Monday, August 10, 2009

August Frugal Action Item - Repair It!

I was already late with this month's challenge. Then we got hit with late blight on our potatoes, and then our tomatoes, just as the garden was about to start producing in earnest. To top everything off, I gave myself a nasty cut on one index finger, which makes typing pretty difficult. So...a belated an abbreviated Action Item this month. My apologies.

Finding ideas that nearly everyone can put in to practice is tough; I want both renters and homeowners, young folks just starting out on their own and older adults to be able to use these Action Items. So this month I'm going to focus on the famous dictum: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Too many goods are not thoroughly worn out and used up when they are discarded in our overdeveloped world. A rip, dent, nick, or break is good enough reason to throw something away and buy a new one. Now, I'm no expert when it comes to things with gears and circuits, and I recognize that I'm lucky to have a mate who is pretty good with such complicated devices. Not everyone is so skilled or so lucky. But even with my lack of technical expertise, there are plenty of things that I can repair if something breaks or goes wrong. This month I'm going to review a few basic supplies and some techniques.

Basic supplies for repairing common household goods include the following:

set of screwdrivers
set of wrenches
baling wire
epoxy, wood glue, other glues
needle and thread

You'd be surprised how many things can be fixed with this small set of tools.

The screwdrivers and wrenches should be obvious. Often all that is needed to return something to working condition is to tighten a screw that has come loose. Those who are more ambitious in fixing things need screwdrivers to open up appliances and poke around to see what's amiss.

The drill and baling wire are surprisingly close to the needle and thread. I've repaired quite a few plastic items, or prevented cracks in them from progressing to the point where the item becomes unusable by "suturing" the item up with a drill and small gauge wire. It's a sort of stitching technique. We salvaged a wheelbarrow with a cracked rim at the nose of the barrow, and I've managed to keep my ancient plastic vegetable steamer in service with the same technique. (The rubber coating is entirely optional.) Once you learn this simple trick, you'll probably find uses for it in one thing after another. It's especially useful to keep cracks from growing in plastic items. With the right drill bit, it can be used for ceramic items too, if need be.

Speaking of ceramic, a variety of glues will come in very handy for all sorts of breaks and chips. True, broken ceramic items are hard to disguise and it won't be much use trying to repair a serving bowl that has shattered in several pieces. But if the item doesn't need much strength, or if the break is just a chip, a good glue job will extend the utility life of the item. And at the least, a beloved item with no further utility can be displayed if it's pretty enough. Ceramics broken beyond repair can also be accumulated for mosaic projects if you happen to be the crafty sort. Many things can enjoy a second life through crafts.

I'm really in no position to lecture anyone on the art of sewing. I can hand sew simple repairs if the rips are caught in time. My husband is far more diligent about sewing up his leather work gloves and pants. Those he's repaired repeatedly he calls his "frankenpants" or his "frankengloves." Still, a needle and thread are essential basic repair tools to have in any home. And it takes no particular talent to use them well enough for effectiveness; aesthetic considerations are another matter.

What repair techniques and tools are most used in your home?

New to these Frugal Action Items? More here:

January: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs & Hot Water Pipe Insulation
February: Kitchen Competence
March: Rein In Entertainment Spending
April: Go Paper-less
May: Solar Dryer
June: Increase the Deductible on Your Auto Insurance
July: Stay Cool Without Touching that Thermostat
September: Insulate
October: Preventative Health Care
November: Frugal Holiday Wish List
December: Plan Next Year's Garden


Richard said...

Great post on how to maximize the life of some common items. Thank you for the tip on repairing a ceramic tea pot. I am also a penny pincher and try to stretch my dollars as far as possible including making my own exercise equipment.

Anna M said...

I'm the seamstress here so I tend to sew thing up, re-purpose them, make them into rags and finally compost the shreds. Since there is only two of us it's actually rare for something to break plus we tend to be simple folks anyway. Wes is learning to sharpen his chainsaw, something we'd always paid to have done and I'm learning to put food up, I always used to just buy everything. We're newbies on this path coming from a background of average consumerism and I really do love not buying.

Unknown said...

I completely agree! I recently sewed new pillows and filled them with stuffing from the ones they were replacing. Why buy pillow forms at the store when there's stuffing sitting right there?