Friday, January 04, 2008

Of lights and mice and doorbell chimes

Our front hall has a nifty hanging light fixture with a white glass acorn-shaped shade that is original to the house. (The '70's disco wallpaper sure isn't, and is soon to go)

Recently, the pullchain switch broke, after a mere 88 years of use. Took the socket off and the switch apart and saw that one of the brass pieces of the switch had broken and did not seem fixable. We wanted to at least get a decent replacement that would last another 50 years, if not 80. Home improvement stores seem to only carry junky imported stuff (more rants on that later), but at least there are still some small local places with quality items in stock. One such is Great West Electrical Supply (not sure if they have a website) in Berwyn on 26th Street. They had socket interiors in stock that the owner figured his dad had bought 50 years ago, Hubbell brand, made in Connecticut. As he said, Hubbell invented the pull chain switch and it seems he was right (See this for instance.) It was a feel-good retail experience with people who are happy to be "old school" as he said, rather than the clueless kids you often get at large chain stores.
I later realized that the turn-switch light in a nearby closet has the very same Hubbell logo on it, so I figured the house approves.

We had a little rodent visitor recently (may it R.I.P.) and around then, the doorbell stopped working. I tried the easy stuff, take off the switch, see if the wires still made a circuit...nothing. The chime part tested ok. So, trace the wire from the front door back, pulling ceiling panels in the basement every few feet...find the transformer, once I learned what that was. Gosh, old wires with their cloth covering missing in spots near a pile of leaves and sawdust up in the ceiling. Bingo. The bare wire was touching an electrical conduit and shorting out, it seemed. A few bits of electrical tape fixed the wire and gosh, the bell worked again. Put back the boring plastic button until we can get a cool metal retro one in the spring.

A couple case of some education and work that got us back to just about where we started. So it goes.