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When will we make use of the stuff around us?  RSS feed

 
Joel Bercardin
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I'm starting a thread to, hopefully, learn your speculations on this question: when will the predicament (ecological, economic, social) we're in become so obvious that people take the practical steps to re-use (or repurpose) the manufactured stuff accumulated in our environment instead of relegating most of it to the waste stream? Specifically, I'm thinking of stuff made primarily of metals - steel, aluminum, brass, copper. And I'm thinking mainly of machinery and machinery components.

Yes, I do realize that metals for the most part are re-cycled, either here in North America or in Asia - by recycled I mean melted down and reprocessed into raw material again, be it I-beams, bar stock, rod stock, pipe, conduit, wire, sheet, etc. There's money in recycling these metals. However, the "value-added" dimension of the original forms (housings, gears, casings, connecting rods, and all those things) is lost when the metal, as such, is reprocessed.

I know there's generally little value in mulling over the "good old days," but I'm going to indulge to this extent: when I was a kid, magazines like Popular Mechanics, Mother Earth News, and others had articles about people who were designing, experimenting with, and refining useful machines, devices, set-ups, and contraptions - or "how to" articles showing the reader the way to make something. Something useful for the person working with the land, not just some cute toy robot or something.  I'm mean things made from readily available standard wood, metal stock, bearings and such along with repurposed components, frames, and machine parts. (Repurposing for art or decoration is fine, but not what I mean.)

To be honest, I'm not yet any great shakes at doing this sort of thing. I'm a generally handy guy, but I lived on land for over 20 years before going past basic oxy-acetylene welding and brazing skills and acquiring a MIG welder and learning to use it. Plus, my education was in social sciences, not engineering or a technical trade. (I want to change... I know I can.)

So... Humans are endowed with creativity, design abilities, manual dexterity. Can we again make useful devices and machines in our own neighborhoods? Will people dwelling on the small farm, permaculture place, homestead or the suburban or city home and yard become motivated to get involved with this? what will it take?

 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Joel Russ wrote:Can we again make useful devices and machines in our own neighborhoods?

http://opensourceecology.org/
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I think this fits the bill: scrap-metal-firewood-splitter
 
Miles Flansburg
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John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I think that a lot of this is relative to ones financial set up.
The guy that just paid $2.5 million for that 5 acre hobby-farm is not as likely to do that kind of tinkering as is a true homesteader that struggled to buy a rural plot with a run down 'weekend hunting cabin'.

From my experience, most family farms and homesteads have a 'bone yard' where they take their broken whachamacallits.
That mower may be beyond repair as a mower, but that motor might find another use some day. The handles may become the means to tow your chicken tractor from one paddock to another.

Sometimes, a project needs a piece of angle iron, pipe, or maybe a set of wheels. Having a nice bone yard saves a lot of cash, and also a trip into town to go to the hardware store.

I know a guy who collects broken mowers, etc from the 'freebies' section of Craigs List. During winter, his living room looks like an auto mechanic's shop. In the spring time, he has dozens of lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc to sell.

I believe that the permies mind set steers us all in that general direction. Those pieces of scrap metal are worth far more to us than the scrap price.

One of the best machetes I ever owned was from the Philippines. After WWII, there were thousands of broken Jeeps around the islands. They began making machetes out of the leaf springs.

 
Ken Peavey
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Efficiency of scale has made possible the steel mills, foundries, industry and mass production that has been the defining paradigm of the last century. Bring in the raw materials by the truck or train load, process the stuff continuously, build it by assembly line, and drop ship the finished product anywhere in the world overnight. Throw it away when its used up, get another one, better than the last. Growth of the economy and cheap energy have made goods cheap. There is so much stuff out there it boggles the mind as to what to do with it. The best answer we've come up with is to pile it all up and bury it?

Recycling has its place and is a key element in our future as high grade ores are depleted and energy prices continue to rise. The efficiency of scale has created a problem: closure and dismantling of small shops. Back in the day, blacksmithy was practiced in every town. Today it's almost a lost art. Silversmiths, coppersmiths, and goldsmiths are still out there, but if you need their services you'll be traveling a fair distance and paying top dollar. Taking a step back from centralized production to local production is a challenge, but it's going on now. The good food movement is perfect example, be it artisan bakeries, organic farms, or permaculture food forests. Transition and relocalization efforts are out there, in a simple but developing form.

 
Joel Bercardin
Posts: 265
Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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Hey, I'm happy with the response so far. I posted mainly to see how other people here on Permies saw the status of this process - the process of people locally repurposing manufactured items and materials into something useful.

Thanks Cj Verde, Leila, Miles, John, and Ken. By the way, I really like the scrap-metal firewood splitter, Leila.

I'd enjoy more perspectives and ideas, too...



At another level, I'm trying to increase my own ability to design and fabricate set-ups, devices, contrivances. And I've done a lot of web searching, over the last two years or so, to find examples and inspiration. (I've been sharing what I've been finding via pics & links on sites I joined before i joined Permies.)

