Monday, October 17, 2016

a fix four years in the making

We have a gas fireplace.

Which means we have one of those keys you shove in a hole to turn the gas on or off. Sometimes those are on the wall, and sometimes they're on the floor. Ours is on the floor—which is a terrible design, because small children can drop marbles and the like down the hole, making it impossible to fit the gas key onto the gas valve. Remarkably, we lived in the house for nearly four years before we ran into this problem. But in August 2012, I couldn't get the gas to go on, and after many tries got an in-focus camera phone shot down the hole revealing this:

I didn't actually know what that was, but I eventually figured out that I could unscrew the valve from the basement and out fell this wooden dowel that Soren had gotten a hold of and dropped down the hole.

At the time, I imagined the perfect solution to stop up the hole, which was a rubber plug with a lever you could close to make it expand in diameter slightly. It didn't occur to me that my solution might actually exist. Four years later, it suddenly occurred to me to search for things like [expanding pipe plug], which quickly led me to a company called Shaw Plugs, with a line of products called Snap-Tite plugs that were pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I measured the hole with calipers and concluded that a plug that was somewhere south of 17mm in its relaxed state would be perfect. The Snap-Tite plug with a nominal width of 11/16" claimed to be 16.66mm in its relaxed state, so seemed perfect (and less than $7 on Amazon).

Alas, it seems there is some variation in the actual diameter of these things, because the one I got was 17mm in its relaxed state, which was a shade too big. But this turned out to be a fine problem to have, because it was easy enough to slice some tiny bits off four sides to make it fit easily, and also to create something more like a square cross section, which is great for a square hole.

Each of the bits I sliced off (with a paring knife) was somewhere under a millimeter thick, like this:

The end result looks like this. With the lever down, it won't slip out. Lift the lever, and it comes out easily.

I think we're mostly past the age of marbles down the hole, but it's nice to have a bit of protection anyway.

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