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making things last...

 
Posts: 499
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My wife and I like to see how long we can make things last. This is the 1948 Hotpoint refrigerator my parents bought when I was born. It's become a family "heirloom".



It runs perfectly so we just keep using it. It's been repainted it a few times and I've replaced the door gasket a bunch of times. Evern though it's a 70 year old "dumb" appliance, it's actually quite  frugal on energy usage.



I found a tip to making a refrigerator last is to never leave it unplugged. And if it's moved laying down, always make sure it sets upright for a few hours before turning it back on so the lubricant can drain back down to the compressor.

If you have any stories of how you make things last I'd love to hear them.
 
pollinator
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Well, I used Sticky Ass tape on the inside of a rain coat on the areas of the lining that was starting to disintegrate and no longer be waterproof.  Got two more years out of it that way (it finally quit for real on me this year, to my sorrow).  It looked super tacky (no pun intended ;)) but it worked and that's what I care(d) about the most.
 
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I feel the need for a list coming!

1. Lubricate things that are meant to move, tighten things that aren’t meant to move.
2. After using gardening tools, I always clean and oil them before storage – humidity will rust things too.
3. I have three steel locker-type cabinets in the garage to store power tools, PPE (personal protective equipment), and things that need to be kept secure, clean and vermin proof. It’s nice to open them and pull out a nice ‘clean’ pair of gloves, rather than the alternative – get that pair that’ve been laying on the bench for who knows how long, wack them with a piece of wood to ensure there’s no spiders inside and hope for the best.
4. Buy the best I can afford – quality tools last longer even if they receive abuse.
5. Don’t loan important tools to ANYONE – the cabinets hide things from plain view so people don’t know what you’ve got.
6. One thing leant from my brother-in-law, engrave initials into all tools – no arguments over who owns what on a worksite.
7. With high UV here, store things out of the sun. Painting plastic fixtures add a high sunscreen factor e.g. plastic hose holders, etc. Likewise, buy better quality things made of metal/wood/stone, not plastic.
8. When considering a project, something that will be out in the weather 24/7, I think of the elemental construction materials: timber, metal, stone; and choose the one that is best suited to the job and last the longest. Hate, REALLY HATE revisiting a job – do it right the first time or don’t do it at all.
9. Routine maintenance always trumps continual repair.
10. Use the correct tool for the job – a hammer is not always the ‘universal tool’!
11. Cloth things always get washed, well aired then put away – mildew destroys fabric and is a health issue. I have tents and down sleeping bags over 30 years old that are still going strong because of good care and maintenance.
12. Food: various preserving methods – many listed elsewhere on the forum.



 
master steward
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I use ethanol free gas in small engines.  I have no experience to the contrary but that's what I've been told and it's worked for me for quite a while.
 
master pollinator
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My first wife, in utter disgust, told me I was "born old".

We have a few older appliances, a 1917 Crawford gas kitchen range we use everyday to cook on, and a 1893 pot bellied stove to keep us warm.

Our greatest frugal project though has been this house. We got it 5 years ago and estimated it would cost $10,000 to fix up enough to live in. We put it off for 5 years, even thinking about burning it down and putting a double-wide in. In the end we fixed it up COMPLETLY, giving this 88 year home another lease on lie for $1800. It is winter now, but a new roof is all that is needed to make it go another 88 years.

We:

Installed wiring (it had little)
Installed wall insulation
Replaced sheathing boards
Installed new clapboards
Installed new windows
Moved doors
Beefed up all framing joists, studs, and stringers
Installed attic insulation




 
Travis Johnson
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One of the ways a person can make things last is to learn how to weld. I have made so many repairs that way. Some have said, "it will never be like the original", but that is not true; the person putting whatever it is together may be having a bad day, may be pushed by corporate production schedules, or just plain suck at their job. This goes beyond just welding through.

Another way is just having confidence. I was scared to pull an engine out of my bulldozer, but come to find out it is only held in by (4) bolts. Big bolts, but only 4 of them. It only took me 2 hours, yet I had delayed in doing out of nervousness.

