Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chomp, Spark, Solder

Jasper has some odd habits. He is not a pathological eater - he mainly keeps his nose out of trouble. He hasn't wrecked any of our shoes or belts, he doesn't gnaw on the furniture.

But, he has managed to chomp his way through two computer power cords. One a few months ago, which (alternately) powered our two mac laptops, which we replaced with two after-market models. One of those replacements bit the dust (or, rather, was bitten into dust) about a week ago. We feared that Jasper might end up with an obstructed bowel, because we couldn't find the connector for half a day. There appears to be no provocation on the part of the defenseless cords - Jasper must have been biding his time for the right moment.

For better or worse, he has suffered no ill effects from his bold appetite for PVC and tinned copper strand, because both times he did this the power cords were not live. No voltage, no shock, he could chomp it into little bits with impunity.

Just yesterday, however, while Hilary and I were lying on the couch, we heard the undeniable sound of sparks, and discovered that Jasper had taken a chomp from our remaining power cord, which was definitely live at the time. Just one chomp, which means he either got a shock and learned his lesson, or else we caught it in time. What a dweeble!

In any event, a single bite is something I can actually fix. The previous two power cords were lost causes because the connector was mangled in the process. So, off to the electronics lab on a Sunday morning for a little surgery.

The construction is simple enough: a two-conductor stranded coax cable. So, I cut above and below the damage, strip back the insulation on either side, solder the inner conductor, wrap that with electrical tape, solder the outer conductor (in three places), then slide a layer or two of shrink tubing to replace the insulation.

It's ugly, but the fact that my computer has power to relate this all to you indicates that it works.

It is refreshing to know that, even though I do very little in the way of electronics these days, I still can wield a soldering iron from time to time.

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