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.


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!

Repair Public on the air!

I did a radio interview a couple weeks ago with Bob Flaherty of WHMP, and he’s been airing it this week. He was kind enough to let me offer the broadcast content here! Have a listen! He really helped capture the essence of what we’re all about.


Bob did a great job with the interview. And if you come by Seymour The Pub on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21, you might get to meet him if he shows up with that vintage exercise bike of his!

Repair III: The Return to Seymour!

Sunday, the 21st of May.

1pm to 5pm Eastern Daylight Time.

Seymour The Pub.

5 Bank Row, Greenfield, MA.


I’ve been asked more than a few times: Do you really have that much fun fixing things?

Yes! Yes we do. Behold Kevin, Wielder of the Brass Lamp. The lamp fix was a collaboration by both Kevin and Drew (not shown, sold separately).


Do you want to be one of these irrationally happy people? Come on by with your broken item(s)! Or even better, do you want to be a fixer/facilitator? We’re always looking for more help. E-mail is easy! All you have to do is click on my e-mail address and type your words to me. I don’t judge, and I speak fluent typo.


Unlike the last event at Seymour (OUR FIRST!) which was back in February when it was still cool out, this one is an indoor/outdoor event. That means we’ll be able to handle larger, smellier, and more complicated items like lawnmowers, chainsaws, weed whackers, bicycles, exercise bikes (I’m lookin’ at YOU, Bob Flaherty), and other obnoxious things that we wouldn’t deign to bring indoors otherwise. Visit What to Bring if you’re not sure, or e-mail me with questions.

Blender under repair

Look at what we did to this blender! This was one of our more entertaining repairs. It’s a 1960s push-button ultra-powerful beige monstrosity that wouldn’t run without emitting smoke. It took the combined talents of Dan and Karl to strip it down to its guts, clean it, lubricate it, then put it back together in working order. When it was finally plugged in, a rousing cheer went ’round the room.

This could be you! If you came to the first one, come back for the second. If you’ve never been before, check us out! We promise more space, more light, more tools, substantially more shenanigans, hijinks, and ballyhoo. You won’t want to miss Repair Public III: The Return to Seymour!

Second Repair: April Foolishness!

Sunday, April 9th 2017, from Noon ’till 4pm, Repair Public will rock into Amherst and siege the Boltwood Room at Bistro 63. In this expanded space, we shall fix more things than ever before.

The space is tremendous. Lots of open area, durable furniture, stain-resistant tile floors, good lighting… There’s also the capability to repair small engines and other larger items if the weather holds.

Also, they’ve got a bar back there. Because we do not fear alcohol paired with sharp objects, moving parts, and/or electricity. There is also a small bar food menu, plus a special cocktail in honor of our event. Bistro 63 rocks!

We’ve tagged the event as “kid friendly”, but take that with a grain of salt; your five-year-old will not be permitted to sharpen a chainsaw. The outdoor space is probably pet-friendly, but not the indoor space. Your dog won’t be allowed to sharpen chainsaws either. Don’t even ask about the cat.

We expect that many of the same cast of colorful volunteers will return, but we’ll also be looking for new victims / volunteers for this and other events going forward. Contact Ben through the e-mail link on the Repair Public page!

First Repair: We knocked it out of the park.

Our first repair event is done, and we done it good. Given that it was a three-hour event in a relatively small space, we did a lot of really good work. Here’s a synopsis, in case you missed it:

  • Three different turntables (!!) brought in. Two repaired, one needs a new main drive belt.
  • One specialty circuit board from a pickup truck re-soldered.
  • One late sixties blender fixed so it no longer smokes when you use it.
  • One KitchenAid stand mixer with a blown motor; could not be repaired with parts on-hand, though every effort was made.
  • One repaired coat pocket.
  • Three ripped casual button-down shirts patched (rather creatively, too!)
  • One adjustable-height stool repaired.
  • One broken lamp made whole again.

Total: Twelve items submitted for repair, ten items repaired successfully.

The format works, and we learned a lot in terms of where collaboration and work flow were successful, as well as what fell apart.

The summary of the summary: WE ARE DOING THIS AGAIN. And again, and again, and again. Stay tuned to this page and/or our Facebook page for more details as we invent them! I mean heck, we didn’t even break into the lamp cord! How weird is that?

…and give me a few days to do some contact work and data processing before asking me when the next one will be, ’cause I don’t know yet either.


Save the date!

Repair Public will be hosting its inaugural event on Sunday, February 19th from 2 to 5pm at Seymour, the Pub in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Bring your tired, your poor, your broken appliances, yearning to function again. We promise knowledge, patience, time, space, tools, and encouragement.

Please read the How It Works and What To Bring pages to discover what we’re all about.

For legal, safety, and other reasons, we’ll be asking you to sign a waiver / acknowledgment that has you promise not to bring in harmful items, foul the nice hosting space, and/or expect miracles. You’ll be asked to sign one when you arrive.

The response so far to the idea has been pretty darn awesome, and our volunteers are stoked. Looks like it’s going to be a good time!

Seymour the Pub is located at 5 Bank Row, Greenfield, MA 01301

See you there.