Fixfest in London

Fixfest 2017 was a blend of practical advice with technical information, teeming with renegade action to bring about an international seed change and freedoms the consumers right to repair, in a fight back against the product “service contracts” which are all part and parcel of many goods which we purchase now, especially with the advent of the internet of things, eg wi-fi fridges and more worryingly pacemakers.

We went in a spirit of naivety and curiosity and were repaid with the gentle coaxing of the coaches and the amazing contributors who gave their expertise in abundance.  It was a humbling experience to realise how much there is for us to learn in the world of repair but equally how fortunate we are to have plugged in to this wealth of open source resources and guidance.

We caught the end of the mornings lighting talks, were we heard of a company salvaging smartphone screen digitizers which are often discarded in phone screen repair process.

After lunch we were lucky to hear a talk from two leading repair activists, Kyle Wiens, CEO of Ifixit and Alison Powell, lecturer communications and media at L.S.E.  Part of Alison’s work is collating repair manifestos from community repair movements in an attempt to create influence policy change whereby we take back ownership and right to repair of our stuff.  Alison spoke about “Alexa”  Amazon’s personal assistant device, which listens and monitors your every word round the clock predicting your shopping needs then automatically purchasing.  She also talked about a strong backlash from the original tinkerers, our Farmers, who have been reeling since John Deere tractor company began making un-serviceable and un-modifiable tractors.

Kyle Weins introduced us to his open source Wiki-style bank of repair manual and schematics the latter are often officially illegal to share, this problem is one of his main lifes work, his aim is to create for us the rights for: devices that can be opened, to have repair documentation for everything, to repair things in the privacy of our own home, to have error codes and wiring diagrams, to repair our own technicians, to replace any all consumables ourselves and to reasonably priced serviceable parts.

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One of the exciting workshops during the course of the day was the introduction to 3D printing, held over at the Makerversity at Somerset House Holburn, this walkthrough of  Autodesk Fusion 360 cad software, by Paul Sohi, was highly inspired us to provide 3D printing services at our own repair cafe.  We were shown how to with just 4 tools, pencil, paper, calipers and laptop, replicate a spare part.

We were totally in awe of the amazing, 3d printing, metal, woodwork and textile workshop facilities which are offered as permanent hire or weekly hot desk style, reminding us of our goal for a southend Makerspace.

Later we were invited to a repair party over at the Museum of London which as the name suggests was and opportunity to witness some pro repair action with experts from all over the world including Australia, Italy and Uruguay.  Sarah took her 70 year old Robert’s radio set, which provided a refreshing vintage twist amidst the ipads and laptops.  My linuxed laptop which had crashed provided a three hour fix-off attracting many computer wizards who collaboratively and amazingly unravelled the mystery, which  culminated in a Semos battery fault, Ten (unique name eh?) the main fixer on my laptop produced a suitable replacement semos battery which are found in watches and small devices and drumroll ………….horaaaay celebrations.  After much debate and analysis it was agreed by the stream of repairers who admired Sarah’s vintage radio that the paper capacitors were definitely passed it, a common problem with pre-silicon capacitor electronics which were the norm before the 60’s.  With this knowledge we shall be able to purchase some suitable replacement silicon capacitors and practice our pcb soldering skills.

Meanwhile Sarah also slipped in a repair for her faulty iphone 6 screen which had lost it’s ability to type numbers.  We watched in awe at the speed and deft at which our repairer, a man with one arm and no legs, was able to tear down and remove the after market replacement screen and replace with an original apple screen.

Begrudgingly we made our excuses for forgoing the afterparty pub visit and said cheerio to our new friends before embarking on a nerve racking EV journey home, on 29 miles range with 39 miles journey and no charge up london cards.  Suffice to say with some app wrangling we overcame our technical administration issues and a embarrassing late night EV fail was spared with a charge up at Thurrock services.

