manage to fit in all the screws and kept the wires inside intact.
It was music to my ears when upon switching it on, the motor whined. My wife grinned from ear to ear as we are saved several hundred ringgit if we were to buy a new machine. At least that expense will be delayed until much later when the machine will give up its last breath.
In our home I have managed to salvage many other electrical appliances like the electric irons, fans and vacuum cleaners because I dare to try and repair them first before throwing them away for good. Sometimes they were just mere dusts, broken wires or dry bearings that prevented them from function. Reconnecting broke wires, reapplying grease on bearings and removing dusts often bring them back to life. Not all were so easy though but some did. Those that did were really satisfying.
My sister in law's vacuum cleaner was not sucking much dust. She was contemplating buying a new one. When she told me of her problem, I opened up the dust compartment and sure enough the dust bag was choked up with years of all the things it was made to suck in. Her Electrolux vacuum cleaner is still serving her fine despite the many decades of being in service.
The moral of the story, don't rush into buying a new machine unless it is beyond repair. Such machines do need regular servicing to keep them in working condition. If it needs be, it must be brought to the service centers to have them professionally cleaned up. You will defintely be the winner

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Landscape For The House

The soft landscape that is the planting of flowers and shrubs around the house is my wife's domain. She will decide everything as to the choice of plants and the arrangement. Since she finds immense joy and satisfaction in doing it, I am only happy to watch. My only involvement is only for the occasional advice whenever she chooses to ask and other menial job which requires more muscular power such as re potting, moving the larger pots around and filling the larger pots with soil.
Of late I became more involved in the landscape work both the soft landscape and the hard landscape. Now I am more interested to produce some potted seedlings for sale to the local nursery. This I will dwell on in more detail in my future posts. For now I would like to share with you all some of the hard landscape projects which I did for the house.
Fatthiyah has been getting ideas for the hard landscape projects from such magazines as Laman or Anjung Seri which she buys regularly and read them from front to back. With quite a stack of sawn timber left over from our house renovation job which I have been reluctant to dispose off lest they become necessary later, Fatthiyah asked me to do something with it so as to reduce the pile from being used as rodent's nest or even worse from being used the breeding place for snakes.
The first project started off with the making of a simple fence using 2" x 2" wood as poles and nailed with 1" x 2" laterals.
To start off I will show you some of the tools I used for the job.

A Black & Decker folding bench, a Makita 7" hand held circular power saw (not really necessary for the first job but was used due to the fasting month where energy conservation is of paramount importance), a Sandvic cross cut saw, a hammer and some nails. The power drill is not in the picture but it was used to drill some holes before nailing the wood together. The wood being old and dry will split without the holes being drilled first.

This is how the wooden decorative fence look like after being given several coats of ICI's solar screen. This solarscreen product will keep the wood from rotting due to the constant exposure to water and sun.
Fatthiyah was so happy with it and pretty soon she came up with another idea albeit much more harder to do due to larger pieces of wood used. For this job I should be using at least 5" x 5" posts which I don't have. What I did was to use 2" x 5" pieces together to form a 4" x 5' blocks. For this job I am thankful that I have the hand held circular saw as it really helped me with the cutting of the larger pieces. The project is for a flower pot stand.

This is how the contraption looked like when completed. A flower pot will be placed on each posts which ranged in height from 12' to 24".

After several coats of solarscreen application, this is how it looks. So as not to waste space I placed some 2" x 2" rafters on the rack which could be used to place more pots.

The next project was my own project. It was a bench to complement the pseudo marble bench and table which I sometime use to work on my notebook whenever I want to be outdoor. Since the benches which came with the set were made of concrete, they were too heavy to move around and the distance was not conducive for working on a notebook when placed on the table.

A closer view of the wooden bench. The bench was later given a white coat of paint to ensure it will last longer and and make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye since it matches the colour of the other furniture.
The last project was another flower pot stand since I still have ample sawn timber left overs. This time it was for a three pot stand.

A flat piece to cover the post and provide a larger surface for the pots.

The rack after painting.

The three pots rack with flower pots placed on it.

