Saturday, January 3, 2009

Survival Skill #3 Fix Stuff

We live in a disposable society. If something doesn't work, toss it in the garbage and buy a new one. If something breaks, ditto. If you decide you don't like something, again, just throw it away and get something better. For those on the edges of society (ie: low on cash but with ample time and creativity) throwing something out because it doesn't work or you don't like it isn't an option. A family I know who moved to the US some years ago from Iraq takes this idea to the extreme. I guess having very little money and a family of twelve (plus now a number of grandchildren) may have something to do with this, however I have never seen so many ways to keep things going when most people would have tossed said item into the garbage quite a while back. Here's what they do:
  • They bought old, used, uncomplicated to fix cars (for cash of course) and between the brothers and the dad have kept them running for years past their usual life span.
  • Clothes are handed down through the entire family. With some exceptional sewing skills, all of their clothes also live way past their usual lifespan.
  • One of the daughters asked me how to repair the vacuum cleaner belt which had broke. I didn't have an answer for that.
  • They keep their home in exceptional shape by fixing anything that goes wrong (leaky roof, broken stairs, etc) which means small problems don't fester into bigger problems.
  • One of the brothers is a whiz with fixing electronics (computers, TVs, everything else), in fact, he got a full ride scholarship to become an electrical engineer.
  • They are more than happy to take anything that people don't want (furniture, appliances, toys, etc) and fix the item to make it work for them or someone in their extended family.
  • They don't redecorate annually like some people do. It's a good bet that the sofa they have now will probably outlive some of the family members. Ditto for the carpets, bedding, and any other item that can be fixed/mended/repaired in order to not have to spend money to replace the item.

Unfortunately, fixing things is almost a lost art. Surviving, however, may mean this lost art makes a come back. I hope so.


  1. This is a really nifty series on survival skills, of the type we all need to cultivate if we don't already have them. Thank you!

  2. you can superglue the ends of vac belts and they will work like new so I have been told, and it works for o rings too in lots of other things.

  3. HM--Thanks for the compliment.
    Spirit--Would that work for fan belts as well? If so that would be a good emergency fix. Hmmmm

  4. I ain't too certain super glues are as good as reputed: one of my neighbors, who is a 'fixit guru' tells me he super glued the claw back on his hammer and it still pulls nails. Being an old carpenter, I put a lot of salt on that. Still, he is the King of Fixitville. This guy makes salvage his lifestyle and has no end of projects that work. Gifts for the grandkids- bang! he has something fixed for them from junk laying around and the kids love it.
    Watching, sometimes helping, him is a real treat in engineering and making do. The guy's phenominal.
    Sure intend keeping him as a neighbor.

  5. As for belts, if they are fiber reinforced, you can generally patch them up in a pinch by simply sewing the broken ends back together with a bit of .020 steel wire (or copper, but you'll have to use more) it's not good as new, but it will work and is less brittle than glue can be... the only caveat is the length of the patch cannot be the same size or larger than the contact area the belt makes with the power pulley in the system (the belt will slip when it hits the steel part) as for o-rings, a bit of silicon in and around the broken area will usually make the system work again, as long as the pressure isn't too high, but when you replace the broken gasket, you have to be certain to clean the area real well, of the new gasket won't seat right. I've got an older Dodge that the shift-linkage to the transmission is held in with a bushing I had in a drawer, with a bit of garden hose stretched over it, then the whole mess is safety-wired in place, the A/C in the same car only functions due to a strategically placed terminal lug and a locking pin. How much you can rig a system to keep it working is only limited by how safety critical the system is, and what your noodle can think up.