Operation Times Tower – Get the solder

icerabbit on February 24th, 2004
We got a scale Dept 56 Times Tower building which
features a motorized lighted dropping ball. Well, it wasn’t moving &
lighting properly, so I had to take things apart, which turned into a little
adventure.

How do you open things that aren’t meant to be opened?

How do you fix a circuit board half the size of a postage stamp?

(read more).

Open Sesame. Of course there is no access to anything
inside the ceramic building. We popped the flat roof (an inset piece of plastic
painted & disguised as if it were part of the ceramic). Cut the motor
compartment open which is fragile plastic snapped & glued together. The lack
of movement was caused by the mini – engine no longer being lined up properly
with the gears (design flaw) easy fix with two drops of glue. Added some oil to
the moving rod that slides through the copper shaft. Movement works.

The
lighted ball is a different story. It doesn’t stay in position on the rod &
thus doesn’t move up & down and looses electrical contact. The ball is the
size of a ping pong ball. I tried to peek inside through the minuscule light
openings. Not much to see, let alone fix so I carefully sawed the ball in half
on the (invisible) glue line with a bread knife. This while it was in place on
the tower as I hadn’t managed to take the cap off the shaft. The ball opens up
and the little triangular LED circuit board crumbles into pieces. Ouch. Well,
that’s a small problem.

I don’t quite remember the last time my hands &
fingers felt so big. This circuit board is half the size of a postage stamp and
has 3 LED’s on top & bottom (6 total) I can just pinch it between my
fingers by 2 corners to hold it. Without truly adequate tools for the job; I
super-glued the 3 pieces back together & jumper-wired (?) all the
connections which I then soldered down with a common soldering iron I picked up
at Radio Shack. It wasn’t hard to do, just time consuming to make those 1 &
2 cm long 30 gauge wires, loop them around the exposed legs of the LEDs so they
would stay in place till I could solder it down. Soldering in that very cramped
area obstructed with the LEDs and all, went really well without any real prior
experience. At some point I have attached a few wires with oodles of space, but
that was way back. The soldering iron (no pencil tip) was huge for the tight
quarters, but it worked. We have a full circuit & all lights work again.

The contact with the rod & shaft problem remains. One
connection is made with the moving rod via the broken insulated end of that rod
/ wire = no power & it doesn’t hold the board & ball in place. The other
contact is a spring that wraps around the copper shaft. It works kinda, but is
not very elegant.

It actually is a miracle this whole thing worked
to begin with as cheaply & poorly as everything was put together. It really
is like a little demo / tester unit one would put together to demonstrate the
idea. By no means durable.

Plan to Fix?
* build new round
circuit board with 4 super bright LEDs = a lot more light than with standard
LEDs & more room for me to work with on that connection to the shaft &
rod.
* some crimp insulation on the exposed contact piece of the rod /
shaft so it doesn’t short with the copper shaft. I did bend the tip so it sticks
out a few mm – to make solid connection to the board.

To Be
Continued.

- Update: part ordered, waiting for delivery

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