How to Take Things Apart Without Killing Yourself




As many of you may already know, old appliances and broken things are often gold mines of parts that are fine for use such as motors,fans, and circuitboards, if you're willing to desolder them. Though I know most of you know all of the basics of disassembling things like turning off the power, take off all the sharp things,etc., this instructable will go deeper into the finer points of scavenging and re-using old parts. I will demonstrate these techniques on an old microwave. However, I must warn you! NEVER,NEVER,NEVER,EVER,EVER disobey the safety precautions on the piece you are working on, unless it says don't open,in which case it is okay to open as long as you take the proper precautions. Please remember that you should always have a thorough knowledge of the thing you are taking apart and how to do it safely. Now, let's get started!

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Step 1: Equipment

There are lots of things that are very useful for taking things apart, and some people swear by just a leatherman, but these are the most effective tools I have found:

1.Common Sense (You'd be amazed at the amount of totally moronic people out there).

2.Safety Goggles

3.Screwdrivers, several sizes, phillips and flathead.

4. Wire Cutters/Wire Strippers

5. Soldering Iron

6. Work Surface

7. Multimeter

8. Most importantly, something to take apart!

Optional (but very helpful):

1. Jeweler's Screwdriver Set

2. De-Solder-er (solder sucker)

3. Hi-Intensity Flashlight

4. Hacksaw

5. Multi-Tool (Leatherman, Swiss Army knife,etc.)

Step 2: The Victim

Now that we've gone over what you need to rip apart old appliances, electronics, etc., we will cover what you are going to take apart. This can be anything, as long a there's no radiation hazard (I guess you could use a level-A haz-mat suit), or you know that taking this apart guarantees almost certain death or a life living off of tubes. Although there are no rules set in stone for what you can and can't scavenge parts from, there are some guidelines that should be followed by anyone hoping to undertake a project like this. They are:

1. Make sure that the owner of the object that you're taking apart doesn't mind that you are basically ripping something they or someone else paid good money for limb from limb.


3. Discharge capacitors. You would be amazed at just how much 2400 volts is when it's flowing through your body.I know it may seem like overkill, but do whatever you can to get yourself as far away as possible when you discharge HV capacitors, because they will use any methods neccessary to come back and bite you in the butt.

4. Be safe, be smart, and have fun, because you lose half of the enjoyment of successfully taking something apart if you don't have fun doing it!

Step 3: Starting the Operation

Common sense, check. Safety gloves, check. Safety goggles, check. Total need for destruction, check. We're ready to go! Except for one thing-UNPLUG IT. I know that it may be annoying that I am repeating this so many times, but I want you to leave this instructable so that when someone even so much as whispers the words "Take it apart" in the same sentence you think Unplug it! Unplug it!, because the closer you approach to that state of mind, the closer you come to wise salvaging. Now that we've covered all of the safety steps and how to choose what you're going to take apart, we can begin. First, locate the spine, or the outermost piece that holds everything together and makes it impossible to unscrew anything beneath it. In the case of the microvwave, it was the crappy wood veneer on metal that covers the sides and top. It is not pictued, but it could be used as pretty much anything, and even more than that if you own a plasma cutter and a welding assembly. Then you remove the next thing beneath it, and so on and so forth until we get to the very innermost of the guts of the machine and are able to work there. "Just think: Unscrew this, and it'll free this up to be unscrewed." You can see the crappy wood veneer in the picture.

Step 4: The Guts

Now that we've removed the obstacles stopping us from taking out and using the inside parts, we can get down to business. First off, turn off the power source , unplug it, etc. Then look for any capacitors. Even if they are old, they can still pack a punch if they don't have much corona leakage (Attinuation)(hope I spelled that right). Manufacture any device you like, but just make sure it keeps you far away from the discharge, and will not send a very high voltage through your puny human body. Once that's done, I like to tap around witha plastic-handled screwdriver just to make sure there aren't any more things needing to be discharged or are broken. After that, you can basically start unscrewing and detaching things. Just remember that it will go a lot easier if you plan the route you are going to take throught the machine to detach and use things. Make sure that you know how to handle dangerous things such as HV capapcitors, laser devices, strong magnets, and in the microwave's case, the magnetron. (Source of microwave radiation). Last but not least, do not overlook anything. The push-one-in , it-pushes-one-out swithces were almost thrown away, until I found that a spring inside of it was the perfect size for a magic trick gimmick. I guess since my computer won't let me make notes on some places, I'll put them here. The first picture is the guts of the microwave. The second picture it the blower that I'm converting into a workshop ventilation system. The third picture is the main transformer, and the last two are the magnetron and suuuuuuuuper strong magnets, respectively. P.S., can anyone tell me how that blower motor works, because it's near a transformer, and induction and all that crap, and anyway it's over my head. Thanks

