Downton Abbey: A New Era

When the film “Downton Abbey” was released in 2019, I went to see it with a few friends, and Brandi was actually one of them. Several of them had never watched the show, so I thought it was odd they even went, because they were completely lost. You really need to form that bond with all of the characters by watching the show; each one has so much important backstory.

Fast forward to the end of October 2021 and I convinced B to watch the series after she’d enjoyed some other British based things. It took us over three and a half months to get through the six seasons on Netflix plus the movie on Amazon Prime. I enjoyed it all even more than my first viewing and can’t wait for the story to continue in the new movie coming out in May.

Riding a Ryobi Snow Blower Rollercoaster

Last month I was messaging my brother, who said he loved his 40V Ryobi snow blower and lawn mower. I’ve had an Ariens 520 two stage snow blower for over a decade, but haven’t used it much the last few years. It used up a lot of space in the garage, took a long time to get started for the winter season, was slow to use, and left me smelling like exhaust. The thought of getting away from gas yard tools was exciting and I have a large collection of Ryobi’s 18V power tools, so they’re a brand I trust.

I jumped on Home Depot and ordered the 40V HP Brushless 21 in. Cordless Single Stage Snow Thrower with (2) 5.0 Ah Batteries since none of the local HDs had it in stock. It was $549.

The only steps involved in assembly were to twist on the chute, secure it with a screw, and tighten the handle. I immediately loved how compact it folded up.

We got snow the next day, so I put it to a test.

The snow blower was easy to start with the push of a button. It was very quiet, light, easy to maneuver, and has a bright LED light. Right away I noticed it didn’t have the power to throw the snow very far as you can see in the video. I would be throwing the snow right in to an upcoming path, so would be moving the same snow 2-3 times! Not a good start.

The triggers on the handle that need to be held in order to keep it running were awkward to use and I accidentally let go multiple times. Then after less than 10 minutes of use, I let go and the motor wouldn’t start again. Both batteries had about 75% charge left and the LED headlight was coming on without a problem. I could hear a bit of a clicking sound from the motor.

I loaded it in my car and returned it to Home Depot the next morning.

I was extremely disappointed in the machine and due to my positive experience with other Ryobi products, I felt the need to leave an online review, which I almost never do. To my surprise, I got a response the next day.

I also received the following email.

My name is Christian, and I am the Product Development Coordinator for RYOBI Snow Blowers.

We received your online review on the RYOBI 40V HP 21” Snow Blower. We understand you have had an issue with your RYOBI Snow Blower. It is our policy to make absolutely sure that 100% of our customers are pleased with their experience with RYOBI. Could you please call me at 864-642-8094? I would like to investigate this issue with you and make sure that your experience with our products moving forward is a positive experience and that you walk away understanding that our customer service is unmatched.

If you prefer you can reply to this email, and we can discuss your experience to find a solution that meets your needs.

I emailed back…

I returned it to Home Depot two days after it was delivered (the night after trying it). We had less than 2 inches of light snow and the unit was pretty terrible. It barely threw the snow 5-6 feet, so I would end up going over the same snow multiple times to do the driveway. Then after maybe 10 minutes of use, the auger wouldn’t start again. The LED light was on and both batteries had 3/4 charge. Maybe there was something wrong with the motor on this unit, but it seemed very under powered and I wasn’t confident it would be able to handle any real storm.
It was quite disappointing because I have a lot of Ryobi hand tools and they all work great. I was hoping to replace my gas snow blower and lawn mower with Ryobi units for ease of use, space saving, and not having to deal with gas, but I’ll be sticking with them now.

Their next reply…

This issue your snow blower experienced has become know and we have since corrected the issue with our units in inventory!

I would like to offer to upgrade you to our brand new RYOBI 40V HP 21″ Whisper Series Snow Blower as I see you were not impressed with the previous models performance. This kit has an upgraded controller and 2x 7.5Ah batteries for increased power and runtime.

Would this be something you are interested in? I want to make sure you are taken care of.

I look forward to hearing from you!

I was shocked. The 40V HP BRUSHLESS 21″ WHISPER SERIES SNOW BLOWER WITH (2) 7.5AH BATTERIES AND CHARGER is $699 and they sent me one for free!

The unit had some damage to the knob used to adjust the auger speed so I asked if they could send me a replacement part and I would fix it myself.

