Recently we were talking at the hackerspace about how convenient retractable extension cords are while at the same time lamenting the high cost. As is often the case, the conversation ended with all in agreement that they cost too much to buy on a shoestring budget and the thought died then and there.
Fast forward a few weeks to one of my regular Saturday, father/son trip to the dump which always includes a quick review of the items that are set aside for "take it or leave it". This particular week there was a Harbor Freight handheld vacuum cleaner which my son was sure that he wanted to take to the hackerspace to take apart. I grabbed it up knowing tha tthe worst case would be me returning it to the dump in many more pieces.
Upon getting to the hackerspace, we found that the vacuum was perfectly functional however my son really wanted to take it apart. After a quick review of the vacuum canister, it was clear that the 1-2 cup capacity of the canister made the unit practically useless for the messes I typically make and need to clean up. So the vacuum fell prey to rapid disassembly at the hand of a curious 6 year old with a bunch of screwdrivers and pliers at hand.
After full diassembly the vacuum was reduced to its most basic components. Jonah was proud that he was able to extract the motor and remove the impeller from the motor. This will hopefully be useful in a future project. With all of the parts on the table I noticed that this vacuum had a built in, spring loaded , cord reel. Just then, I remembered the coversation that occured in the exact same spot several weeks before regarding retractable extension cords. After asking Jonah if I could have the left over pieces, I got to work.
Initially, I thought of extracting the cord reel from the case and putting it into something more compact. After staring at it for a while, I convinced myself that using the existing case would be easier as it provided a place to mount a standard outlet as well as a on/off switch which I thought would come in handy from time to time. A few minutes later, I had all of the parts collected together and started cutting a hole for the outlet. The wiring was straight forward,the wires previously routed to the motor were connected to the outlet and I had a switched outlet with a retractable extension cord.
The pictures show the results. While it does hace some limitations, it has already come in quite handy. Knowing that the ground plug receptical is not connected through the cord, I am sure to only power 2 prong devices with this cord. I intend to replace the whole recepticle with a 2 prong one shortly.
I also am looking at putting a mechanical timer switch in parallel with the on/off switch for when I am using it to power a soldering iron. The mechanical timer will turn the power off to the iron in the case that I get distracted and forget to uplug/turn off the iron.