Kitchen sink broken. Chuck must fix.

Sometimes you call your landlord when things break in your apartment.

And sometimes … you attempt to fix things yourself.

Such was the case yesterday, when one of the tap handles on my kitchen sink broke.  It just fell apart, right in my hand.

That’s not good.

So here’s what happened.

Continue reading “Kitchen sink broken. Chuck must fix.”


“Scalpel… rib spreader … TORX screwdriver…”

It was early last August, and I knew something was wrong the moment the heartbeat stopped.

A quick check.  Nothing.

I tried other options.  Nothing.

Not a sound.

Not a beat.

God, no.

Please Lord, no.

With all the horrible things in my life that have turned 2016 into a big mucky mess… this can’t add to the pain.  I can’t have this happen.

And this isn’t even covered by my health insurance.  Thanks, Obama…

So if this really IS happening…

I need a specialist to save this patient.

A quick phone call.




Come on, pick up… pick up…


Good.  Allen Wade is there.  Allen is my camera tech, he’s cleaned the sensors for my Nikon digital equipment, and he’s tuned all my film cameras, from Kodak Red to Raskolnikov.

“Al,” I said… “I think my Nikon Df is dead.”

A few days later – CameraWorks is only open to the public three days a week – I dropped the Df off at CameraWorks’ Latham-based repair shop.

Allen called me later with the news.  “You’ve got a busted shutter blade.”

That's what a broken shutter blade looks like. Ugh.
That’s what a broken shutter blade looks like. Ugh.

Now this sounds serious… but it could be worse.  Although shutter blades are difficult to repair, especially on digital cameras, one can replace the mechanism with a new shutter assembly.  Allen would need to remove the entire shutter assembly inside the Df, and replace it with a new shutter component.  It would need to be a Df shutter; Nikon camera gear isn’t as interchangeable as Eli Whitney’s rifle assembly line.

All Allen needs to do is acquire the replacement shutter assembly.

Which … unfortunately … brings up another issue.

Prior to 2013, independent camera repair shops could purchase repair parts directly from Nikon.  That changed in 2013, when Nikon stopped selling a la carte camera repair parts, choosing instead to license Nikon repair work to less than two dozen “Nikon Certified” shops around the country.  Yeah, that’s like being told you cannot replace your car’s transmission at an AAMCO shop; you would need to bring it back to your dealer or to one of fifteen specialty transmission shops around the nation.

Luckily for me, Allen is a very resourceful camera repair technician.  At first, he tried to contact any of the other camera repair shops or outlets to see if they had a Nikon Df that was in a “parts only” status, that he could maybe cannibalize the shutter assembly from that camera and place it in mine.  Essentially, a shutter transplant.

No dice.

“Unless I can find that shutter for you, Chuck,” he said, “I don’t think I can repair your camera.”

And then… when all hope seemed lost…

I started puttering through eBay auction sites.  Maybe, just maybe, there’s a junked Nikon Df whose shutter assembly is still functional.

No dice.

But I did find this instead – an eBay auction for, of all things, “Original DF Shutter Group with Blade Unit component for Nikon DF.”  The repair part, new-old stock, from China.

I called Allen and told him about the shutter.  He said if I could send him the eBay link, he would order the part.

Listen, I don’t care if my Japanese camera has a Chinese shutter inside.  Have you seen the camera equipment in my possession?  I’ve got a freakin’ United Nations of photography in my apartment.  Cameras from Ukraine and from Germany and from Rochester and from Binghamton.  Interchangeable lenses from Russia and from Japan and from South Korea.  Film from Austria and from Vietnam and from Canada and from God knows where.  And if I can operate a camera that hails from the People’s Republic of Binghamton…

Now I wait.  The part had to arrive from China.  Then, once Allen got the part, he had to take my Nikon Df apart, remove the broken shutter, install the new shutter, reassemble everything, and test the results.

