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Brassy: a nonfunctional light fixture

An ongoing drama, with semi-useful repair tips

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Ramona Jan and I decided to take her nonfunctional light fixture and do something about it. Maybe it’s because I’m reading Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela” right now, or maybe it’s because Ramona Jan and I ate something weird for dinner. Whatever the reason, we decided it was funnier to chronicle the repair attempts in letter format using fictional characters. Spoiler alert: we haven’t succeeded yet. But we did learn a few things along the way. And you may all be grateful that I cut out the “Pamela” jokes.

First tip: DIY electrical work is lots of fun, but really folks: get an electrician. (We both have practice and know when to call for help. Plus we have friends/spouses with lots of experience). If you DIY your plumbing, at worst you’ll have a wet or stinky house. If you DIY your electrical repairs, you can burn your house down.

Dear Tatloc Repairs:

Something went wrong!

One of the LED bulbs went out in this five-bulb dining-room overhead light fixture! How could this be? LED bulbs are supposed to last about 15 years. The fixture was installed and all the bulbs put in at the same time, about two years ago. 

 We took the fixture out. The connections to the porcelain sockets (by cotton covered electrical wires) were brittle. We then lost our minds, daring to become our own repair people; we bought new wires and began re-doing the wiring. We soldered! The solder did not hold.

(Tip: Turn the power off at the breaker box or fuse box, not just at the switch, before removing fixtures. Then remove the fixture and check your connection. On an old fixture, the wires are often in poor shape.)

(Tip: Maybe don’t solder if you’ve never done it before. Or at least practice on something first.)

To test the points, we grabbed each wire and swung the lamp around the room. The wires should’ve held, right? They didn’t.

(Tip: This was a bad idea.)

Perhaps we used the wrong solder? It’s silver in color; that’s all we know about solder. You are our only friend, Mr. Tatloc of Tatloc Repairs. We trust you with our beloved bare-bulb ‘30s-era fixture. Make it good again and you will be duly rewarded with some nuts, mittens, pencils and a picture of a princess.

Very truly yours,

The Good Neighbors

Dear Neighbors:

My sympathies for your plight! Tragedy abounds in the smallest things, even in something so insignificant as a single nonfunctioning LED light. Have you had the bulb analyzed? Perhaps it is merely striking out on its own, endeavoring to be its own person.

(Tip: This is not a “Pamela” joke, it is a “psychoanalysis” joke.)

Perhaps the endeavor failed and the bulb is no more. But the first course of business will be to verify that the late bulb is indeed late.

(Tip: Always a good starting point. And surprisingly, people often don’t check the bulb first.)

In turn, I shall do my best to return your light to a state of... well... lightness. If it is not possible, we shall gently sweep the matter under a very bulky rug, and then not walk on it, for then we will break the fixture and the glass will hurt our feet. Even through the bulky rug.

I look forward to meeting your light fixture, and consider your offered terms fair.

Sincerely,

Steven Tatloc, Tatloc Repairs

PS: Which princess? I have mixed feelings about Disney.

PPS: LEDs do not always last as stated. The voltage of your rural supply may be the culprit, burning out the bulb fast.

PPPS: I shall assess the overall condition of the fixture as well. Going forward, please note that the flinging treatment is not effective for light fixtures. I do find it works well with freshly washed lettuce in a pillowcase, drying it in a snap.

(Tip: This is a great way to dry lettuce.)

Dear Steven:

We are in receipt of your letter dated 18 February, 2020. In addressing your theory about the bulb, please be informed that we indeed changed the bulb with several working bulbs. Also, note we have a temporary fixture there now but it is not a long-term solution.

Curiously, now that the temp fixture is up, there is no longer flashing from the kitchen fixture. In this 1915 house, the dining room and kitchen fixtures are somehow related electrically. Our theory about the flashing (now that it has stopped entirely) is that the dining room (one socket) was shorting the kitchen fixture. As already stated, this is not happening betwixt the temp and dining fixtures. And we know you will ask: The temp fixture is just as old as the lamp you are about to receive.

(Tip: Suspected short? Call your electrician.)

So there you have it. Probably not the bulb. However, we know you are thorough so please do check anyway, though we feel it would be a waste of your time. We appreciate your attention in this matter.

Best,

Lenora Brandt

PS: If for some reason the fixture cannot be repaired, we have another one. However, we would need to check the wiring and then, more importantly, fashion some sort of ceiling plate to cover the previously existing gaping hole in the ceiling. (The hole is a gift from a previous electrician.)

Steven Tatloc to Lenora Brandt:

Do not despair! Other repair people are the past; we have only the future, and the future involves your light fixture.

Now then: We shall proceed under the assumption that the fixture is fixable. Although if the unthinkable must be thought, then we will use your three-light fixture for parts. Or as a replacement.

All will be made clear.

Steven B. Tatloc

PS: Has your light fixture a name?

 I feel awkward referring to it by its species all the time.

Dear Steven,

We have named it “Brassy.”
The kitchen fixture is “Flashy.”

Lenora Brandt

Steven Tatloc to Lenora Brandt:

I found Brassy waiting for me in the morning against my front door. Having assessed him, I have these observations:

The wires are in extremely poor shape; I was deeply distressed at their condition and had to sit down with a restorative cup of tea. Many wires were either broken, or about to be broken. The Wires of the Socket of the Nonfunctional Light were nonfunctional as well.

(Tip: And therein lies the problem.)

Past solder had not been cleaned out of the socket, and it has now hardened into a formidable nightmarish mass.

I recommend new sockets. To remove the old solder might be beyond my abilities, and certainly my inclination.

Thank you for the opportunity to return Brassy to a state of health.

Steven B. Tatloc

Dear Steven,

The stores do not have ceramic replacements that will fit Brassy. What do I do now? I find myself sinking into despair after all.

Lenora Brandt

PS: What does the “B” stand for?

Dear Mrs. Brandt,

Please find enclosed Brassy and his sockets. Perhaps if you bring one to a local antique store help will be forthcoming.

Steven B. Tatloc

  1. The “B” stands for “B.”

Dear Steven,

Original parts were found at A Picker’s Find in Honesdale and I bought them all. They gave me a lead if I want new ones, but we are not sure if they would work. Can you assess? Please find enclosed photos of the sockets I purchased.

Lenora

  1. I have a blender that is also nonfunctional. When Brassy is restored to health, could you take a look, please?

(Tip for handymen: Make sure your client realizes the blender repair will increase the cost.)

Dear Mrs. Brandt,

Well. Some of the sockets look usable. Some have broken wires of their own. They want tidying at the least. Perhaps you could drop them off at my front door and I will do my best. But deadline is pressing and my editor does in fact wish to see this discussion of a problem that may affect nobody at all.

Steven B. Tatloc

  1. Re the blender: I will welcome the blender as well; it can keep Brassy company.

(Tip: Don’t use the ones with the broken wires.)

(Final tip:
See first tip)

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