July 18, 2024


Sapiens Digital

It Turns out Old Relay Timers Have a Lot of Components

6 min read

If you’ve ever indulged in the joy of tearing old pieces of tech to pieces, then this video is a must-watch for you. In this particular example, the video creator, Daniel de Bruin, painstakingly takes an old redundant apart before your very eyes. 

The number of components that go into this relatively simple piece of equipment will actually amaze you. 

In case you are unaware, a timer relay is a combination of an electromechanical output relay and a control circuit. 

Timer relays are used to control the flow of electrical power in a circuit and can be used to control power to many different types of electrical loads. The device works by opening and closing electrical contacts after a pre-selected, timed interval. 

Such relays tend to be initiated or triggered in one of two ways (depending on the design of the relay):

For this reason, older examples of these devices will have both electrical and mechanical parts within them. As you are about to find out. 

Now you know what they are, let’s take a look at the gubbins of an old vintage example. 

As you can imagine, like any project of this nature, you’ll need some tools and materials before you get started. 

Materials and gear needed

Step 1: Remove the outer casing and begin the dismantling

Like any project of this nature, the first step is to give the piece a good visual once over. You will want to figure out how to remove the outer casing of the device in order to get at its precious internal parts. 

In this case, the unit has some prominent mounting screws around its plastic casing. These are easily removed using a flathead screwdriver, so do so. 

relay timer breakdown remove casing
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

With that complete, check for any other screws and remove those too. If your unit has a dial to the top, pop off its cap and remove any screw you may find there, this should allow you to remove the piece in one, so do so.

relay siwtch teardown top dial
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Next, use the edge of your screwdriver to prize off any plastic housing to the unit. In this case, the plastic housing comes off in one piece to expose the gubbins underneath. 

With the inside now fully exposed, check the unit over to see how to break it down further layer by layer. As you get your eye in it should become abundantly clear how the piece is constructed. 

Depending on your ambitions for the final parts of the piece, either set them aside and sort them by type, or simply pile them up. We’ll leave their ultimate fate in your hands. 

Step 2: Start to gut the piece

With the main protective housing removed, we can now get at the internal electromechanical parts of the piece. Let’s start by removing any exposed cogs and bearings.

Flick off any restraining pieces, and prize the cogs and gears away from the main body. 

relay switch breakdown remove cogs
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Don’t be over-aggressive when removing pieces, the idea is to try to preserve the parts rather than simply rip the timer relay to pieces. 

Next, remove any springs and other outer moving parts intact. Then keep removing any restraining clips to remove plastic parts in one piece. 

Keep moving down through the layers of the piece, removing screws, dials, and other parts as they become exposed and easily accessible. The order in which this is done will depend entirely on the design of your piece. 

timer relay breakdown gubbins
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

To make this process easier, and not accidentally lose any of the smaller metal pieces (like screws) consider using a magnetic screwdriver to help remove and then capture the parts as they come loose. 

Keep going, and be sure to use things like fine-edged tweezers to help you remove fiddly and hard-to-reach parts, where needed. 

Note that the mounting screws for some parts could be hidden behind stickers or other decals. You may need to sightly scrap these away to expose the heads of the screws. Their location will become obvious as more and more of the components are removed from the timer relay. 

timer relay breakdown remove stickers
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Step 3: Continue to breakdown the piece

At some point, you should come into contact with the electrical components of the piece — like wires. You can either attempt to unscrew and remove them fully intact or, as in this case, simply severe them using some pliers. 

timer relay breakdown wires
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

With the wires removed, any electrical contacts should now be readily dismantled. You should also now be able to remove any extra wire sheathing or wiring ties. 

Keep removing screws, cutting wires, and dismantling the layers of the piece as you go. 

relay timer inner gubbins
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Step 3: Begin to breakdown the core of the relay

Eventually, we should get down to, more or less, purely metallic parts. Now the breakdown starts to get interesting (depending on your perspective). 

As before, keep checking over the piece visually to find screws and other parts that appear to connect components together and mount them to any plating. In some cases, you may be able to simply prize parts off, in others loosen and remove screws. 

timer relay remove parts
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

For nuts and bolts, obviously use pliers or small adjustable wrenches to first loosen, and then fully dismantle the parts. Others parts, like metal brackets or clips, can simply be pulled off using pliers or a screwdriver. 

timer relay metal clips
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Next, keep prizing metal components apart, as needed. 

Eventually, you may come across a copper wire coil. Remove any adhesive paper coating to it, trim off any wiring, and then place to one side for the time being. 

With that complete, figure out how the copper coil spool is held into place, and dismantle accordingly. In this case, the spool is held together using a metal spur — push it out and the piece should fall to pieces accordingly. 

timer relay dismantle copper coil
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

With that, break down the electromagnetic (or permanent magnet) shroud to the copper spool. With that complete, you can either keep the copper coil as it is or remove it from its spool and wind it around a separate metal rod. 

timer relay copper spool
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

With that complete, continue to snap off plastic gears and cogs, and dismantle springs, and other parts that should now be fully exposed. 

timer relay breakdown other parts
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Eventually, you should have come to a point where all the constituent parts are now freed from one another. Take a little time to admire your hoard of bits — you’ve earned it. 

timer relay breakdown all parts
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Optional step: Sort and arrange your parts

With your timer relay now basically in parts, you can stop here and simply chuck all the pieces away. However, that would be a real shame as you can’t fully appreciate the workmanship that went into making the relay in the first place. 

For this reason, you may want to consider sorting and arrange the pieces on a flat surface? 

If you are up to the task, begin to sort through your pile of parts, and arrange them on a table by type. Arrange the screws, metal plates, plastic housing, brass components, etc. together. 

timer relay breakdown sort parts
Source: Daniel de Bruin/YouTube

Then continue to arrange other parts, like for like, as you see fit. Have fun, this part is thoroughly enjoyable. 

For extra credit, you could now try to fully reassemble the piece and actually make it work! Good luck. 

If you enjoyed this project and would prefer to actually have a working thing at the end of the project, why not check out this guide on how to restore an old draughtsman’s lamp?

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