Every year, we decorate for Christmas. Every year, I have to repair a few Christmas decorations.
Christmas decorations tend to last a long time. A few break, but some simply have a part that wears out. This year it was a defective light switch and a broken mechanical gear.
First the light switch, top left. After replacing the bulb for our Nativity Scene, we could not get the light to work. After checking the circuit conductivity with an ohm meter, I narrowed the failure down to the inline switch in the 110 volt wiring. I took the switch apart, and was amazed at how simple and flimsy it was. Basically, these switches have two narrow pins that poke into the open wiring to complete the circuit when the switch is closed. One of those pins had worked itself out of the wire. A little pressure and it worked properly again. The electrical wiring of some Christmas decorations can be pretty basic.
The second repair was more challenging. The Christmas Globe has three working parts. One is a mechanical music box. Another is a mechanical turntable that rotates the Christmas characters. The third is a mechanical agitator that “creates snow” in the globe. This year, the mechanical turntable stopped working. As this is one of the Christmas decorations that we think the grand-kids will enjoy, grandpa was assigned the job of fixing it.
The hardest part of this repair was gaining access to the moving parts. It required removing the bottom, but I could not tell whether the bottom was screwed on, snapped-in or glued. Since I could not find any screw holes, I decided snapped-in or glued. I ran a flat blade between the base and the globe and could not find any plastic or metal tabs. So, it must be glue. The question was: could I force-remove the base of this Christmas decoration without breaking it?
Fortunately, yes. A few minutes of gentle prying with the flat blade and the bottom came off without breaking. It had been glued in two places and the adhesion gave way.
In terms of repair, this was simple. The reduction gear at the end of the motor shaft and moved out, and the gear teeth we not engaging with the turntable gears. A small push and the gear moved back into place. After gluing the base back on, everything works again.
Repairs to Christmas decorations are complete for another year.
Christmas Decorations – What we got right
Another challenge with Christmas decorations is trying to remember what and how you did things 11 months ago. The trick seems to be how you pack things away every January and what clues you leave behind for next year.
Outdoors, I have attached permanent fixtures on which to hang the lights. They stay in place (unobtrusively) year round. Then, we always check all of the lights and put them away in a certain order in different boxes. We also store the various connectors and bindings that we use. Given this discipline, the work pretty much organizes itself each November.
For the outdoor lights, we have standardized on colored and white LED bulbs. They seem to last a long time and I don’t have to waste time with replacing bulbs. We also use reliable timers and light sensors.
Indoors, everything gets a clearly labeled plastic container – one for dishes, one for glasses and cups, another for tree ornaments, and so on. The light strings for the tree are each tested and bagged before they are put away.
By treating Christmas decorations as a well organized project, the mechanical work is easy and leaves more time to enjoy Christmas rather than worry about the work.
By the way, the latest trend in Christmas decorations is laser lights. Maybe I will try these next year.