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DailyTidings.com
  • Fix it yourself

    Clinics defy the throwaway economy
  • MINNEAPOLIS — The table lamp, with its fizzling lightbulbs, was built like a tank and was about as attractive. Its base was so heavy that not even the cats could knock it over — and therein lay its beauty.
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  • MINNEAPOLIS — The table lamp, with its fizzling lightbulbs, was built like a tank and was about as attractive. Its base was so heavy that not even the cats could knock it over — and therein lay its beauty.
    Reason enough for Molly Ross of Edina, Minn., to set it before a group of people who know how to fix fizzling lamps and recalcitrant toasters and unpredictable boomboxes.
    They're the volunteers for a Fix-It Clinic, an effort begun last year by Hennepin County, Minn. Clinics have a three-pronged approach: One, a repaired gadget is one less gadget tossed in the trash. Two, you can learn to do your own troubleshooting and repair work. Three, you get to meet some really smart and generous people, and that's not a wasted Saturday, even if your toaster never works again.
    The effort is itself part of an international movement that began about four years ago in the Netherlands. A similar group called the Fixers Collective started in the New York borough of Brooklyn.
    Here's how they work: Bring in small appliances, electronics, mobile devices, even clothing that needs mending. Volunteers guide you through the repair process, helping you figure out where the problem may lie and the possible solutions.
    "I already do this all the time," said Jimmy Lynch, a volunteer who also is a member of Twin Cities Maker, a community group that, in a nutshell, makes stuff and shares skills. "I like the idea of self-reliance," he said, adding that his dad taught him most of what he knows. "Every weekend, we'd be dumpster-diving or going to garage sales to find stuff to fix."
    Lynch nabbed the challenge of Ross' fizzling lamp, whose two bulbs wouldn't stay lit at once. Lynch and Paul Dingels removed the base, but the problem wasn't there.
    Then, to the sockets, which stymied them at first. Finally, they reached the innards. "Looks like someone did a good job of splicing at one time," Dingels said. They tested the charge with a meter, then rewound the wiring, resembling surgeons bent over a patient. Dingels placed a probe on one socket, unexpectedly sending a small arcs of sparks across the table.
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