Though I have always have been one to try to fix something that is broken before considering buying something new, my time away from work recently has caused me to look at this even more closely. Whether it is repairing my own shoe sole when the shoe uppers are still in great shape, having my dry cleaner put a patch on my Lucky jeans where my ass has worn the them thin or getting all the parts to repair my pool cleaner, there is satisfaction for me in extending the life of something that I own. If I can get another year out of something and delay a purchase, awesome.
This has generally been limited to my own “stuff”, though after reading an article in the New York Times about a “repair cafe” in Amsterdam it makes me wonder how many interesting and possibly useful items are sitting around in people’s home and apartments in downtown Phoenix. Would something like that be possible here? At the very least, perhaps I could keep my eye out for “things that need fixin'”…
It didn’t take long to find something; while visiting a friend downtown I noticed an interesting floor lamp likely from the 1960s; kitschy wooden leaves and big plastic shades meant to make it look like a multi-colored flower. My friend had it sitting outside because it didn’t work; the wiring was gone, bulbs were out and the switch was not working properly anyway (it was one of those cool old mechanical rotary switches where one click turns on one light, then another turns that one off and other two, then a third click turns them all on and another all off). I asked if I could take it and see what I could do.
I wish I had taken photos during the process; I disassembled the entire lamp, polished all of the brass pieces which were quite tarnished, cleaned and oiled all of the wood (being outside in Phoenix had really dried it up), fixed the nicks in the finish with furniture markers and cleaned the the shades which were caked with dust in all of the nooks and crannies. So it was clean and looked nice, but my goal was to light this baby up!
I found the problem with the switch and repaired that, ran new wiring all through it, got some bulbs and then even put a dimmer on it (I think EVERY light should have a dimmer). Even I was surprised how nicely it turned out:
I brought it back to my friend and she was almost in tears. Total cost for making this huge difference? About ten bucks and couple of hours of work to bring back a 50 year old lamp to almost original. I felt great for saving something so nostalgic and she loved the mood it created in her small but cool space. The best part for me was when I asked her about a week later if she had used the lamp; her response?
“Use it? It’s the ONLY light I use now.”
And it had been sitting, not working, and getting dusty on a patio.