Step 5: What to Use It For

Now, many different people combined with many different needs, combined with many different imaginations equals hundreds of ways to use 1 or 2 things. I know that there are tons of people saying, "Hey, that blower could be a (blank)!) Like I said before though, don't overlook anything. I throw almost nothing away because it can be recycled into something new and even cooler than it was before because YOU made it YOURSELF. Although there are many ways of using and re-using things, some basic ideas are:

1. Cord ends are awesome for lots of instructables and other projects. Save.

2. Sheet metal, plastic, etc. I keep a "scrap box" in which I put any project leftovers that can be used later. One of my favorite uses for licencse plates and sheet metal are body armor that is surprisingly strong and resilient. Save.

3. Motors, buzzers, and wire. All of which are always in demand in any workshop, and can be found in almost any electronic device today, even in the most unlikely places. Save.

4. Switches. You would be amazed at the amount of extrememly useful switches in something like a microwave or CD player.

5.Capacitors. Capacitors are everwhere in electronic devices, and are extremely useful if you know how to use them.

6. Transformers. These, like capacitors, are extrememly useful for projectslike tesla coils, jacob's ladders, and are great when you need a low-voltage DC current turned into a high-voltage AC current.

7.Fun. It is much more fun to take something apart than might be expected by someone who never tried it. It is a great feeling to take something apart and make something new and cool out of it. Have. Lots of useful and cool parts are shown below.

Step 6: The Finished Product

This is what the thing that you are taking apart should look like after you take it apart. You shouldn't waste anything, because you may find a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable part that serves a very important purpose. I hope I have taught you more about the intricate art of salvaging, recycling, and re-using. I hope that you have discovered that you don't need a degree in electrical engineering to be able to understand how certain parts work and how to use them again. I am not wasting the body either. I am going to use it as a "pig" to hold my magnets, and even if I can't keep that, I am going to keep the door no matter what because of its complete, utter coolness. I really hope you learned something and more importantly had fun while reading this instructable. Remember, Be safe, Be smart, and HAVE FUN! This is my first instructable and any comments or suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading, and have fun!

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    82 Discussions


    3 years ago

    if you don't want to put it back together, blow it up. Or keep it around for when you are angry and want to break stuff, then don't unscrew it instead grab a hammer or a sword, knife, gun, grenade and and destroy it.


    3 years ago

    lol! "The Victim" Well done Sir. You make me laugh.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Rule of thumb about power cords that I was taught. "Keep the plug (the part with metal prongs) in your pocket", That way it can not be plugged in.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    if you have a variac splice a cord onto the fan leads and turn it up slowly in case you damaged the windings if it starts to smoke then throw it out if you dont have one then you could try it straight with just a cord but be very carefull.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    I think it'll work on 240VAC, most of the things in a microwave run on that, the two exceptions being the magnetron and the heater element, 2000VDC and 3VAC respectively.


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Thanks for the instructable - I've got to admire your spirit, discipline, and adherence to the #1 rule - safety first.

    mad magoo

    10 years ago on Introduction

    I amend my earlier comment with this quote from Voltaire: "I totally disagree with what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it." My apologies.


    10 years ago on Step 6

    I've been looking for some equipment like this, because i was going to take out the capacitor for a tesla coil, but now i see there is a lot more than just that to salvage.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I won a lifetime's supply of common sense from the code "YBL2X" under a beer cap!

    zen lyneawang8

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    i did too! but all i got were two old guys in a bar that just sap my money for more alcohol