You know the drill

And those who don’t – but want some­thing fixed – will quickly learn

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Shay Cas­tle

When his ro­tary toaster broke, Bal Pat­ter­son wasn’t sure what to do. His go-to re­pair­man had just moved to Cal­i­for­nia, and a re­place­ment for the com­mer­cial-grade ma­chine would run $700 to $800.

Luck­ily for the owner of Gun­bar­rel’s Page 2 Cafe, there was the Boul­der U-FixIt Clinic. Pat­ter­son spent three hours dur­ing a Sun­day clinic dis­as­sem­bling and di­ag­nos­ing the prob­lem: a busted heat­ing el­e­ment, avail­able on­line or through a dealer for $130. The in­struc­tion, un­der a team of vol­un­teer ex­perts, was free.

“I’ve had so many is­sues with toast­ers over the years,” Pat­ter­son said. “I’d seen the clin­ics ad­ver­tised, so I thought I’d take it in.”

The mend-it men­tal­ity is gain­ing steam. The Boul­der U-Fix-It Clinic, the oldest lo­cally estab­lished group, will soon be joined by Re­pair Cafe, hosted by Boul­der mak­erspace Solid State De­pot. An­other is in the works at the Ray­back Col­lec­tive, be­ing put to­gether by a de­scen­dant of the Ray­back Plumb­ing founder.

“The fix-it move­ment has got­ten into gear,” said Dan Matsch, man­ager at EcoCy­cle Cen­ter for Hard to Re­cy­cle Ma­teri- als, or CHarM. The non­profit Eco-Cy­cle co-spon­sors the Boul­der U-Fix-It Clinic, which is part of the na­tional Fix It Clinic net­work.

The clin­ics fol­low a sim­i­lar for­mat: Coaches meet one-on-one with mem­bers of the pub­lic who have bro­ken ap­pli­ances, ripped cloth­ing, busted elec­tron­ics and worn-out fur­ni­ture. Tools and tute­lage are pro­vided free of charge, but don’t ex­pect the work to be done for you.

“It’s not a free place to get your stuff fixed,” said co-or­ga­nizer Wayne Seltzer, a tech in­dus­try leader and life­long DIYer. “This is an ed­u­ca­tion ex­er­cise.”

Boul­der’s U-Fix-It has held 25 clin­ics at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions. More re­cent mee­tups have nearly all been held at Bldg 61, the Boul­der Li­brary mak­erspace. The first three meet­ings, back in 2013, were at Boul­der’s Solid State De­pot. That pri­vate mak­erspace is now host­ing its own clinic, Re­pair Cafe.

Both con­cepts are part of larger move­ments. Re­pair Cafe was estab­lished in 2007 in Am­s­ter­dam and has spread to 1,322 cities, mostly in Europe. Fixit Clinic was founded in Berkley, Calif., two years later by Pe­ter Mui. The mis­sion is to train con­sumers to think be­fore they buy — and be­fore they throw away.

“The way we’re prac­tic­ing con­sump­tion around the planet is un­sus­tain­able,” Mui said. “We have to be care­ful that the in­ter­net of things doesn’t be­come the in­ter­net of crap.”

The need for re­pair clin­ics has been high in Boul­der. The city has one of the more ac­tive branches of Fixit’s smat­ter­ing of out­posts across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Mui, ac­count­ing for more than 10 per­cent of the non­profit’s 217 events around the na­tion since its found­ing.

Trash by the truck­load comes into Eco-Cy­cle’s CHarM ev­ery day. Much of it, Seltzer said, is in need of noth­ing more than a good clean­ing: vac­u­ums clogged with pet hair or cal­ci­fied es­presso ma­chines.

“It’s def­i­nitely a hypocrisy of Boul­der in some ways,” said Alex Kra­marchuk, Solid State De­pot’s pres­i­dent. “I learned how to re­cy­cle and com­post here, (but) there are a lot of peo­ple who don’t fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity when they’re throw­ing things away.”

But Kar­marchuk and Re­pair Cafe coor­ga­nizer Jen­nifer Farmer are con­fi­dent that the area’s com­mit­ment to a cleaner, greener earth will even­tu­ally turn the tide. There are other ben­e­fits to reap be­side the planet’s health, Farmer said, like the con­fi­dence that comes with know­ing “you can pick up that screw­driver and take some­thing apart, put it back to­gether and get it to work.”

Pho­tos by Jeremy Pa­passo, Daily Cam­era

Ja­cob Dodd se­cures a piece of wood with a screw be­fore cut­ting out a de­sign with a Shop Bot ma­chine at the Solid State De­pot mak­erspace in Boul­der on Tues­day.

Alex Kra­marchuk, seated at cen­ter, talks with Tom Chapin at the Solid State De­pot mak­erspace in Boul­der.

Jeremy Pa­passo, Daily Cam­era

Jen­nifer Farmer tight­ens a bolt on a Eska­sizer she re­paired at the Solid State De­pot mak­erspace in Boul­der last week.

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