Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Monday, December 28, 2009

Taking Care of Your Stuff

Melony, Sam, Sophia and I went up to the cabin on Saturday only to find a wet basement floor and a leaking valve at the main shutoff. Seems like sub zero weather proved too much and water in the ball valve froze consequently cracking the brass body. My first reaction was the typical “why me” whining: “why did I build this place,” “why is it always something,” but after I got that out of my system my attitude changed for the better. This perspective shift is in no small part due to the book Shop Class As Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford.

Crawford is a PhD motorcycle mechanic, so much of what he writes goes over my head – both scholastically and technically – but occasionally I do catch a glimpse. The chapter entitled To Be Master of One’s Own Stuff has proven especially enlightening and useful. Instead of being a headache, the plumbing problem now became an opportunity to improve my competence (I wouldn’t call it mastery) at taking care of my possessions. I built the cabin and now I need to take care of it.

After a conversation with my cousin Andrew Liske a plumber down in the Bay Area (and incidentally the guy who installed the cabin pipes) I came up with a repair plan. Sam and I went back up the next day, cut out the broken valve, un-sweated the PEX-to-brass fittings (which we needed to re-use) cleaned it all up and systematically put it all back together. The job took three hours with the two of us working at a steady pace. The job entailed some serious solder work, and I gave myself a 50-50 chance when I turned on the water. Thankfully no leaks. Being able to tip up the work while sweating the joints provided a gravity assist, which I’m sure made up for some poor technique on my part. At the end of the job I installed a heater coil on the incoming water pipe.

On the 1.5 mile walk back to the car Sam seemed very proud of himself. We had had a problem and he and I working together had used our brains and our hands to solve it. That’s a pretty damn good feeling.

Un-sweating the old fittings - I liked the green flame

Gravity assist

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