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October ’17 Repair Cafe @ Shoebury Hub

After a hiatus due to a home move we were eager to get back into Repairing and for Octobers repair Cafe we were pleased to connect with the Malcolm, Brian and Chris of My Town Southend @ the Shoebury hub who kindly offered, at stupendously short notice, to host the repair cafe in the wonderful community space they have created in what was originally the Unitarian Evangelical church.  My Town Southend is all about promoting community cohesion, resilience and well being as opposed to extractive activities draining people and capital from the town.  Needless to say we definitely sing from the same song sheet as them and are excited about one of their ideas to set up a Share shed at the hub which would sync in perfectly with the repair movement.  Here is one already up and running in Totness Devon.  Totness share shed .

As we say we were behind with promoting this event but we were pleased that our efforts to provide a good selection off tools and equipment on the day were not in vain with many people showing up with repairs.

The first repair was an electric keyboard which Pauline brought to us which was playing notes a semi tone higher, I wondered if being a processor based equipment a factory reset might help, well Pauline bravely pressed the reset option and we breathlessly waited…. hooray!! it worked a treat, one happy repairee, and a relieved repairer! and a good start to the day.

Meanwhile Kamil got stuck in to re fixing a porcelain giraffe head using a two-part epoxy glue which is extremely strong, quick setting, yet not brittle once cured.  A little clean up after and voilla! a virtually invisible repair, good work that man.

Sarah wasted no time setting about a trouser seem repair for Fiona, Sarah’s new toy the overlocking sewing machine, the repair cafe’s first real capitol investment, with assistance from a match fund from our parent charity Southend in Transition which Sarah earnestly took herself on a course to learn how to use.  Trousers good for years to come excellent works Sarah.

A nice bike just lacking a rack which Helen had bought but not had the tools or skills to fit.  This was as is often the case not a straight forward number, and took a collaborative effort with Kamil and a new repairer Doug who we met for the first time this Cafe.  Doug runs a  local garden equipment service repair business so a little elongation of the fixing slots on the  aluminium rack to give the brake calipers room was a walk in the park for him.  After a few trial fits and further adjustments the rack fitted beautifully and Helen can now happily attach her bike panniers and leave the car at home on the shopping trip.

Among other repairs were a sewing machine, Air conditioner unit and an electric chainsaw.  We were unable to help with the repair to two notebook computers which were lifeless or badly running, due to our electronics guru Martin being away on a cycling tour, who can blame him.

We were stumped by a modern sewing machine, it seemed guaranteed to damage the casing when trying to remove the knobs order to gain access to the workings.  We felt this may have been a deliberate ploy by the manufacturer but we shall try and keep an open mind until the machine goes to a local expert.

The electric chainsaw repair was in fact just a case of  knowledge of how the safety brake works.  We wonder how many items with absolutely nothing wrong end up  being chucked away?

Some great spelt flour breadsticks and tasty humous dip, quince jam tarts and an usual squash cake made for a civilised friendly and social event.  Sorry for lack of photo evidence fo the tasty treats, it all went down well suffice to say.  A huge thanks to those who helped with the aforementioned sustenance arrangements and set up and repairs on the day.  We look forward to inviting you to the next repair Cafe beginning of November plenty of notice this time we promise.  A bit tricky as the first Sunday in November is November 5th ?! We will set the date Asap for your diaries

Thanks for your interest.  Repair, re-use, re-cycle.

Duncan and the team

Southend Repair Cafe

Southend’s first repair Cafe started January 2017 and has received an enthusiastic response in the town.  We have been lucky enough to have been granted the use of a wonderful classroom in Epicquest, an alternative school in the heart of Southend on Sea.  We have enjoyed helping repair many items so far including childrens toy’s, bicycles vacuum cleaners, sewing machines and hi-fi equipment.  There is a great atmosphere at the Cafe and children through to pensioners seem to enjoy the buzz of seeing stuff destined for landfill repaired and put back into service the hot drinks and tasty cakes all make for a great experience.