Repair Public at Abandoned Building!

We’ve added Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton to our list of hosting venues! Sunday, March 25th is the date. We’re starting our event a little earlier than normal, from 9am to 12:30pm (they’ll start pouring beer at 11:00am). Hopefully enough people show up and we have enough fun that they have us back again and again and again.

We’re looking forward to it! It’s a great, well-lit, comfortable space with plenty of parking. We’ll definitely have some bicycle tools on-hand; it is March after all, so it’s time to get ready for spring!

If you’ve never been to one of our events, you definitely should! This is from an event we threw at the Hitchcock Center in South Amherst. Smiling faces and mad science come standard, but you gotta bring the coffee maker. See you soon!

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First Year Annifixery!

Come back to the place that started it all: Seymour, the Pub in beautiful downtown Greenfield, MA for yet more fixery of brokenthings! Our very first free repair event was February 19th 2017. Just over one year later, we’re celebrating the occasion by… well, just doing more of the same darned thing! The date is February 25th, 2018 from 1pm until 4:30pm or the bartender scolds us out the door (hee hee hee!).

The usual rules apply: Review the What to Bring page,¬†show up, sign a waiver, get your stuff fixed, participate as much as you’re willing, fill out a survey, and go home with your thing fixed. No really, that’s it. The weather has been downright wacky lately; I’ll be packing the outdoor tools, but we might not use them. Watch this space!

Also, check out the rebuilt Calendar page! It’s easier to bring links into your own calendar and get directions to events, plus we’ve started listing other regional repairs as we discover them.

We hope to see you there with more brokenthings for us to make functional again!

A Call for Feedback!

One of the things we run into is the occasional repair that can’t be tested (or even finished!) at an event. We desperately want to know: Did it work? Does it blend? Will it cook, chop, sew, brew, cut, chop, or plow? We fixed a snow blower once, but that was back in August, so we have no idea if it actually blew snow.

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Look at this guy! This is Dan. He’s not even soldering electronics here, he’s running some weird mad science, soldering a stainless steel pin back onto a tea strainer. Did it work? Did it stay fixed? We don’t know! That’s why you have to tell us.

So tell us! Tell us if we were successful, or even if we weren’t. Let us know if you have any suggestions! Tell us what you think! Tell us where you’d like us to stick our screwdrivers next. Maybe I should rephrase that.

Seriously though, we love hearing about how we’re doing, and we do take suggestions to heart. Write to me! ben@repairpublic.org

 

January 2018: Happy New Repair!

Okay, I get it, I’m bad at publicity. I’m working on it!

First thing’s first: We’ve got an event happening tomorrow at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, from noon to 4pm. Check out the calendar page for details.

Somebody please remind me next year not to schedule the January event during a major playoff game for the home team. Go, Patriots!

If you can’t make it to tomorrow’s event, that’s okay. But please be advised that the event on February 25, 2018 at Seymour the Pub in Greenfield is going to be a very special one, ’cause it’ll be our One Year Repairversary! Rumor has it that we’ll have some special kind of party after we fix all the stuff, plus there may be an extra special announcement or two about how we’re going to do more repair-oriented stuff in the community at-large. You won’t want to miss it.

But show up tomorrow too! If you haven’t been to the Hitchcock Center for the Environment’s new building on the Hampshire College campus yet, it’s a really neat and fun building. If you’re coming from Amherst Center, keep going south on 116 until you pass the Pomeroy Lane intersection, then look for the driveway on your right with the mailbox that kinda looks like a spotted salamander. No, I’m not kidding. Precise address is on the Calendar page.

Also coming to this website: Repair Public’s Greatest Hits. And misses!

Love and wrenches,

–Ben

 

Give the gift of Fixery!

Do you have some treasured artifact that needs mending? How cool would it be to be able to re-gift something that got fixed, or that you learned how to fix, through members of your community?

Now’s your chance. Now’s the time! Repair Public, this Sunday, the 26th of November, at Seymour the Pub in Greenfield from 1pm to 5pm. You bring the broken thing, we’ll bring the fun.

See you there! And have a happy Thanksgiving.

It’s cheaper than skiing.

I basically run Repair Public as a really weird hobby. In the right hands, I’m sure many people could run it better, hold bigger events, fix more things. This is just what I feel able to offer with the time and resources at my command. I’m not in it for the compliments or recognition (though those don’t suck), and I’m not in it for the money. That said, Repair Public is way cheaper than many other hobbies I can think of. I’ve surely blown far more unrecovered cash on my metalworking hobby for a far smaller return.

People go skiing! Skiing is expensive! Some people even own boats with motors. I’ve seen ’em! They ride these boats out onto the water for long distances, then tie knots onto shiny, pointy objects with transparent string suspended from sticks in hopes of catching fish, some or all of which they might throw back into the water. I like Repair Public. We have yet to throw anything into the water.

