Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Repairing Things

It's gotten harder. Before, if you had the inclination and some aptitude, you could take apart many of the appliances, machines, and gadgets that we use and take a look. You could fiddle with the levers and cams and gears and springs and attempt to simulate its operation to see what was not operating as it should. You could tighten or replace a loose screw, clean and lubricate sticking parts, bend a lever to get more travel. In a pinch you might even make a replacement part from stuff you have in your shop.

But now, as electronics has been incorporated into nearly everything we own, you can't see what's going on. It's happening inside this black box, this module. If you are skilled in this work, and you have the right information, you know what is supposed to go in the black box and what is supposed to come out. If there are several black boxes chained together you must discern which box is the faulty one that needs to be replaced. And too often, much to your dismay, it may not be available or costs more than the entire item you are trying to fix.

Most of our electronic toys are made on robot assisted production lines. Robots are fantastic at assembly but not so good at figuring out what is wrong. Humans must still do this, an expensive proposition that more and more often will not be offered. Replacement is the norm. Repairing things used to be our first consideration but not so now days because even if you could get it fixed it won't have a frobnozzle that moobangs like the new ones do. It won't have the latest features. So into the land fill it goes.

A week ago I repaired this knife. Knives are old school. Very old school. With my years of experience and highly developed troubleshooting acumen I quickly detected what was wrong. The handle was falling off. This is a favorite knife in the household, one we've had for 30 years or more. The blade is regular steel, not stainless, that seems to hold a keener edge. The handle was ebony, I believe, but had become split and chipped at one end. I ordered brass rivets and found a small piece of cocobolo. An evening's work and it feels nice again. This tool might now go on to the next generation.

1 comment:

cstanley said...

Mine doesn't have a frobnozzles that froobangs. Where can I get one? :-)