Burnt-out Motor

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Blog entry by chidwickschool posted 05-27-2013 06:12 AM 2813 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always known that I really should be blogging about my woodworking life, but sometimes the thought of starting yet another project (demanding a lot of my time) in the face of so many other things that have immediate priority, has seemed foolish. Indeed, at this very moment I could choose from a list of 20-30 different things that I could work on that would be a smart use of my time. From finishing my home addition (painting, flooring, tile, trim, cabinets etc) to over-due custom client work, recording and editing instructional videos, creating necessary promotional material, working on my website, preparing for special teaching sessions, finishing the guest facility above the shop, cleaning and organizing the shop as it continues to get out of control etc… and the list goes on..

The problem is, I’m a do-er. I’d much rather work with wood than words. I’d like to create that new art piece that I’m dreaming of, rather than construct an artful sentence. I’d even prefer pounding fence posts over pounding out a blog post.

But despite all that, here I am. I’m starting a Blog.

The thing is, I believe blogging is important to my business. My mission is to train, encourage and inspire others in their journey as woodworkers. With that in mind, I should be sharing my thoughts, experiences, successes and failures, because it will accomplish the greater good of furthering the craft that I am passionate about.

I need the priority of my purpose to overcome the tyranny of the urgent.

I was given a great illustration of this last week as I experienced a major set-back in my first woodworking class of the 2013 season. On day 2 of an 11-day rocking char class, my 24” bandsaw (which is critical to the operation of my shop) suddenly stopped working. I had to delay class for a while while I frantically tore into the tool to diagnose the issue and to analyze a potential solution. Being the hands-on kind of guy, I was in my element trying to get to the bottom of the situation and I quickly determined that there was indeed a problem with the tool motor. This tool is over 10 years old, and has been a steady and rock-solid performer since the beginning. But now, as I stared down this lifeless hunk of magnets, metal and wire—a sinking feeling began to overtake me. In all the years of maintaining this tool I never once considered the need to clean the inside of the motor. I’ve dealt with the things that seemed critical at the time—new blades, upgraded aftermarket bearing guides, replacement brakes etc. However, I put off maintaining the thing that was most important to the life of this tool—the motor.

In my defense, I was aware that most woodworking tools come with fan-cooled, sealed housing motors. With that in mind, it is easy to live by the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But even though these are supposedly sealed motors, saw dust has an insidious way of creeping into even the most unlikely of places. Once, we opened the cover it was apparent what the problem was and who was the culprit. The motor was obviously burnt out, most likely caused by the inordinate amount of sawdust build-up inside the “sealed” unit. I took the motor to my motor repairman and he confirmed for me that sawdust can easily penetrate the sealed housing of a motor through the electric junction box an be drawn into the critical core of the motor causing slow, but long-term damage. His advise was, in the future, to clear out the motor of any debris and then put a seal of silicone caulk around all the possible entry points into your motor. As far as this motor was concerned, however, it was too late. A replacement was necessary at the cost of $500-$600.

So In other words, you may have seemingly more important things to do when it comes to your woodworking projects or shop “to-do list”. However, using my experience as an example (and possible motivation) it may be more important to stop the endless pursuit of things “urgent” for a while and spend a little time being more purposeful and comprehensive in the mundane things like preventative tool maintenance… or blog posts… or whatever else you may be putting off. It will certainly pay-off in the long-run.

-- Andy Chidwick,

3 comments so far

View MontanaBob's profile


873 posts in 3484 days

#1 posted 05-27-2013 11:02 AM

I need the priority of my purpose to overcome the tyranny of the urgent. Great line…look forward to your blog…

View EEngineer's profile


1131 posts in 4413 days

#2 posted 05-27-2013 02:46 PM

I dunno. I’d be looking for another culprit than dust buildup for the death of this motor.

It is obvious from the pictures that you burnt only a small portion of the windings. Dust buildup in the motor would cause all windings to char (and you would have to be loading that motor pretty heavily to cause that much heat buildup). I notice this motor has two caps – is one a run cap? A shorted run cap might cause exactly this kind of damage only to the winding it drives. I don’t know if there are symptoms for a shorted run cap that would tell you something is wrong.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View chidwickschool's profile


30 posts in 3132 days

#3 posted 05-27-2013 03:16 PM

@EEngineer—We tested both capacitors (one is a start capacitor the other is a run capacitor) both tested out perfectly. One other details I didn’t mention in the post was that last year my table saw motor stopped working also. When I would turn it on it would hum loudly but not turn. I tore it apart, found a bunch of sawdust in there. After cleaning it up I put it back on and it has worked perfectly ever since. Not exactly the same situation but similar for sure. So, you’re right—I can’t be certain it was the sawdust but it seemed to me to be be the logical conclusion. I’m not a motor head, so I’m willing to learn from others who may know more. Thanks for the comment.

-- Andy Chidwick,

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