February 5, 2010

Fix It Because You Can

Ever since I was a kid I have loved taking things apart. I love it even more when they go back together again. If you have a few basic tools and curiosity it is amazing the things that can be done. If you aren't handy, with patience you can learn at least a few skills that will take you far and save you money.

My brother gave me an answering machine in 1995. It's not digital and makes clunking sounds as it faithfully does its work year after year. We thought about replacing it with a silent digital model, but in Frugalville, if it is not irreparably broken it doesn't get replaced.

Lately the recording mechanism started to get a little distorted. My outgoing message was not sounding like me any more, and listening to incoming messages was like deciphering backwards masking on a Beatles album.

Time to grab the tools and rip it apart, then hope I don't pull a Humpty Dumpty. Even if I did, fifteen years of faithful service for a used piece of electronics makes it fully eligible for retirement in a nice museum somewhere.

I snapped on the latex gloves, grabbed my tools and opened the patient. Since I did not study electronics anatomy, it all looked like indecipherable guts to my untrained eyes. I went for the heart of the matter and took a look at the motor drive, something I did recognize. Sure enough the drive belt was stretched beyond usefulness causing the devil in the machine sound effects.

From my Drawer of Potentially Useful Things I drew several sizes of rubber bands. After snapping Linda with one, I proceeded to choose just the right size to make a new belt drive and stretched it into place. Then I stitched the patient up and hooked it up to a power source.

It worked. Ya, I could replace it for less than $20 dollars, but now I don't have to. The rubber band was free.

We live in a world in which powerful interests profit from having us believe that we can not do things for ourselves, and we must rely on them - for a price. The fact is, we are capable of doing much more than we think. The solutions are often free, and fun. We can build, repair, create, and enjoy ourselves while saving resources and money.


  1. Hi, Linda and Gregg: have you ever heard about this movement that is growíng in our consumist and rich part of the world?

    1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/world/europe/amsterdam-tries-to-change-culture-with-repair-cafes.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    2. http://fixerscollective.org/

    It brings us hope for a better world-

    best regards,
    Maria Zinom (Lisbon, Portugal, European Union)

    1. Maria - we are familiar with the movement toward fixing things and making things last. It is certainly what we do at home to save money and resources.

      It definitely does give reason for hope. Slowly, but surely we are creating a better world.

      Thank you for sharing and leaving the links. Good stuff.


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