It's a beautiful, slightly chilly morning after Thanksgiving and I am still giving thanks. Yesterday was a perfect blend of family, studio and friends that left me energized, empowered, and ready to take on today (the last day of set-up for the Sleigh Ride) and tomorrow, The Third Annual Siyeh Sleigh Ride! There is nothing like wrestling to the ground something that makes you feel stupid, powerless and at the whim of fate, and making it cry for its mommy. The thing I stomped all over (with a lot of help and encouragement) was the instability of our glass furnace.
I started the day by meeting Sara from Olympic Kilns up in the parking lot of a BP station off I-85 in Suwanee--half-way between here house and mine. She wonderfully brought me eight relays that I purchased from Olympic on Wednesday but didn't have time to get up to pick up before they closed for the weekend. Without those relays we would not have been able to blow glass ornaments for the Sleigh Ride tomorrow, and we would have also had to cancel today's and tomorrow's dates.
I left Dave baking the Thanksgiving pies with Jessie (she made all of the pumpkin but for the crust), got the relays, met Sara's Dad--who will be blowing glass in the studio this afternoon--and headed home. My one regret was that I had not yet purchased Dragon Dictate or any other means of dictating for automatic transcription so I couldn't start the intro to the kiln maintenance chapter of the book as I was driving back home. When the spirit moves you really need to be able to write--no matter where you are or what else you're doing.
Back at the studio, I rolled up my sleeves, turned off the glass furnace (which was barely holding at 1975 degrees and pulling just over 12 amps of power--the amount it it uses to run one of the four pairs of elements), unplugged it, and started the Great Relay Swap. Brian the electrician was in Wednesday and, after a lot of metering and tinkering and checking, determined that the cause of the furnace not holding power was that the relays were not reliably closing and completing the circuit when they were activated. The elements were fine, as were the controller (a relief), the small 12 V master relay, and the thermocouple, and all the wires were solidly attached.
So I took the controller box off the side of the furnace (carefully as it was HOT), removed the thermocouple from the furnace (slowly as it was even HOTTER), and detached all 16 wires connecting the elements to the relays. Once it was disconnected, I was able to remove the insulation and the steel cover inside the box to expose the relays. Lots more wires there to disconnect, and then nuts and bolts to unscrew to release the old relays. But with patience and fortitude--and by only disconnecting one relay at a time and swapping it out--I was able to get them all done and get the box back on the furnace and the furnace firing in just over an hour. I now feel confident that I can identify and repair (*myself*) 90-95% of what could go wrong with it.
Bad news now is that either one set of elements has gone down or there is another problem as it's still only pulling 38-40 amps with all the relays and elements switched on and it should be using 50-52. But 38-40 is more than enough for our needs and Brian is coming back on Monday night to do a little more trouble-shooting and I'll get him to teach me to check the resistance on the elements so I can be even more proactive in my furnace and kiln troubleshooting and maintenance (and I'll really have a leg up on the material for that chapter of the book).
Now off to put together more deals and give-aways for tomorrow and to post to Facebook about Small Business Saturday again.