At the Repair Cafe, tinkerers fix bikes, clocks and toasters – practicing the ‘reuse and recycle’ model – Daily News

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The zipper on a man’s polyester pant won’t zip. A decorative clock lost its tick-tock. The blades of a window fan stopped turning.

In today’s consumer economy, the solution is simple. Just throw these things away and buy new ones.

But the Repair Cafe doesn’t operate within our shop-til-your-drop mindset. Instead, volunteers at this Pasadena institution coalesced on Saturday under the principal that fixing things is better for the Earth than throwing them away — or buying new things.

Each micro-restoration saves landfill space, avoids pollution and reduces greenhouse gases, organizers say.

“It’s a mindset where we encourage reduce, reuse, recycle, which we are all passionate about. That is one thing linking the Repair Cafe community,” said Evan Hilgemann, fixer and event organizer.

From doctors to engineers

People poured into the community room of the Throop Church on Los Robles Avenue Saturday, clutching clocks, clothing, toasters, laptops and umbrellas. All these items needed repairs.

Gitu Sangha’s laptop had a broken headphone jack, blocking any sound. “I can’t listen to my country music,” she said. Bruce Davidoff’s work jacket made him look ridiculous. “I want them to shorten the sleeves,” he said.

The event marked the 56th Repair Cafe Pasadena, established in June 2012 as possibly the first one in the United States. What started 7 years ago nearly to the day has become a widening event, with meetups of 600 people drawing dozens of volunteers who fix, sew, plant and well, restore ordinary household items until they are good as new.

Norah Flynn, works at the sharpening station to sharpen a kitchen knife during the Repair Cafe at Throop Memorial Church in Pasadena on Saturday, May 25, 2019. Other volunteers were sharpening gardening clippers, scissors and an ax. (Photo by Nick Agro, Contributing Photographer)

At the tinkerers table, Jeremiah Wang, a physician, worked on a bright yellow umbrella with a wooden duck handle that would not stay open. “If I can do this I will go home and drink some beer,” Wang said, laughing. A few minutes later, he was successful. He borrowed a safety pin from the stichers’ table, twisted it with pliers and attached it to the shaft to keep the umbrella inflated.

Dustin Buccino, 29, works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, just a few miles up the road from the Repair Cafe held at Throop Church community room in Pasadena. He interprets data from the probe Juno as it orbits Jupiter. But on Saturday, he was fixing a stained-glass clock brought in by Jani Brodsky, of Arcadia.

“These mechanisms are made in China and once the gears stop working, that’s it,” Buccino said. “The older something is, the easier it is to fix. Fifty or 60 years ago things were meant to be repaired,” he said. Fortunately, Brodsky provided him with a spare gear box enabling Buccino to fix the clock and even add two new hands.

Hilgemann, 28, was examining the spokes of a rusty bicycle, trying to learn why the back wheel wouldn’t turn. “I have no idea,” he said.

Like Buccino, Hilgemann’s day job is also at JPL, where he designs hardware for spacecraft that soon will race through the black void of space in search of planets orbiting distant stars.

Transitioning household items from broken to working is a soul-satisfying moment. “I am an engineer. I like to tinker with things,” Hilgemann said. “For me, doing things like the Repair Cafe is the fun side of engineering.”

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