Peterborough’s Repair Cafe subverts throw-away culture

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • —Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Erik Saggerer of Jaffrey works on a wooden carousel at the Monadnock Art X Tech Repair Café. Below: Susan Mansfield, right, gives advice on fixing a pair of socks with a hole in the heel.  STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Erik Saggerer of Jaffrey gives an experimental spin to the top of a intricately carved wooden carousel, making the little carved figures on each of its three layers chase each other madly around.

It can be fixed, he assures Tom Russell of Temple, who brought in the wooden decoration, as well as several items from the Lukas Community in Temple. Saggerer will just have to make a new wooden piece that broke off. It’s a simple enough task, if you know how.

And Saggerer does.

While Saggerer takes himself off to the back of the Peterborough Makerspace to craft a replacement part for the carousel, the rest of the space remains buzzing, with several repair stations going at once. Susan Mansfield is busy explaining the process for a sweater repair to another Lukas Community resident at the fabric table. Various electronic experts are working on, respectively, a toaster on the fritz and a vacuum cleaner.

And lamps. Oh, so many lamps.

It’s the first tryout of the Peterborough Repair Cafe, and it’s exactly what he imagined it would be, said organizer Tyler Ward.

During the short time they were open on Saturday, the volunteers at the Repair Cafe burned through several dozen small repairs — some simple, and some not so simple. 

There were a lot — a lot — of lamps, said Ward, some woodwork that needed to be either glued or clamped back together, mittens and sweaters with holes in need of darning, a backless wind-up watch, a jammed-shut CD player, a tote bag with busted straps. They’re the kind of thing that on another day, people might have thrown away.

“This is the most Yankee thing I think I’ve ever seen,” said Jeff Powell of Dublin, one of the fix-it volunteers. Powell is a “putterer” who knows a little about this and that, he said, and when he was invited to join the first session of the Repair Cafe to offer his handy-man expertise, he said it immediately sounded like fun.

“We have a terrible disposable society at the moment,” said Powell. “Things used to be made to be repaired. But nowadays, things are machine-made, and it’s usually a case of when it breaks, it’s not worth fixing.”

The Repair Cafe seeks to turn that attitude around. Located at the Peterborough MaXt Makerspace, and hoping to continue the event monthly, Ward said the turnout on Saturday for the first-ever Cafe proved that it’s an attitude that’s shared among the populace.

Ward said he came up with the idea when there seemed to be a sudden flurry of requests for this kind of service, all within a few days. When Ward began to look into the idea, he came across the idea of a Repair Cafe: A branded concept that has locations across the country — even the globe. 

The Repair Cafe works only because of a group of volunteers who are willing to lend their expertise. There’s no charge for bringing in your item — but at the same time there’s no guarantee that your item can be fixed — though many can. Among the dozens of items brought into the Cafe on Saturday, only a few had to be turned away un-fixed — a newer kind of lamp, a pocket watch that they didn’t have the proper tools for, for example — but the vast majority went away happy.

“I think this is a wonderful idea,” said Russell. “And it’s right here in our community.”

The next Repair Cafe will be held on March 11, at the Makerspace, with plans to hold the Cafe every second Saturday of the month, depending upon demand.