Apparently it’s not an easy fix, so they sent me another snow blower. FREE! Same model, fully complete with the batteries and charger. I was floored!

This new model is better in every way.

  • Build quality of the machine feels much sturdier.
  • Larger batteries provide more power and runtime.
  • The handle folds away in one step instead of two.
  • Triggers to keep it running were replaced with the more traditional bar you find on lawn mowers.

I’ve had the chance to use this snow blower during a few different sized Michigan snow storms and it did a great job. It throws the snow much better than the other model and it didn’t miss a beat. The machine maneuvers so much better than a heavy gas snow blower and is actually fun to use. There’s no worry about it starting up, so I can just throw in the batteries, push start, and be good to go.

I quickly sold my Ariens gas snow blower, gave the “broken” Ryobi to my brother, and am enjoying the extra space in the garage. Isaac had an older Ryobi model and said this one is awesome.

One minor negative is the snow blower doesn’t come with any kind of shovel tool to clear snow out of the chute or auger. I came up with my own solution though.

Before I purchase a lawn mower I’m waiting to see if Ryobi releases one in their Whisper series before spring. If they don’t, I’ll buy one of their current models. The mowers fold up better to save even more space, which will be great.

This whole experience with Ryobi’s customer service makes me happy I switched to Ryobi a few years ago. It even pushed me to buy their cordless nail guns to replace my pneumatic ones last week. One of my shop projects after the kitchen is finished will be to build a system to better organize and store all of my cordless tools, so I’ll share my Ryobi collection then.

Kitchen Remodel: All the “Small” Things

Six weeks ago I said progress would be slow going since I was back to work. I wasn’t wrong, but we’ve been knocking out odds and ends, mostly on weekends. Small changes can make a big difference and always seem to take two to three times as long as you’d expect.

I put in a bullnose on the stairs to the basement, we painted trim and the door, and rehung the door. Of course the door no longer fit after all the paint, so that turned in to a 2+ hour headache!

We painted the sides of the island to match the walls. Then painted trim and quarter round for the base and nailed it up. Our inspector Ninja had to approve the work.

I installed a banana hook under the cupboard, which folds up out of sight when not being used. The island got an IKEA towel rack and I replaced the outlet with a white one.

We did the trim around the sliding door, put in the floor transition pieces, and mounted a curtain rod.

We put a couple of floating shelves from Menards in the corner. I love the old recipe box Brandi found at an estate sale!

We patched up the old floor trim, cut new toe kicks under the cupboards, did all new quarter round, painted everything, and installed it around the entire room. The brown really is different; I call it “chocolate milk.”

There were ugly gaps around most of the cabinets, which really stood out with the new colors. We found some simple trim at Lowes, which was only $3.06 for eight foot lengths. Since the white is a close match there was no need for paint. It took me a bit to figure out how to deal with the odd face frame corners, but it turned out really nice and made a huge improvement. There are still a couple of pieces to install after the backsplash is done.

The trim around the big window had a similar problem at the edges. We decided to use the same stuff there. It really adds a decorative element with the triple color combination. This is all that could be done until the backsplash is finished.

It didn’t feel like we were making any progress at all over the last six weeks, but as I selected pictures for this post and started typing it really was a lot of small projects that add up. Now it’s time to work on the backsplash; the final step of the project and one we’ve been talking about since it all started. This weekend I’ll be mocking up test pieces and we’ll hopefully decide on the direction we’re going. Stay tuned!

DIY Snow Blower Brush & Clean-Out Tool

My new Ryobi snow blower didn’t come with any kind of tool for clearing out the chute, so I came up with my own solution. I also wanted a brush to clean off the snow before storing the machine in the garage, so I grabbed a clearance car brush/scraper from Meijer for just about $4.

I took it to the band saw to remove some of the scraper. I might cut more after using it.

I picked up a couple of 1/2″ PVC couplers from Menards for 29¢/each, so I’d have a backup in case my first idea didn’t work.

I cut out about 1/4 of the PVC, drilled some holes, spray painted it black, and grabbed a couple of zip ties.

It was quick work to figure out where to attach it to the snow blower handle so the brush wouldn’t interfere with it folding open or closed.

Works great! Here’s a quick video showing how it snaps in and pops out.

Update

The foam grip on the brush handle was useless; out in the cold all it did was twist in your hand. I removed it, giving me more surface area to use a second clip, which makes it snap in more securely.

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