People tell me I should make money from Repair Public. This seems to make sense to a bunch of people, but it doesn’t make so much sense to me. I ask instead: “Why should I make money doing this?” And then, people tell me “You deserve to get paid what your services are worth.” But, that word “deserve” makes me uncomfortable sometimes. So many people seem to have opinions on my behalf about what I deserve, without even asking me, and it makes me feel weird. Especially when, say, I blow forty bucks on a big roll of lamp cord for Repair Public and I’m suddenly a hero, but some other guy spends fifty grand on a “Sport” SUV and nobody thinks that’s weird. I think it’s totally weird. How are you going to use that SUV? Maybe if you stuff it full of seven people and tow a boat with it, sure. But then we’re back to the fish and the transparent string, aren’t we.

How can you have a Sport SUV? What sort of sports do you do with it? I want to see the SUVlympics. I want to see the vault, then the long jump. The Romanian judge takes half a point off for the leaky muffler. $50,000 is 1,250 rolls of lamp cord. I do get it that some people will actually use and abuse a seven-passenger SUV for all its practical capacity, and that’s great if you’ll use it. I’m just saying that I don’t understand how so many people normalize a $50,000 “treat yourself” possession but somehow find it astonishing that I would blow a few hundred bucks on a hobby that, though kinda altruistic, is still essentially play for me. I’m having fun!

I have enough money. I don’t have a whole lot of it, but I definitely have more than enough. I think the word “enough” is important. Possibly because obtaining even more than enough usually takes even more work, and I’m kinda lazy sometimes. But maybe also because I think repair is one of the simpler paths to enough, especially if you start with close to enough but then stuff breaks. At some level, I think most of us get this. If you have a car and your brakes break by not braking anymore, if that’s the only thing broken, you don’t just get a new car. You repair the broken brakes, or have them repaired.

Say you have a blender. Work with me here. You like smoothies and milkshakes and frozen margaritas because hell yeah to at least two of those. Your blender stops working. You no longer have enough blenders for smoothies, and smoothies are awesome for you. You have a few options: new blender, used blender, blender repair attempt. Your goal is enough blenders. If you buy new or used, you now have enough functioning blenders, but you also have too many blenders total, and no use for a blender that won’t blend. You don’t know what to do with a blender that won’t blend, so you trash it, because that’s kinda what we’re trained to do.

A lot of people won’t think about repairing the blender. I’m not sure why that is. I want to fix that by making the option to repair busted stuff a thing more people think about and get done. Because then if you start out with not enough working blenders and you repair the not-working blender, then you have enough blenders and you don’t have to throw anything away. You get to the result of enough blenders without going through having too many blenders first.

And I guess that’s it. I guess I don’t feel like I have to go through having too much money before realizing that I’m lucky enough to have enough of it, especially if all I really want in the first place is to make and fix things with my hands, spend some time with good people, act as part of my community, and drink smoothies and/or frozen margaritas by way of a working blender. These things make me happy. Maybe I’m too simple. Maybe other people are too complicated. How would I know either way?

Repair Public has many unofficial objectives (though what do we do that is “official”?). One of those is to get the word Repair into general consciousness a little more. Another objective, somewhat more subtle, is to get the word Enough into an equally general consciousness a little more. Third is, of course, to keep things out of landfills where they’ll do no good. Fourth is to hopefully help people rediscover a sense of agency over the things they already own; a re-ownership of sorts. Fifth that comes to mind is getting community members who would otherwise never meet under the same roof to show up to an atmosphere of discovery and collaboration.

I’m very, very lucky that I’ve been able to tap so many community resources and make this happen on a budget way smaller than that of a fish-hooking boat with transparent string. Not everyone is so lucky to have the resources I do. It makes me way happier to share these resources with other people than it would if I were to buy a Sport SUV for the long jump. I’m in competition with nobody. I collaborate with other repairs in the area (hi, Susan!) because we get more done when we do that. I hope more people start repair events.

I’ve written all this down to answer some questions I get asked a lot, and also because I’m hoping you’ll find some resonance in my reasons for doing the things I do.

Love and wrenches,

–Ben

Sustainability Repair Review

The Hitchcock Center and its staff were amazing! We’re going to be doing events there quarterly. Along with the quarterly events up at Seymour the Pub in Greenfield, we need one more regular quarterly venue so Ben can relax a little bit on the plNextGen-Fixer-Beginanning.

Here’s a quick list on what we fixed at the last event:

  • Short Wave Radio (awesome!)
  • Garden Clippers (three pair!)
  • HomeLite Electric Chainsaw
  • Button-Down Shirt
  • Pair of pants
  • Air Mattress with Integrated Pump
  • Sewing Machine
  • Carbonator (after the right parts are ordered)
  • Popcorn air-popper
  • Shark Cordless Upright Vacuum
  • Floor Lamp
  • Espresso Machine
  • Electrolux Canister Vacuum

And, the list of items we saw but weren’t able to conquer:

  • Seiko English to Chinese electronic dictionary (bad ribbon cable to the screen)
  • AIWA CD/Cassette Boom Box (stretched drive belt)

We’re really proud of this picture up there. John and this next-generation fixer tore into that espresso machine with extremely well-organized abandon. We really knocked this Repair out of the park. Ben is beside himself with pride over the skill, talent, and relentless energy of the people he gets to work with. We want to do this over and over and over again.