I'd previously come across Marcin Jakubowski's work and site ("OpenSourceEcology)... all I can say is Wow!

Another good one is Farm Hack http://farmhack.net/home/

Another one for general principles and which sometimes offers links to design-detail sites is Low Tech Magazine http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/low-tech-solutions.html
LTM is actually concerned mainly with low-to-intermediate-tech principles applied in up-to-date ways to meet emerging needs.

Almost all examples of this sort of ingenuity I've located elsewhere online have been extremely scattered and thinly strewn over many sites, including of course YouTube.
 
Joel Bercardin
Posts: 265
Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I've learned about an interesting project concept, in the south of Sweden. This isn't at the homestead level, but the basic principle is along the lines of what I brought up in the OP. There's a city called Vaxjo that a few years ago was voted "the greenest city in Europe". They're a leader in renewable-energy reliance, and also involved with things like conversion of their keystone chemical industry into something more benign.

They are currently working on plans for a "remaking village" that would employ jobless people in the recycling/rebuilding of discarded products into useful things - and this will certainly involve furniture and possibly machinery and mechanical devices.

I've visited Vaxjo. They have a way of actualizing dreams there.
 
Joel Bercardin
Posts: 265
Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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For the gear makers and machinery modifiers here on Permies.com, I thought I'd add another site of possible interest to the two I mentioned before - those being Marcin Jakubowski's site ("OpenSourceEcology) http://opensourceecology.org/ and Farm Hack http://farmhack.net/home/

Another good one is Build It Yourself (on the TractorByNet site) http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/build-yourself/
For instance, scrolling down to post #158 on that thread (comes in as page 16, on my browser at any rate), a guy shows and explains a straw chopper he built from a combination of salvaged and stock parts. Reportedly, he saved himself a lot of money by building it rather than buying a commercially made machine - plus he got the satisfaction of making it.


Feel welcome to add addresses to other similar sites.
 
Tobias Joseph
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answering the header...

when 3d printers become a more readily available, affordable, viable source for creating customized parts... allowing the general public to re-imagine greater uses for recycling their junk. (albeit, we would also have to contend with the greater portion of that crowd still junking it with the desire for the printers to fill the void of all their wants... the culture of which is still difficult to escape.)

But it remains a more viable solution than dealing with the wider assortment of skills and abilities that are sometimes required to actually make it work..

there's so many factors here... the most obvious lending the problems of space, then we move onto the conflicts with laws and regulations (from measly hoa's to the federal government), to the conflicts in education which has reduced and eliminated such programs as woodshop and home economics.. to such an extent, in some regions, even internet access doesn't bring people any closer to locating affordable 'custom' shops.. as well as classes, workshops, in both new techniques and old... putting them further and further outside of the basic consumers reach..

it's ever a narrowing field -socially, culturally, professionally- especially as more educational and degree programs are leaving the public system for overpriced tech programs and specialty private schools.

Really, does anyone remember the days when the boys (& Girls) club offered more than proverbial daycare?

Or when such skills weren't associated with the "bad kids"... downtrodden and poor, those that have no other choice but to work in such fields, learn such skills... (or those unusual, pseudo-hipsters, from those homesteaders partying like it's 1825 to those cool cats that keep telling you it's just a jump to the left... And then a step to the right)
 
Joel Bercardin
Posts: 265
Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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Okay. So I’d like opinions on this. I remember being maybe 13 or 14 and I got attracted to car and hot-rod magazines. I dreamed about getting started with some kind of fast modified car when I could afford to buy any old jalopy at 16 or 17. But I got snagged into music instead, and spent my money on a very good guitar, lots of records, and stuff like that. Within a few years, I got to reflecting on the pollution and huge waste of money involved in going fast (burning up fuel and tire rubber, etc).

Here’s the thing, though. Hot-rodding, from what I understand, took off after World War II when a bunch of farm boys who’d learned to use wrenches and stick welders figured ways to modify old frames, bodies, and drive trains with powerful engines and appropriate transmissions. Besides offering speed and a way to impress certain sorts of girls, it was a genuine outlet for ingenuity.

These guys were adapting and fitting stuff together toward an effective purpose. Takes skill to do it, even if it's not my purpose.

It’s still with us. I daresay far more North-American men are involved with hot rods than with Permaculture or any kind of organic agriculture. But there’s a lot of know-how and initiative and creativity going into their petroleum splurgers.

Do you think there’s any way to lure that creativity into equipment and machinery useful on homesteads and small farms
 
Joel Bercardin
Posts: 265
Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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Okay, I just ran into this today while doing a search on the net. This is an idea that could be adapted to life & learning in the suburb, city, town, or country: A Repair Café. http://thriftysustainability.net/repair-cafe-sustainable-skills/

A meetingplace for repairs, people with skills & knowledge, tools & equipment. In my opinion, better to see something done and be able to ask questions than to see it illustrated with still photos and text, or even with videos (as much as I like Youtube how-to DIY stuff). Maybe even try your hand at it under the tutelage of an experienced skilled person.
 
You didn't tell me he was so big. Unlike this tiny ad:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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