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Learning by demolishing

After many 'demolition sessions', we know this for sure: joining together to clinically examine how something that's broken looks like inside and can perhaps be repaired or otherwise must be demolished, can noticeably strengthen the bond between (grand-)father/mother and (grand-) son/daughter.

Before proceeding, however, we must of course know how to dismantle something and the risks involved for children. You must always remember that when demolishing technical equipment, even if it's a step by step dismantling, you always run the risk of injuring and cutting yourself. This applies to machines or equipment containing glass or bakelite, which can also produce shards. Picture tubes from TVs and computer monitors? Stay away! A crack in the screen of such a vacuum-pressured tube, no matter hypothetical, can cause a violent implosion, followed by an explosion of broken glass. Another danger is demolishing a cv-thermostat or old-fashioned timer with mercury tubes. Breathing in mercury is dangerous!



Moreover, before you start dismantling an electronic apparatus, make sure there's no chance that it can be re-connected to an electric outlet. Even better: cut the connector cables.

We always check – in the past it was for economics reasons – to see if something can be repaired. Succeed at that, and the child learns even more from it!

Is there anything left to be repaired? Sometimes yes, especially if something is taken apart step-by-step, without worrying about damaging it. With household electronic equipment, a broken contact (cause: corrosion or damage) is often reason enough for throwing it away, especially since it's increasing difficult to have things repaired nowadays.



Use a multimeter when checking the wires, coils, fuses, bi-metal contacts, carbon brushes, connections, etc. Always first check an electric motor for a burning smell. If it's burned out, self-repair is impossible.

You are in luck if you get the chance to open a defective low-energy light bulb (carefully, with an iron saw, cut open the plastic casing directly under the glass), especially small low-energy light bulbs, because they are wonders of electronic ingenuity. There's a good chance that the electronic component still works and that only the pl-tube is defective. That means that you can connect a new tube of the around the same capacity to the four connection points!

Many transistor radios or radio cassette recorders are thrown away when they begin to get stuck when turning or sliding the volume control, and the same goes for multi-purpose switches on receivers and recorders. If you can fix the problem by oiling the volume control (pontentiometer) or switches, then in most cases the defect will be fixed for a long time.



Can our students-in-destruction work with a soldering iron? If so, let him solder the solder points of an integrated switchboard one by one. Sometimes something doesn't work because of a loose solder contact point. If this no longer helps, then the soldering iron can be of use in the removal of semiconductors, condensers, etc., which can be of use if they are saved according to serial number, band and color-codes. Electrical parts stores have handy tables!

Everything that doesn't have a burnt-out color from overheating and whose threads aren't too short can be stored together with the switches, knobs etc. in the spare part closet, which, in a few years, will have become a real treasure chest!