Ask the Alchemist #127

I’m having trouble with my winnower. It’s been working great for months and now it just won’t pull the husk out. I’ve tried all the different settings and it just work.

I received this via email and wasn’t really an Ask the Alchemist, but I’m turning it into one as I think it’s good information.

This is classic trouble shooting to my mind. A little background.

Both the Sylph and Aether use a valve in the vacuum path to regulate the amount of suction and amount of flow but simply controlling how big of a ‘leak’ there is in the vacuum chamber. Much simpler and less expensive than flow controllers and variable speed blowers. As you winnower, very fine particulates can find their way to the filter inside the vacuum. Dust basically. The vortex arrangement of the air flow keeps it pretty well dust free, but some does make it up and out of the waste bin if it gets too full. Instead of having to clean the filter continuously you can just close the ‘leak’ a little and restore the original flow.

This is a known ‘issue’ and why I designed it this way. And I made sure to call out in the manual to keep the filter clean after every full container of husk.

No matter how far closed the vacuum valve was there was significant husk in the nibs. In this case though the valve was all the way closed and the filter was clean. This then falls into troubleshooting. And there are really only three options.

1) The fan in the vacuum broke.

2) There was a leak somewhere else

3) There was a blockage somewhere preventing flow.

A quick check of the fan itself showed no issue. You can hear when vacuum fans go bad. It’s VERY obvious. Loud usually. Or grinding.

I had them check over all the various openings and connections feeling for air flow where it shouldn’t be. Nothing.

As the Sherlock adage goes, ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’.

It’s not the fan. It’s not another leak. It’s not the filter. It MUST be another blockage.

Check the hose? Clear. Exit ports on the vacuum. Clear.

Your deduction Watson?. Is there another filter? YES!

It turns out that in many vacuums there are TWO filters. And many manuals don’t mention the 2nd one as it hardly ever gets clogged. The obvious place for it was between the filter and the exit…and there is was.

And it was CAKED. Once that was cleaned off and shaken out, the winnower worked like new.

vacuum.jpg What you should take away from this is that just because YOU didn’t change something in your system, doesn’t mean that something has not changed. Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, but half the troubleshooting I do (gladly) ever week is like this. The key Is finding that one thing that has changed.

So, keep those secondary filters clean on your winnower. And the next time something goes wrong, try listing out as many variables as you can and checking them against the last time things were working well. Good luck all.

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