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How to Figure Out What's Wrong



Kevin is looking at a propane powered forge a friend gave him that has never worked right. Now he's going to use a process to figure out what is wrong with it, a process that you can use with just about anything.

First, take stock of both the parts and the operation of the item. In this case, we know it's a propane powered forge. We know the round part is the forge itself, the part that's going to get hot.

That means the burners are up in the area where the hose comes in from the propane tank. Then there's a nozzle or burner that squirts out propane somehow.

Below that are a pair of hoses that are hooked into a T that's hooked into the valve that hooks into a hose. At the other end of the hose is the pressure regulator with a fitting to hook it into a propane bottle.

So that's basically all the parts in this machine that work.

To find the problem, first think about any clues. Kevin's friend said one burner was working, but the other one didn't want to burn right. He had a nice blue flame out of one and every now and again a yellow flame out of the other. That's a clue right there.

Next is the big part: Divide and conquer. Eliminate the things that you know are working to narrow your problem down to the things that you know aren't working.

First Kevin disconnected the hose, hooked it up to a propane bottle, and put a little gas to it. (The regulator was brand new, so he was fairly certain it worked.) When he opened the propane bottle's gas valve and regulator, he could hear gas coming out, so he knew that was working. He hooked everything back up again.

The problem's obviously not from there down.

Next, Kevin removed the nozzle and played with the regulator, giving a little pressure. He sniffed around both of the nozzles to see if he was getting propane out of both of them. Yes, he was. OK. So all of that now works.

He put all that back together and figured the problem has to be somewhere in the pipes. Next he fires up the forge. He has a nice bright, blue flame coming out of one pipe and yellow coming out of the other, just like his friend said.

Kevin puts a flat piece of steel between the two pipes. He sniffs by one - no smell. He sniffs by the other and smells gas. Aha! The problem has to be somewhere in this pipe in this section right here. He takes it apart ... and find a wasp's nest inside! Kevin uses a piece of coat hanger to push out what's left of the nest.

When he tests it again, both sides burn bright blue with equal intensity.

Hopefully that'll help light a fire under you to go out there and figure out what's wrong with whatever it is that you happen to have. Kevin is ready to get back to work, but you might want to hang out for another moment to hear Kevin Caron philosophize ....

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