Oh yeah.  That sounds simple.  Now describe the infield fly rule.

Last Wednesday, Allen called me.  “Hey Chuck.”

“Please tell me you have good news,” I replied.

“We got a problem.”

Oh great.

“I took your camera apart, and I can’t put it back together again.”

Oh, just great.

“Just kidding with you, Chuck, she’s all back together and better than ever.”

Oh.  Great!

Yesterday, I picked up the camera.  Allen had it all back together again, he demonstrated a few shots to confirm that yes the camera was functioning up to spec, and he even threw in a free sensor cleaning.  “A mechanic shouldn’t put an engine in a car without at least cleaning the engine,” he said.

And THIS is why I trust CameraWorks with my camera repair work.  And so should you.

FTC DISCLAIMER: At no time did I receive any discount or additional benefit for mentioning CameraWorks or its services in this blog.  This is an unsolicited, unbiased and independent report of using CameraWorks’ services with regard to my camera equipment.  I have no material relationship to any brand or person mentioned in this post.

Wasn’t 52 years of bad luck enough?

The things I go through to create an art project…

In most cases, I can find everything I need for my art projects in any one of several different Capital District locales.  If I need a Queen Anne window for a Dream Window project, I can swing over to Silver Fox Salvage or Historic Albany Parts Warehouse and find some good windows for great art.  If I need stained glass, I can stop at Hobby Lobby and get whatever I need; if they don’t have it, I can send away to several different online retailers.  Any other materials?  That’s why there’s Lowe’s, Home Depot, Jo-Ann Fabric, Michaels, etc…

So here’s the deal.  I have an upcoming Dream Window project in which I wanted to add a blue mirror to the final result.  Unfortunately… I can get silver mirrors, and I can get wavy glass that has been “silvercoated,” but I can’t find just plain blue mirrored glass.

I kept looking, looking, looking… none of my online sellers had any blue mirrored glass, and I was getting frustrated.  This is like asking Gainsborough to paint without his blue oils.

Keep looking, keep looking …

Hey, I found one.  I found an antique blue mirror, and the dimensions look like it’ll just fit my Dream Window project, with maybe a few slivers left over.  I paid for the mirror, and waited for it to arrive.  Meanwhile, another antique blue mirror popped up on eBay.  Well, I don’t need two mirrors… so I let the second mirror go to another bidder.

The other day, a package arrived.

Oh good, here’s my pane of mirrored glass –

Wait… why is the box making that noise?

You know the “noise.”

The “noise” that means something is shifting around inside.

Oh crud.

I carefully opened the box… only to see that the mirror I needed was fractured.  The shipper wrapped the glass in bubble wrap, then packed the parcel in styrofoam peanuts.  The glass was not reinforced in any way; and even a tap along the bubble wrap would have caused the glass to crack.  Which is exactly what it did.  ARRGHH

And although the merchant graciously returned my money for the broken glass, and apologized for the situation…

I was now out of luck.  The other blue mirror was gone, sold to another customer.  Any other blue mirrors that would have fit my project were part of expensive coffee tables and decorative furniture, and were WAY out of my price range.

Damn it damn it damn it…

Of course, now comes the other thought.

I’m in possession of a broken mirror.

Does this mean I’m also in possession of seven years’ bad luck?

I sure as hell hope not… because I’ve already had 52 years of bad luck, and I’m not interested in a contract extension for same. 😀

Exposed electrical wires

I blogged about this a long time ago – back in my old blogspot days – but I’m feeling like sharing today.

Whenever my wife Vicki got angry with me for something, she always tossed this little dig at me:

“The reason we bought this house was that I thought I married a handyman who could fix or repair anything!”

I heard that a lot.  And for my efforts, I did try to get things fixed around the house whenever possible – simple things that a guy like me could handle.

It was one of those repairs that actually kept our house from burning to the ground.


