Boy Mechanic

When my parents were kids, Popular Mechanics had a series of “Boy Mechanic” books, “700 Things for Boys to Do. How to construct wireless outfits, boats, camp equipment, aerial gliders,

It was pretty neat stuff, but I and my friends made fun of the idea in the 1950’s and 1960’s, as if the only kids who built and fixed things were nerdy social misfits. If we didn’t fix our stuff ourselves, who would? We would taunt each other with the jibe, “Boy Mek-a-Nick“.

This brings us to the automatic pool filler valve incident, Phoenix, 2006. Last year, a Plumber From Hell, hereinafter referred to as “PFH”, wanted to see if the water supply was delivering to the filler valve. He strong-armed it, snapping the copper float road off. PFH had already strong-armed another pipe, so I paid him a token amount to get him the hell off the property as fast as I could get rid of him.The whole system was consequently out of order for half a year, until I found a great plumber who replumbed all the back yard lines. And, I had purchased a replacement pool filler valve assembly from the local pool supply house. Trouble was, the float arm was only half as long as the old one. It wouldn’t even start refilling the pool until the water level was below the bottom of the skimmer — too late, too low. The pool loses 1/4 inch a day due to evaporation (same as Lake Powell, as I wrote yesterday), so this is a critical item. I fine-tuned a faucet hose to deliver what I hoped was the correct flow rate, which was always too fast or too slow. That was the status quo for six months.Today, Boy Mechanic resolved to get a new, longer float arm from Ace Hardware. Boy Mechanic sez: alwas bring in the old part so you can R&R it with a new one that fits. I shut off the water and removed the filler valve assembly.Criminy, the float arm was screwed on to the valve assembly with a phillips head. It was not just threaded on both ends, like a toilet float rod. Zounds! My plan was foiled!Just our of curiosity, I got a phillips driver and unscrewed this screw a few turns. Voila, the whole arm swiveled upward, as if by design … The damned thing was adjustable the whole time!I think I got the adjustment right the first time, but I’ll know in two or three days. Gosh, I bet they don’t tell you about THAT in the stupid book! Total cost: $0.00

Boy Mechanic can do other tricks, too. I left our laser printer on for two weeks with the A/C off, and 105 degree heat and the toner just ruined the drum – prints came out so dirty you could hardly read them. I purchased the replacement cartridge at Fry’s today, installed it, and it worked. I bet they don’t tell you about Laserjet cartridges in Popular Mechanics 1925, either! Total cost: $69.95.

If you’re interested in the original Boy Mechanic series, just Google it. This is what kids did before iPod Nano, before the internet, and before half the families in America even owned a table radio. Imagine, your own wireless set or aerial glider! I plan to spend some time there for nostalgia’s sake. I may even learn something. Since the works are no longer copyright in the USA, you can even download PDF or plain text renditions of the original Boy Mechanic!

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