With this idea why not do your own? They are really quite simple to do and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do it. A saw, a hammer, some nails and some sawn timber are all that you need.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Being diagnosed with even a mild hypertension at an early age of 27 way back in 1977 wasn't a good prospect for my future life. Knowing it early was a blessing as I know what to do so as not to aggravate the ailment. The doctors told me to watch my diet, sleep well, watch my weight and above all exercise. All relevant points to note for all those afflicted with hypertension.
I led a pretty active life prior to 1997. Playing tennis to sweat it out was like a must in my daily life. Things changed when I became an internet junkie hooked on the internet relay chat or IRC. All those who had suffered the same malady as me will understand the situation. This addiction continued to the end of my working days that is till the end of 2005. Being a weekend husband who will only return to the family located 185 kms away provided the ultimate opportunity for me to stay online till the wee hours of the day. I know I was getting any healthier with that kind of life.
A change of lifestyle was needed. Though I can opt for another year of service, I prefer to retire just to be with my family and lead a new lifestyle.
It was time to regain my health. I need to sweat it out. My earlier investment of a step machine did not work as it was boring to work on. Fortunately I did not invest on a stationary exercise bike as it was just as boring. The mountain bike and all the other bicycles that I had just continued to collect dust.
I made a great mistake when I invested in a massage chair. Take my word that the massage chair is not the way to health. Fortunately my brother in law offered to buy the machine at a highly discounted price. Now it was time to look for another machine to help me to exercise.
Scouting the malls in Kota Bharu took me to fitness shops selling a multitude of exercise machines. The treadmills fascinated me. Nowadays only motorized treadmills are being sold so I won't be making the mistake of buying one that is not. The problem was how to make a choice. There were so many brands and specifications to choose from. Reebok, Gintel, Takashima and many others from Taiwan are available ranging in price from RM2,000 to RM6,000 which is the price range I am looking for. Some brands and models come with attractive freebies in the form of other fitness machines. The top of the line model from Gintel comes with a free massage chair.
After several look and see at the outlet, we finally decide to buy a Takashima due to the many models available with the specifications I had in mind.
Utmost in my mind is that the machine must be powered with a minimum of 2 HP motor. Anything below will not stand the vigorous use. Other specifications are the presence of built in programs for the workout, pliant board that will not stress my 60 years old feet (the heart maybe as old but you know the owner always feel it is younger than its chronological or physical age) and any other features will be a bonus.
The model we decided upon was Takashima Fitness 1 Advance series TK 551. Thanks to Fikry the sale staff who made the recommendation and put in an effort to make the sale.

Using the machine doesn't mean that I will get the look and shape of the model, but it is an inspiration to become one.

Reading the user manual helped me to understand better on how to use the machine because the sale staff may not know everything. One thing I learned is not to start the machine while you are standing on the board. Step on the board only after it has started moving as it will help the motor to have a longer life since it is not stressed. This was not told to me by the staff.

Trying out the F1 Advance at the outlet at KB Mall before making the purchase.

The sale staff with Fikry in the middle while Ramlah the KB Mall outlet head was busy preparing the necessary purchase orders.
A week later the delivery was made to my home. The delivery was within the two weeks promised.

The machine in it folded position for storage. As a comparison, the American made Reebok will just have the board folded and not the motor.
The console of the treadmill has a built in speaker and will accommodate an MP3 player or a hand phone. One of the program has a voice instruction accompanied with music. I prefer my house radio to keep me company.

The display monitor is large enough to show the time elapsed or remaining depending on the program, the speed in kmh. the distance in km, the pulse, the incline from 0 to 15 percent, the calories burned and program used.
The maximum load this machine can take is 120 kg. So if you are a fatso weighing over 120 kg, please get the Reebok which has a 3HP motor.
Thus far I have only done a maximum of 30 minutes walking a distance of 2 km. with a speed ranging fro a slow 2 kmh to a maximum of 7 kmh and an incline of 2 percent. That was more than enough to burn 70 calories off for a day and make me sweat. My maximum pulse rate is 135 beats per minute and I was told to not exceed the 150 beats being a 60 year old. They give you the chart as a guide on the maximum pulse that you should attain. A pull on the safety magnet switch will automatically switch off the machine and one end of the string to the switch must be attached to your apparel to ensure the machine will be cut off should a user fall from it.
Stretching is an important exercise to do before using the machine. The process will prepare your body for the strenuous exercise and prevent injury. Doing it after the exercise will help your body to cool down. Many people are reluctant to do this stretching exercise.

Since the exercise bike was given free, I made use of it if the wife happens to be using the treadmill at the same time. Actually we paid RM200 extra to get the bike of the model below. The one actually given free with the treadmill seemed too flimsy for our liking.

Since the doctor has advised my wife Fatthiyah to do some exercise and lose some weight, she was as eager as me to use the machine. Doing it together will definitely be more fun as the other will egg the other on to complete the programme.

The machine on its own will not do much to improve your health. Only by using it will it helps.
My aim now is to bring down my weight by 5 kg. I started off at 80 kg. With the fasting month on and a minimum of 3 times weekly 30 minutes workouts, InsyaAllah I will achieve it.