We’re making a difference, folks. My rather un-scientific tally of the replacement value for all the items Repair Public has fixed so far is a hair over $3,500. I think that’s pretty good for a very part-time endeavor fueled by the enthusiasm of a bunch of volunteers with some free time on Sunday.

Next repair is back up at Seymour in Greenfield, on November 26, 2017 from 1pm to 5pm. Bring a broken thing!

Here, have some more pictures. I hope they make you as happy as they do me.

Repair Event: Sustainability Rocks!

Please join us for our next Repair Public event on Sunday, October 22rd from 1pm to 4pm at the Hitchcock Center in Amherst! Behold their beautiful new nearly-self-sustaining building at 845 West Street (Route 116) in Amherst! We’re going to be there fixing things!

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Here’s a bold idea: a registration page! Hey, it was their idea, not mine. We think it’s a good idea though.

Register here!

Even though it’s November, we have enough space available that we’re going to try to make this an indoor/outdoor event. Now’s a great time to make sure your snowblower starts before first snowfall hits. We’re ready for you and pretty much whatever you might bring.

Speaking of bringing things, let’s revisit that list again because sometimes I need to look at it too.

What to Bring

We hope to see you in Amherst in a couple weeks with all the broken things! I hope I’ll have my new modular socket set case built by then.

Love and Wrenches,

Repair Public

 

Lessons of the Lawnmower

Ideally, we’d like to engineer ourselves out of existence, by spreading skills and confidence and motivation to as many people as we can. If you go home from a Repair Public event feeling emboldened to handle a screwdriver like never before, then our work was good work.

We want you to be able to take care of your own stuff to whatever degree you’re able. This includes the very important task of maintaining your own items. As much as we rail against planned obsolescence, there are certain powered items that need occasional care and feeding. This is especially true of internal combustion engines, both large and small. Take a look at this lawnmower’s air cleaner, for example.

Clogged air filter picture

Don’t let it get this bad. An air cleaner in this state can kill your mower pretty dead.

I’m not exaggerating, either. Here’s what happens: The engine needs air. The piston and its valves try to draw air in through the air cleaner assembly. If the engine can’t get enough air through the air filter and intake, the vacuum in the combustion chamber will actually be strong enough to start drawing air up from wherever else it can find it, namely the engine’s crankcase. And when that happens, the engine will also draw oil from the crankcase up into the combustion chamber, where it gets burned. This has the effects of both burning oil (worse for the environment), and eventually consuming all of the oil it needs to stay lubricated and run efficiently. Also, because the oil winds up in the combustion chamber, it can also back-feed up into the filter which causes it to get gooey and clog up even more quickly.

That’s what happened here. This engine was completely out of oil when we got it, and pull-starting it was a nightmare because all the parts were pretty much metal-on-metal. We fed this mower a steady diet of 10W-30 (almost half a quart) into the oil sump. The owner ran out and got a new air cleaner. We also dropped the carburetor float bowl, cleaned the bowl and the carburetor jet, cleaned the spark plug, and put everything back together. After squirting some fuel into the spark plug hole, the mower started and ran pretty well.

Even after this tender treatment, the mower remained hard to start. We suspected the spark plug as the remaining culprit, as the electrode was slightly bent when we looked at it. The owner remained in contact with us, and told us that she also wound up replacing the spark plug herself (nice work). After that, the mower started flawlessly.

Sweet.

Here’s a pretty good video on how to clean the carburetor float bowl and jet assembly. The jet in our mower was clogged pretty good, so I used some fine, stranded copper wire to push the crap out of the jet holes. If you do this, make sure to use a soft wire like copper and NOT harder metals like steel, because the jet is usually made of brass and you don’t accidentally want to make the jet holes bigger or otherwise damage the jet.

The moral: It’s often well worth your time to do maintenance on the stuff you use. Change the filter, lube that chain, sharpen that blade.

We’re Repair Public. And so can you!

An August Affair!

Sorry for the long wait for another event! Some of us have been busy with things like day jobs and other utterly boring and useless things. But we’re back, and as fixy as ever.

Owen-Espresso-SmallestSave the date! Then show up!

Sunday, August 13th 2017
1pm to 5pm
Seymour, the Pub
5 Bank Row
Greenfield, MA

Weather permitting, this will be an indoor/outdoor event, so bring your bicycles, small engines, and other larger items that take fuel, oil, or other obnoxious fluids. We’ll keep you posted on the weather forecast as the day approaches.

Be sure to check out our guidelines about the event: How It Works and What to Bring.

See you in Greenfield!