In March of 2009, my wife visited my daughter Cassaundra in Seattle for a week, while I stayed home to work on some things with the Premier Basketball League.  Our house in Pine Hills was about 90 years old – I did some research on it, it was one of the first houses built on our street, when Albany expanded its neighborhoods along the Western Tunpike in the 1920’s.

Now granted, I wasn’t a master electrician, but I figured a few “How-To” videos on YouTube and a couple of “How To 1-2-3” books from Home Depot, and I had a shot.  And the big project I wanted to take care of was the light switches.

First thing that needed fixing was a faulty light switch that powered the lights in the back hallway. The light switch at the top of the stairs wouldn’t flip completely to the ON position, so the light could not be controlled upstairs (i.e., if it was on, I couldn’t turn it off).

Trip to Home Depot. I purchased a Leviton 3-Way Lighted (15A-120V) light switch, along with some black electrical tape, a slotted screwdriver, some needle-nosed pliers and a white face plate. After turning off the circuit breaker to that part of the house, I unscrewed the fugly face plate, and pulled the burned-out switch out of its housing. There were three wires that needed to be connected to this unit – I disconnected the wires from the old, burned-out switch and connected the wires to the new switch. I wrapped the unit in black electrical tape, and screwed it back into the wall housing. I added the new bone-white face plate, turned on the circuit, and …


Not only did the switch work without any trouble, but it also is an “illuminated” switch in that the toggle switch itself lights up in the dark. So if the lights are out and you need to see what you’re doing, you can at least see the switch and turn on the power.

Okay, now I’m feeling bold.

Back to Home Depot I go.  If I can replace this light switch, let’s see what happens when I try to replace some other light switches in the house.  And just for the sake of fun, I purchased an overhead lighting fixture as well.

See, in our hallway the light fixture was a simple frosted glass bowl, which was just small enough so that most lightbulbs – including any compact florescent bulbs – were too long for the space.  Again, I turned off the circuit breakers, and disassembled the overhead light from the wall.

And I got the shock of my life.

No, not THAT kind of shock – remember, I did say that the circuit breakers were turned off.

I did discover, however, that the wiring in the ceiling fixture had become old and brittle; the rubbery casing that sheathed the copper wire crumbled to the floor, leaving some very exposed and dangerous wires in its wake.

So what did I do?

At that point in time, I had three options.  I could have:

(A) put everything back together and told Vicki never to turn the light on at any time.

(B) Stumbled forward with trying to rewire the light fixture, and pray that our insurance coverage would still pay in case I get electrocuted.

(C) wrapped the wire with the handyman’s secret weapon.  Yep.  Duct tape.

And in the end, I chose Option (D).

And Option (D) was to acknowledge that I did not know enough to handle a big project like this, and it’s time to call in a professional.

The electrician showed up about an hour later, and immediately chastised me for doing my own electrical work (“Do you know we have to study electric wiring for five years before we can even be certified?”), and then he looked at the ceiling, with the exposed wires – and immediately changed his tone. “It’s a good thing you saw this,” he said, “because in old houses like this, we come across a lot of deteriorating wire – especially if the light source, like a ceiling light, is too close to the ceiling itself, the heat actually causes the wire casing to harden up and break.”

Since the circuit for the ceiling light would only affect a couple of bedroom lights, and not an important appliance like the refrigerator, we agreed to have him come back Monday, rather than have him work Saturday hours (and me having to pay Saturday rates).

Monday morning, right on time, another repairman showed up. He was already briefed on the situation, he went up to the attic, replaced the wiring and the ceiling light housing, then he installed the light fixture.  Two compact-florescent lights later, I turned on the circuit breaker, and the hallway lit up.

With light from the bulbs – not that “other” kind of lighting.

Honestly, while I wasn’t thrilled for getting chastised about doing my own work around the house, I am glad that when a situation arose that was outside of my comfort zone, I was able to make the right choice and call in a professional.

Which is why I can blog about it today – in person – and not from beyond the grave.