Sunday, January 22, 2017

How to fix a cracked vacuum hose

A while back, my vacuum's hose cracked, right near the end fitting. I poked around on YouTube, and learned that some hoses are easy to disassemble, trim down, and reassemble, but apparently mine wasn't one of them.

We were out of duct tape at the time, and my chewing gum repair attempt failed to ever completely harden, so I kept on thinking about it. I looked through our hoard to see if we had a length of pipe in the right diameter that I could put in, but we didn't.

Finally, I worked out a solution: gluing in a tube made of leather, to bridge the gap. (Remember, old-fashioned materials are often very good materials.)

For leather, I had a scrap of medium weight leather, about five inches long, left over from other projects.

For glue, I had Barge Cement, which I have recently found at Hobby Lobby in the leathercrafting section for about $8 a tube. (Disclosure: no one pays me, so I have nothing to disclose.)

The tricky part is that Barge Cement is a contact cement. That means you coat both surfaces with it, let them dry for a few minutes, and then press them together firmly, and that you shouldn't count on getting a second chance to position them how do you do that when you are trying to maneuver a leather tube into a just-slightly-larger plastic tube???

My solution for that was to not actually seal the edges of the leather tube together, but to cut the circumference of the tube a bit wide, put on the cement, roll it up very loosely lengthwise without gluing it to itself, push it into the hose end, and then use a stick to push the leather against the inside of the hose. Repeat with the other piece of the hose; not too difficult because my break was so near the end. There would be a small hole where the leather bridged the gap, but I could live with that, if the Barge Cement would hold onto the plastic--something I wasn't sure about. Or perhaps I could patch that up later with a little more leather.

So that was the plan, to be carried out outdoors, because this stuff has fumes that are not at all good for you.

In practice, this sort of went well, right up until the point where it didn't, and I was almost in a Brer Rabbit situation of getting inextricably glued into the hose myself, despite wearing latex gloves. But I pulled myself loose enough from it to work, and I found that I was able to reposition the leather just enough to put it where it needed to go.

Since then, I have been using the hose and putting the repair to the test. There is a small hole where the leather overlaps itself, which reduces the suction of the vacuum somewhat as it pulls in room air. The repair held through a couple months of regular vacuuming, although I was trying to be more gentle with the hose than before. Finally, we reached a point where replacing the hose was more fiscally appropriate.

Once we got the replacement hose, I gave the repaired hose a harder test, with a strong, straight pull, maybe 75% of my full strength. It didn't budge. I didn't try twisting or wrenching it, which would be more likely to make the adhesion fail, but it did get some of that as I used it.

Substitutions:  I think other leather and shoe cements, such as Tandy Leather's house brand (last time I checked, forever ago, they only sold Barge Cement on a wholesale basis, not retail), or Shoe Goo, might also work, although probably not as well. There is a contact cement is used for gluing down countertops; I've only tried that stuff once, but it might also be an okay option.

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