Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Saturday’s afternoon project was supposed to take about an hour. Naturally, it ended up lasting about two hours longer than that.

I had to move a junction box and run a length of wire across the room to a pair of electrical outlets I wanted to mount on opposite walls in the work shop. I use a lot of power tools when I’m being handy. Power tools are the number-one best reason to be handy, so I’ve pieced together a collection of the biggest, noisiest once I could find. The first question I ask when buying a power tool is, in fact, “How noisy is it? Does it shriek like an otherworldly monster? Will I feel as if my heart’s being torn out of my chest when I start it up?” It’s the only way to know if a power tool’s any good. If a table saw isn’t loud enough to at least cause permanent nerve damage to your hearing, it won’t do a good job of cutting wood either, I promise.

The power tools I have draw something like a trillion amps each. In everyday terms, that means that, when I pull the trigger on a circular saw, the lights dim in all the houses in Madison, or at least they do if I have it plugged in to an ordinary socket on the same electrical circuit with everything else in the house. If I have it plugged in to a heavy-duty electrical outlet, no problems. The work shop is in a corner of the basement where there’s just one ordinary outlet, though, so I had run an extension cord to it and dim the lights a lot.

Then there’s the problem of using one extension cord to juice all my power tools. When I’m working on a big project that calls for me to break out five or six power tools, I’m constantly scrambling to find the end of the cord to unplug the power tool I was just using, then plug in the power tool I’m going to use next. This quickly becomes a huge pain in the ass.

As luck would have it, there was a heavy-duty outlet in the corner of the basement opposite the work shop. Apparently the washer and dryer used to be down there, so they rigged a trillion-amp circuit for them and left it there when the next owner of the house decided to move the washer and dryer upstairs. I could put this massively powerful outlet to good use if I ran a heavy-gauge wire across the room to the work shop. So that’s what I did.

Any clown can tack a wire up. That was the easy part. To hook up a pair of outlets on either side of the room I had to split it at a junction box, then run a wire down either wall. If rooms were empty boxes, this would be as simple as it sounds, but they’re not. The junction box had to be awkwardly mounted between two overhead joists, and the wire had to be threaded over a vent, through a brace, over another vent, behind an electrical outlet and finally over a conduit. Electrical wire comes from the store in a tight coil, so I had to simultaneously work the twists and kinks out of it as I was trying to do all this threading. And because this was for a heavy-duty circuit, I was using very thick wire. This part required a lot of cussing.

Every project has to have a major glitch. On this project, I didn’t remember to put up the junction box right away. I ran the wire down the east wall from the ceiling. I don’t know why. Maybe I was listening to the music a little too much. Maybe I’m just a dumbass, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I had to stop, step back from the job to get a good look at what I’d done, facepalm myself, then argue with myself for five or ten minutes. Part of me wanted to half-ass the job by leaving the wire where it was because I didn’t want to pull out all the staples I’d used to fix the wire to the wall, cut it where the junction box should have been, and rework it from there. That part of me lost the argument.

The only other part of the job that took longer than it should have was piecing together the outlets. They weren’t a kind I’d used before so I had to put one together, then take it all apart to get the wires in, then put it back together, then take it all apart again to hook up the ground, then put it back together again. More cussing required. But at least I didn’t have to do that for the second outlet.

A job like this is a success when I can do three things: turn the power back on and the circuit breaker doesn’t pop; plug a power tool in and it works; and, of course, not get electrocuted during any of this. I am happy to report complete success. The table saw screamed to life on the first try. So did the miter saw. And the lights flickered a bit, but I didn’t cause the usual brownout across six counties. So yay.

wiring | 6:59 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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