Another thing is knowing what are make and break deals. An example of this is washers and dryers. There is NOTHING in a clothes dryer that cannot be fixed. Belts, bearing, heater, etc. A clothes washer is a bit different, generally when a pump goes, it is more expensive then just buying a new one. (But ask questions first. I have retrieved infant socks that got caught into the pump before that acted like a blown pump). And my inlaws replaced a top loading washer because the agitator did not work. That is a $3.99 repair...the plastic cams wear out and need to be replaced.

Farm equipment...oh my, I have a 1952 Dearborn Plow that my Grandfather bought new. To this day, I can buy off-the shelf plowshares for it because Ford (who bought Dearborn) never changed the curve and bolt pattern of their plows over the years. My harrows are the same way, off the shelf parts, and my dealer still has a leather belt splicer for flat leather belts.

Me, trying to plow a field with that 1952 Dearborn Plow, but the process working better when the tractor is not flopped over. :-)



DSCN4922.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSCN4922.JPG]
 
pollinator
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Sometimes it is best NOT to make things last.     That fridge is pulling 300 watts of power,   you can pay for a newer fridge from the electricity it uses.   But a better question is how many KWH does it use in like 4 days.     This is a better indicator of how much power it uses.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASAfmaKzslM


Replacing your fridge with a newer used fridge can save $ and energy.
 
Greg Mamishian
Posts: 499
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Sonja Draven wrote:Well, I used Sticky Ass tape on the inside of a rain coat on the areas of the lining that was starting to disintegrate and no longer be waterproof.  Got two more years out of it that way (it finally quit for real on me this year, to my sorrow).  It looked super tacky (no pun intended ;)) but it worked and that's what I care(d) about the most.



I love stories like that, Sonja. It's the small things too as there is no scale to frugality.

There is an economic principle: The government cannot tax you on transactions you make with yourself. The longer you make things last the more value they give to you. This is a deal you make with yourself on which you cannot be taxed. And that deal means you need to work to earn less money to live. And the less money you earn, the less you get taxed. So it is possible to enjoy a good quality life with very little money.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Travis Johnson wrote:My first wife, in utter disgust, told me I was "born old".

We have a few older appliances, a 1917 Crawford gas kitchen range we use everyday to cook on, and a 1893 pot bellied stove to keep us warm.



That's beautiful, Travis.
Think of all the people who have used those appliances for over a century. I have no idea if psychometry exists... but there is definitely a subjectively pleasant tactile feeling of carrying on the continuity of an old tradition when you care for the things others used before you, and you make them last for someone else to use.

Our greatest frugal project though has been this house. We got it 5 years ago and estimated it would cost $10,000 to fix up enough to live in. We put it off for 5 years, even thinking about burning it down and putting a double-wide in. In the end we fixed it up COMPLETLY, giving this 88 year home another lease on lie for $1800. It is winter now, but a new roof is all that is needed to make it go another 88 years.

We:

Installed wiring (it had little)
Installed wall insulation
Replaced sheathing boards
Installed new clapboards
Installed new windows
Moved doors
Beefed up all framing joists, studs, and stringers
Installed attic insulation



...from the smallest to the largest!
There's no scale to making things last. Humans have a rich history of making homes last. While it may be a little tarnished today, that doesn't prevent any individual from enjoying the benefits of that old time "pioneer" art.
 
pollinator
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Greg, I like that argument very much when it's supporting local barter economies, and not at all when it comes to suffering wet, cold, sickness, starvation, and poverty.

I think, though, that frugality at point of purchase makes more sense, in that purchasing a $5 windbreaker over a much more substantial one for $100 is only a good idea if they're exactly the same product. If the cheapie is going to need duct tape reinforcement halfway through the first season, and the heftier purchase will weather (pun intended) ten seasons without overt signs of deterioration, it's cheaper to spend more.

That way, when we start trying to patch things, there's still material left for patching.

As to the fridge, I loved my parent's old fridges from the cottage. I wouldn't keep one now, though. Too much of a power draw.

At some point, I want to make a chest fridge, or refurbish one, should I be able to find it, using modern technology. Imagine an antique chest fridge or freezer efficient enough to comply with energy star requirements.

