Over a year ago I started a hobby that has taken a few twist and turns. While thinking about global warming and where our world is heading I quickly realized that there aren’t many things made these days that will be around a decade from now. However, there are many tools and items that were made a hundred years ago that not only still exist but still work.
This adventure started with an interest in typewriters. I had bought my first typewriter, a Smith-Corona super speed that had a few parts missing and needed a little love. The adventure took over a year, it was finally fixed a few months back, but after ordering a few parts online it was working perfectly. During that tim,e I came across dozens of typewriters that had different things wrong with them and I was able to fix them all. It was during that time I realized I was saving these machines from the recycling and trash dumps to continue being used. I became a middleman between a death that would come too soon and a new life with a good home.
While a part of me wonders why people won’t take the time to figure out what is wrong with these machines it also keeps me busy looking for more that people are trying to flip or make a profit from. The oddest part of this trade is finding rusted out machines with broken carriages and platens missing from the rubber rotting off are the machines that have the highest price. People will look online and see what some machines are selling for and thing their piece of junk will sell for that, not seeing what it really is. These machines I would find useful for the parts they contained. For the price they are being sold for they will sit on the shelf and eventually move on to a darker place.
A few months back I found three AM radios at a sale where everything was half off. I picked up the radios to see if I could figure out how to fix them. I knew little about vacuum tube radios or electronics in general, but I replaced the power cords and cleaned out the bodies. Plugging in the first radio and turning it on I waited a few seconds to see the lights turn on and the static from the speaker start to fill the room. An old zenith radio had found a second chance.
When it comes to the eco conscious individual I see a few things that make sense but there are many aspects of their personality I can’t get past. They will buy new cars that cost several barrels of oil to create from the beginning of production to the point of reaching the parking lot. They by cell phones from china, eat food from supermarkets, even if it is organic it was still harvested, wrapped, and shipped from oil. At the end of the week they feel good about putting their recycling out and making money for somebody else who sells the raw material produced.
Growing up I learned three words to help the world. Reduce, reuse, and recycle was printed on a triangle pinned to the board on the side of the classroom. So far recycle is the only one that has gone anywhere in the last 20 years. Reduce is not popular with the Walmart crowd, but let’s look at reuse. I’m the type of person that likes to go to garage sales, antique shops, estate sales, and flea markets. What I try to find is items that are at their last leg in life and have a second chance waiting for them. Many of these machines are better for the environment and had their carbon bill created almost a century ago. A typewriter is Microsoft word on a machine that prints what you write while you write it, no electricity needed. The AM radios offer entertainment that have a classic sound and still play modern music if you tune in to the right channel.
My latest project is a 1922 Minnesota domestic model A sewing machine. This machine is a clone of the Singer sewing machines of the time and came with a solid oak cabinet that contains the foot pedal and belt that powers the sewing machine. Again, a fully functional machine that doesn’t use electricity. Not only is it useful but the quality of materials and the beauty they were made with isn’t matched by anything today. With a little oil, cleaning products and love the machine came back to life for another hundred years. The oak cabinet is still solid and just needs a little sanding and finish to come back to life.
While people stick to their recycling and think they are making a difference I have started to look at the other two words in that phrase. Reuse isn’t just taking stuff out of the closet and using it once in a while, for me it means bringing things back to life that people will want to use again for a second or maybe third lifetime. As for the reduce aspect of the triangle I can say that selling these items takes care of the stockpile that builds up while fixing these machines. Their sale isn’t for much profit since I try to sell them for a price that the average person can afford and are more likely to appreciate. For the type writers I don’t see many collectors trying to find typewriters, what I have been seeing is people who want one to use for letters or writing that novel they always wanted to do.
Reusing items isn’t just that one word. You are recycling the material they are made out of, reducing the need for more items to be created, and renewing a machine that somebody will love for the first time. While I have expanded into world of sewing machines it won’t stop there. I have seen quite a few tobacco pipes that are looking for a second chance and what I have learned is that with a little buffing, cleaning and a shot of whiskey they are like new for a new owner to enjoy. Who knows maybe renewing old products that were created so long ago will become a new industry.