Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tool Box Repair

This is a tale of overcoming poor customer service.

I have to be fair. It was not terrible customer service. I don't even think I would call it bad customer service. It just wasn't good customer service.

Let's start at the beginning.

For the past couple years, I have been making do with my tools stored in various cardboard boxes and tool bags. This is less than optimal, especially when I am digging through a box unable to find what I was looking for.

On Black Friday, with the encouragement and support of my girlfriend, I purchased a tool box.

A large tool box.

A beautiful tool box with shallow drawers that can hold a single layer of well-organized tools.

I purchased it at a Lowes that was three hours away from where I live. I was spending Thanksgiving with family in the area.

Once I got it home, I unpacked it, and discovered a sad surprise. The front of one of the drawers was damaged.

It looks like it was hit with something. The aluminum handle was scraped and bent. The stainless drawer front was also bent. It was bad enough to have broken the rivet that attached that end of the handle to the drawer.

This made me sad.

I had noticed a hole in the cardboard box when we were loading it into my car, but I hadn't thought anything of it at the time. If I had caught it then, I could have exchanged it on the spot. That would have been much easier. I think the lesson to be learned is to unpack things before leaving the parking lot. Especially if there is any damage to the packaging. Oh well.

Luckily, there was a customer service number printed on the front cover of the instruction manual. It said to call them before returning it to the store. It stated their hours to be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It was early in the evening, so I gave them a call. I was quickly informed that the department I needed for my product closed at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and was given a different number to try the next business day. It annoyed me that both the number and hours printed on the manual for my product were wrong.

When I got ahold of them, I was given an email address and told to send them my information, a copy of the receipt, and a clear description of the problem.

I couldn't find my receipt, which made me annoyed with myself. Luckily Lowes has an easy way to request a duplicate receipt. It took 10 business days, which I was perfectly fine with. I was the one that had lost the receipt, after all. Once I had a copy of the receipt, I sent the email. The email included the sentence:
The face of the drawer measures approximately 23" wide by 2" tall.
I got a response the same day. They did not have the drawer front available, but they did have the handle. I was disappointed, and I considered taking it back. But, it is rather heavy and difficult to move. I asked them to send me the handle since that is what had the worst damage. I was pretty sure I could straighten the drawer front.

I had access to a 20 ton shop press. I used it and some gentle guidance with a rubber mallet to flatten out the bent drawer front.

Here is the before picture:

 And this is what it looked like after.

It is not perfect, but few things are. 

Six days later, I had a package waiting for me. It was a drawer handle. It even included replacement rivets.

The only problem with it was that it was the wrong handle. The one they sent me was 36.5" long. I considered cutting it to size, but none of the rivet holes lined up. I was hesitant to drill the holes since they had to line up perfectly with the ones on the drawer for the rivets to hold, and it was an awkward angle to drill in place.

I emailed back and explained the misunderstanding. They respond the next day that they will gladly supply the correct one after I ship back the one they sent.

I asked how they would like to arrange to pay for return shipping, and I didn't hear from them for eight days. They finally emailed me a shipping label.

The replacement replacement part was mailed after they received the one I sent back, and this is what arrived:

The top handle is the damaged one. The bottom is the replacement. This time it was the correct length, but the rivet holes still did not match.

I decided that this was probably the best I was going to get from them. They had the model number and exact location and size of the drawer from the very beginning. They couldn't supply the correct part after two tries.

I carefully drilled holes in the correct locations:

I then pop-riveted the handle back in place. The rivets that they had supplied were just a bit too long to hold it tightly. Another minor incompetence.

With some shorter rivets, this was the final result:

This is more than good enough to make me happy. In the end, it was easier than lugging the thing back to the store, but not nearly as easy as it should have been. If they had supplied the complete drawer, replacements for both damaged parts, or even the correct drawer handle, it would have been a much quicker repair.

I am very happy with my repaired tool box. It seems well-made and has been a joy to use. I would recommend it, so long as you never need to depend on their customer service.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Son of FrånkenLämp

When I finished with FrånkenLämp, there were a few useful parts left over.

Namely, there were two bulbs left from the TIVED. I decided to put these to good use. My workbench could use a little more light.

I started by taping the two light stalks together at the base. I just used electrical tape at first. You can see the wiring coming out of the ends.

Note the black resistor attached to one of the wires. It is important to keep this in the circuit, depending on how you set it up.

The original lamp had a 12.5 volt power supply. This fed three bulbs in series. So each bulb requires about four volts. If you have a 12 volt power supply, you will need to keep the resistor in series with the two remaining bulbs to avoid running them at too high a voltage.

If you have an 8 volt power supply, you don't need to use the resistor. You could just wire the two bulbs in series.

If you have a 4 volt power supply, you don't need the resistor either. You could wire the two bulbs in parallel.

Since I only had a 12 volt power supply handy, I stuck with the resistor.

After soldering the wiring, the next thing I did was to cover the electrical tape and loose wires with heat shrink. This will prevent the electrical tape from unraveling over time and becoming a sticky mess. Heat shrink is much nicer than electrical tape, in my opinion. In the picture below, you can see the section of heat shrink that I slid onto the stalks before taping them together.

And here you can see the result after shrinking. Note that I cut the piece of heat shrink in half so it could cover both taped areas. The wiring and resistor are nicely contained by the heat shrink at the end.

I used a spare molex connector (stolen from a broken compter case fan). This made it very easy to use the 12 volt output of my handy bench power supply. It is probably a temporary solution until I can find a 12 volt wall wort to replace it with.

I attached the lamp to the underside of a wire shelf that sits next to my workbench. I used tie wraps to hold it in place. Then I ran temporary power to it, as you can see below.

Here is the final result.

The bulbs put out a decent amount of light, and the angle is just perfect to illuminate what I am working on without getting in the way. It clears up the useful work space that was taken up by my previous lamp.

 Not bad for leftover parts and pieces.