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Greene: Tinker Wanted

I have a good stainless steel soup pot that lost a handle. Without it, the pot was ungainly, and the boiling liquid dribbled out the holes left by the missing handle, puddling in the burner well of my stove.

I wanted to stay local and thought it should be easy to find someone who could fix it—like, well, a modern tinker. I was wrong.

The first place I asked was a town hub, the transfer station. The gent in charge there is a fix-it whiz. He couldn’t do it, he said, lacking the right welding set-up for stainless, but he knew of a woman.

I was psyched- a woman! I phoned her and explained the reason for my call. When she finally could stop laughing, she explained that her nickname was “Tinker” but she had no expertise as a fixer.

Tapping the collective wisdom of my formidable online localvore community resulted in several helpful leads. The first one I followed up was to a local machine shop. But for him the job was too small.

I thought wistfully of 19th century itinerant tinkers going from house to house, mending things. Back then it was always cheaper to fix something than to replace it. But with Pacific Rim products flooding our markets and clogging our landfills, the economics have changed. It’s often more expensive to get something fixed.

Next my local librarian suggested a man he knew who could fix anything. I called, warily leaving a not-too explicit message, hoping the guy might at least hear me out. No such luck: he never called back.

I was beginning to wonder if I’d have to go online after all when I saw a sign that Brattleboro’s Brown Bag Lunch series was sponsoring a fix-it session. You bring in a busted article and a man would either fix it on the spot or tell you how to do it yourself. Halleluiah, I thought: a 21st century tinker holding office hours.

Days later, I met Aaron Evan–Browning, aspiring inventor and inveterate fixer. He’d brought a suitcase full of tools: cordless drills, nails, hammer, screws, soldering iron, hot glue, wire, heat-shrink tubing, even casting tape.

Aaron got to work. The handle needed its busted rivets bored out. Then Aaron produced two new rivets from a baggie. He inserted them and pounded them flat on the other side.

Not only is my pot as good as new, but now I know what to do when the other handle falls off.