Thursday, July 7, 2011

Salvage-fu: a new skillset?

How good are we at making old stuff work?  Salvage trade is what John Michael Greer calls this ability.

Instead of buying new things, we find old items and bring 'em back into functioning life.  It's one part handycraft, one part DiY, and comes from thinking past the end of industrial-petroleum culture:

[L]earn skills that could well become income sources in the not too distant future; as I’ve suggested more than once here, salvage trades – that is, anything that involves taking the leftovers of industrial civilization and turning them into something that people need or want – will likely be among the major growth industries of the next century or two, and the ground floor is open for business right now...
Personally, I (Bryan) have a lot to learn here.  I don't buy stuff, generally, unless I can help it.  But I don't know anything about making old machines work.  Cars, sewing machines, refrigerators, power saws, farming equipment: where do I start schooling myself, and how?


mythago said...

Depends on the machinery. For household things, there are tons of manuals for amateurs; some of the Dummies books are probably pretty good, and in older times you could find things aimed at women who had not been taught mechanical skills. Chiltons is good for cars. For other things you may need classes; as you probably know, a lot of community colleges have 'life skills' courses where you go in for three weekends to learn basic repair skills, say.

Other things you may need to have somebody teach you directly. I'm teaching my kids computer salvage-fu, but I'm not sure I could explain it to somebody else unless I had the computer in front of me.

Ceredwyn said...

One other strategy is, when you do call in someone to repair something, watch them do it. It's not quite learning directly, but I've learned a lot from watching experts.

And videos on the web are good, because I can't always follow the directions as written. I'm kind of a "show me" person.

Barron said...

Ceredwyn is right, there is a lot out there on the web. This winter I learned how to fix a starter problem on my ~20 year old snowblower via a web video. I learned from a nice Canadian guy who has put up over 500 !! short YouTube videos on small engine repairs. Here is his channel:

steveburnett said...

Here's a recent book that might be of interest:

Dakota Joe from Arizona who lives in Ohio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Benfield said...

I struggle with this too. I tend to think there are some fundamentals: gas motors, moving mechanical parts (gears, etc..), electricity and electronics cover a lot of household objects. Obviously, those are broad but they help to define some areas to start with.

I met some people at Maker Faire that run this website:

It's new and needs some more non-computer content, but the idea is great.

If nothing else, just pick something you're interested in, get an old one and fix it. You can also get an inexpensive working object, take it apart, and put it back together.

Let me know what you find/try. Of late, I've been really interested in this notion myself.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

Classes might be good, Laurel.

True, Barron. I've found myself using YouTube documentation for several projects.

Steve, that's great!

Thanks, Joe. We'll keep posting.