Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crucifixion? To the Left, One Cross Only

I almost died on Thursday...

Before the snow flies, I needed to weld a retaining bracket on the snowblower.  Those of you who have run the Creemore Vertical Challenge know that my laneway is 500 meters long (for those into imperial measurements, way too long to shovel).  I have a 6 foot wide snowblower that runs off the tractor, but the discharge shute was missing a small retainer and would fall off when the snow was heavy (or when I "blew" gravel).

So I needed to install a 240 volt single phase receptacle for my welder, something I have put off for an impressive 6 years!  On Thursday, I wired the receptacle to the outlet for the kiln.  My main panel notes indicated that the kiln was wired into the dryer line.  The kiln is 7,000 watts, so I pulled the dryer/kiln fuse box and got to work wiring from the kiln outlet in the garage to a welder outlet...

I had loosened the 2 live wires (I'm no electrician, but I'm pretty sure they are black and red), the neutral (white) and the ground (green).  While joining the 2 ground wires (one leading to the welder receptacle), the black live wire sprang loose and touched the screwdriver I was holding.  The resulting arc was impressive, melting the tip of the screwdriver.  The molten metal melted the tips of 3 of my fingers and left my temporarily blinded.

My first thought is that I could use a current meter...  My second thought was something along the lines of "Gee (I used more emphatic descriptors) I could have died".  The Kiln (mislabelled on the main panel - by me) is connected to the oven line.  I blew one of two 35 amp fuses.  Had I held a live wire and the ground, I'm not sure if the current passing through my body would be enough to blow the fuse.  Perhaps there are electricians out there who could argue the point, but I think I would have died before the fuse blew.

I shut the main breaker (I have 100 amp service for the house) and completed the wiring.  Today I welded the retainer brackets on the snowblower - the welder worked marvelously!

Moral:  If you are working a a 70 amp line, make sure it is truly disconnected.  I could have turned on one of the 5 elements on the kiln and watched to see if it turned red.

On the bright side, the snowblower is ready for the winter and although it has been 23 years since I operated a mig welder at Honda, my welding is not too shabby!  But perhaps from now on I will take a bit off extra time to ensure I am safe before undertaking any electrical work!

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