Ovens, that is.

Years ago — I don’t remember exactly when; it was at least fifteen years ago — my wife and I bought a microwave oven, a little Sanyo. It worked very well for a long time. When we moved to this place we brought it along, and it worked for a while, then quit. The transformer in the power supply for the control panel burned out, and I wasn’t able to find out anything about it, so we went to Wal*Mart and bought a cheap Emerson; we will refer to this one later as “Emerson A”. I’m a confirmed pack rat who seldom throws anything away that might be useful later, so the Sanyo got put aside.

Emerson A rocked along for a while, then the magnetron went out. Things were tight, money-wise, so I recovered another (!) old microwave oven, a genuinely ancient Kenmore one, gigantic and complex. It worked for a while, then the control panel croaked. That left us bereft of microwave ovens, so I cast about for what to do. The old Sanyo caught my eye. I took it apart, pulled out the magnetron, and installed it in Emerson A. It worked! I took the dead magnetron apart. The magnets are incredibly powerful and fun to play with; the only ones more powerful you’re likely to find are in the head actuators of a hard disk, and those are comparatively tiny.

When we opened the pack&ship store a bit over two years ago we wanted a microwave oven in the back, so we went and bought Emerson B from Wally’s World. The newer one was visually identical to the old, but close inspection revealed some differences — some of the screws were Torx (and tamper-resistant Torx, at that) and the case only had one screw on the side instead of one on each. It worked about as well as any microwave oven does.

When we closed the store I brought Emerson B home. Since it was newer than A, I set it on the counter and put Emerson A in storage (pack rat, remember?) It rocked along for a little while, then one day there was a bright spark and a zzzzap!, and it stopped working. A brief inspection revealed that the magnetron had shorted across the filament leads — one magnetron, RIP, so I put A back on the counter and stored B.

Last night as I was nuking something for Bobbe’s dinner, there was a *sput* and it started making smoke. Electronic stuff, including microwave ovens, depends crucially on magic smoke; if you let it out, the stuff stops working. I took it apart and discovered that the high-voltage transformer was all black along the high voltage windings. Too bad, so sad.

B was still in storage, so I went and got it. Magnetron dead, good high voltage transformer; A has the reverse, so the obvious thing was to swap the good magnetron into B, which I did. It works. It even kept working when I put the leads on backwards. Yes, dear, it does makes a difference. The two pins look alike, but one is labeled “F” for “Filament”, and the other “FA” for “Filament/Anode”. The filament lead will pull power for a little while, but it won’t last long connected that way. I swapped them and nuked breakfast with it this morning.

But the good magnetron is the Sanyo one from years ago! The steel wool seal around the feed probe is rusty, it lacks a slot where the Emersons have a tab I had to remove, and the wires go out the side instead of the bottom so I had to extend the high voltage leads, but it keeps on working. I fully expect that it will soldier on for a while, too. There is a difference in quality sometimes. I just wish the magnetron from the ancient Kenmore (well, d’oh, yes, of course I kept it) would fit. The mountings are completely different, but if I could make it work it would give me one more iteration of the Frankenstein Microwave Adventure.

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