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'Fixers' get gadgets going

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Is your toaster toast? Old lamp on the blink? Sounds like a job for the Repair Fair.

Volunteer "fixers" in Philadelphia have started offering their skills for free in an effort to promote resourcefulness and sustainability, and to help build a sense of community. Not to mention the satisfaction of mending broken gadgets and appliances, from clocks to typewriters.

But the events are also about "getting people to rethink and not dumping stuff in the landfill just because they can't be bothered," said Philly Fixers Guild co-founder Holly Logan. "Instead of just going out and buying a new one, (put) in some time and elbow grease."

A recent fair drew people from as far as the New Jersey suburbs bearing busted heaters, stereos and kitchen mixers. About half the items were repaired on the spot by tinkerers whose backgrounds ranged from self-taught to a field engineer for Lockheed Martin.

It's an increasingly popular concept. Similar do-it-yourself gatherings called Repair Cafes, affiliated with a Dutch nonprofit, have sprung up worldwide in the past few years. More than 700 now operate globally, up from 275 in 2013, according to its website.

The most recent guild-sponsored Repair Fair was its largest so far, attracting about 125 people.

It works a bit like a hospital emergency room: Guests fill out a form at an intake table, called triage, where the patient (broken item) gets a preliminary evaluation. The case is then assigned to a fixer, whose specialties range from small electronics and circuit boards to welders, woodworkers, jewelry fixers and people who sew.