“Tools are your good friends. Why? Because they make it possible for you to do hundreds of jobs that you couldn’t with your own hands. They are extra hands—and eyes—which give you countless new skills. If you treat the tools you use as friends, they’ll always be ready to help you when you need them most.”
Sometimes, repairing electronics requires more than just swapping out the offending parts. Sometimes batteries are soldered to the motherboard. Other times, the connectors themselves need to be replaced. And that means you’re gonna need to be break out the soldering workstation. Fear not, intrepid repairer! We get it: Waving a molten lava wand over your prized possessions can be intimidating, but soldering is actually pretty easy. And it’s an essential skill to have in your repair toolkit.
Component-level repair cell phone repair is becoming increasingly uncommon in the west. But in Delhi, any good mobile repair worker knows how to solder. I took this photo in a Delhi cell phone repair school. This student has decorated his soldering iron with cell phone speakers, held up by the same magnets that make the speakers work.
When we visited the Oakland technology project space Tech Liminal after MacWorld | iWorld in January, some Fixit Clinic folks there let us dig around in their tool kits. Steve Berl’s bag has two important repair staples—WD-40 for things that don’t move when they should, and duct tape for things that move when they shouldn’t. He’s carrying some iFixit gear, too: a 54-bit driver kit and helping hands. The FasTrak toll tag and Maker Faire badge add a dash of Bay Area local flavor.
I wouldn’t have thought that the powerful Allied forces could have been stalled by a lack of wrenches and hammers—just as I wouldn’t have expected that American soldiers in Iraq would have to make their own Humvee armor. But in both America and Britain, during WWII, basic hand tool shortages regularly slowed down troops.
At the Lajpat Rai electronics market in Delhi, secondhand tools wait for customers. The drills are so artfully displayed—I wonder how much packaging material it would save if Home Depot took a cue from Lajpat Rai and set up displays like this (though if I pulled out that bottom drill, they might all come tumbling down).
The Japanese art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is all about turning ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. The story goes that a 15th-century Japanese shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, set out to find an aesthetically pleasing way to repair broken pottery. His eventual solution? Adding gold dust to adhesive. Most repairs hide themselves—the goal is usually to make something “as good as new.” Kintsugi proposes that repair can make things better than new.
Greg Kono wasn’t looking to start an organization. He’d spent almost twenty years moving around the west coast: studying environmental design and sculpture, building traditional Japanese kites out of bamboo and paper, and designing exhibits at children’s museums. A year ago, he’d just settled into a job designing exhibits at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. But one day last spring, a friend sent him an article about the New York Fixers Collective, thinking it sounded like Greg.
In a new take on the hand wrench, designer Paul Julius Martus developed this cool cast bronze sculpture a couple years ago. The sculpture reminded me of our hand and wrench logo, which, for us, means solidarity, empowerment, and dedication to repair. If your hand looks like the sculpture, however, you might be taking dedication to repair a little bit too far. Your skin isn’t actually supposed to grow into your wrench (you should be putting it down to eat and sleep and stuff).
Last week, I posted about a rickshaw repair shop in Delhi, showing off some photos of a man putting spokes on a wheel by hand. Today, I want to show you some more tools from that shop. This hammer has a coat of rickshaw repair shop camouflage—like the floor, it’s got specks of the blue and yellow paint they use on the rickshaws.
Two men sit in a Delhi shop with shiny metal cylinders stacked from floor to ceiling. When I first saw this picture, I couldn’t figure out what they were—not motors, not gears, not wheels. Want to make a guess? I’ll give it away after the break, along with a couple videos of them in action.