The joy of things that really last (like a KitchenAid mixer)

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 25, 2023, 2:30 PM | comments: 0

I can definitely be the guy who buys stuff and is giddy about the object's newness, but I deeply appreciate things that last a long time.

Almost 16 years ago, I bought Diana a 6-quart KitchenAid stand mixer for $300. It was a relatively expensive Christmas gift, but she was moving in with me, and she was very good at cooking and baking things, so it seemed appropriate that she have nice tools. It sounds a little like I wanted her to make stuff for me, since we'd be living together, and I suppose that's a little true, but she wasn't about expensive jewelry, so this seemed like a good choice.

I didn't know at the time that we would move around so much, but we did. Moving makes you better appreciate which things you need, and which you don't. I'm not planning to move again soon, but I'm pretty sure there are a ton of things I'll throw away soon. But some things are durable. That KitchenAid mixer is one such object. It has survived all of the moving around, and when there was a problem with it, repairing it has been easy.

Around the time we moved into our first house down here, in 2014, the mixer had become very noisy, like the gears were grinding. That was not entirely surprising, because after one of the moves, somewhere between Seattle and Cleveland and Orange County, the mixer appeared to be leaking oil. Then at one point, it stopped working. I cracked it open to find that it was, overall, a pretty simple device. There's an electric motor, a gear box and a small circuit board. The oil had obviously been leaking out of the gear box, but in the process of it moving, probably because it was packed on its side, the oil had covered the board. I disconnected it, tried to soak up the oil with various absorbent things, but there was still a lot of it under the components. The best solution I could think of at the time was to try and blow it out with a hairdryer, so that's what I did. Letting it sit for a bit, I put the board back in, plugged it in, and it came back to life. Cool! I got as much oil out of the inside as I could.

But it did run noisy. By 2020, at the start of the pandemic, it started to sound as if things were almost grinding. The Internet of course showed me what was inside the gear box, and it was clear that they were either too dry or worse, actually grinding. Having a shitty first car that leaked literally everything at one point or another, I knew that the gasket sealing the gear box was probably toast, so I found the part online for $8. I also bought a $14 tub of food-grade grease. I disassembled the gear box and, after trying to get out as much of the dirty lubricant as possible, was relieved to find that the gears all appeared to be in good shape. The oil was not gritty, and there was no scoring on the gears. I cleaned it all up, put in the new grease, and wow, it ran so quietly, without any upsetting noise.

On Saturday, Diana thought it would be a good idea to make her crazy delicious pizza for dinner. With the dough kneading attachment on, she switched the mixer on, and it did nothing. After ruling out the outlet, I opened it up and put the multi-meter on the pins that output power to the motor. They were a big fat zero. Just to make sure, I carefully checked the input, and sure enough, there was a healthy 120V going in. It appeared that the once oil-soaked board was no more.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've still never gone deep into electronic components, so it could have just been a bad capacitor or something. But ADHD has thwarted every attempt to learn beyond what resistors and diodes do, let alone what happens when you make complete circuits. The replacement board was $40. It looks different, with significantly fewer parts, but it works as expected. The repair took me not even five minutes.

So this 16-year-old machine that originally cost $300 (and appears to be replaced by a slightly larger 7-quart model costing $550 today), with $48 in replacement parts and a tub of (edible?) grease, is still working like a champ. It's really heavy, but is responsible for countless cookies, cakes, fresh pasta and Dolewhip. I like simple machines that work forever.

New on the left, old on the right. They're different, but work the same.

That time I opened the gear box and repacked the grease.


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