-CK
 
Greg Mamishian
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Travis Johnson wrote:Another thing is knowing what are make and break deals. An example of this is washers and dryers. There is NOTHING in a clothes dryer that cannot be fixed. Belts, bearing, heater, etc. A clothes washer is a bit different, generally when a pump goes, it is more expensive then just buying a new one. (But ask questions first. I have retrieved infant socks that got caught into the pump before that acted like a blown pump). And my inlaws replaced a top loading washer because the agitator did not work. That is a $3.99 repair...the plastic cams wear out and need to be replaced.



Funny you should mention laundry appliances! One of my clients is the Catholic Church, an order of Nuns. I repair their washers and dryers... around 50 of them. When one goes bad it's taken to a central "garage" where I diagnose and repair it while a spare one is reinstalled. Then the repaired one becomes a spare. We came up with this simple money saving system that's way cheaper than calling out expensive repair technicians every time there's a problem.

The best machines are the old Maytags... then the Sears Kenmores.

Farm equipment...oh my, I have a 1952 Dearborn Plow that my Grandfather bought new. To this day, I can buy off-the shelf plowshares for it because Ford (who bought Dearborn) never changed the curve and bolt pattern of their plows over the years. My harrows are the same way, off the shelf parts, and my dealer still has a leather belt splicer for flat leather belts.

Me, trying to plow a field with that 1952 Dearborn Plow, but the process working better when the tractor is not flopped over. :-)



Getting replacement parts is the key to making things last!
 
Travis Johnson
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My refrigerator is a lesson in frugality though I have no history with it.

We know a guy in town who has a storage building thing going. Some person dumped a refrigerator outside and he wanted it gone. My father, a woodworker, wanted to put finishes in it for his woodworking busines...a cabinet if you will.

So we picked it up, and none to lightly, and not upright, but on its back as we did not care...but to our utter amazment it worked! It still works, years later because when I needed a refrigerator for this Tiny House, so we just grabbed that one.

The return on investment is pretty good on a free appliance.
 
master steward & author
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In a few days, my sewing machine turns 100 years old.  

It's still sewing as well as it did when it was new.  It had a 20-year rest back in the 80s and 90s, but with a little bit of oil and paying attention to the maintenance, it is happy to be working again.  I use it at least once a week.  Right now it's getting a lot of exercise hemming tea towels.  I need to give it some more oil.  
 
Greg Mamishian
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Mart Hale wrote:Sometimes it is best NOT to make things last.     That fridge is pulling 300 watts of power,   you can pay for a newer fridge from the electricity it uses.   But a better question is how many KWH does it use in like 4 days.     This is a better indicator of how much power it uses.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASAfmaKzslM


Replacing your fridge with a newer used fridge can save $ and energy.



It's pretty quiet and doesn't run much because there's a simple tiny 11" by 11" freezer compartment inside that only gets used for frozen juice and ice cream.



There's also no ice maker or any of those annoying noisey fans running all the time. Even though we pay a hefty 18.5 cents per kWh for power, our household electric bill averages only $44 per month with no solar, so it's not using much.
 
pollinator
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My husband has a habit of twisting his sleeve a bit when he leans his arm on something so the elbows don't wear out as quickly. He also airs his clothing out instead of washing it most of the time. I manage to get something on my clothing within ten minutes of putting it on it seems like, so I wash my stuff a lot more. His clothes are way nicer than mine.
 
Greg Mamishian
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Jan White wrote:My husband has a habit of twisting his sleeve a bit when he leans his arm on something so the elbows don't wear out as quickly. He also airs his clothing out instead of washing it most of the time. I manage to get something on my clothing within ten minutes of putting it on it seems like, so I wash my stuff a lot more. His clothes are way nicer than mine.



...and I thought I was the only crazy one! (lol)

When I have my jacket on and sitting or at a table, I don't rest my elbows on anything.
 
Travis Johnson
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Greg Mamishian wrote:

Jan White wrote:My husband has a habit of twisting his sleeve a bit when he leans his arm on something so the elbows don't wear out as quickly. He also airs his clothing out instead of washing it most of the time. I manage to get something on my clothing within ten minutes of putting it on it seems like, so I wash my stuff a lot more. His clothes are way nicer than mine.



...and I thought I was the only crazy one! (lol)

When I have my jacket on and sitting or at a table, I don't rest my elbows on anything.




Are you afraid of getting kidnapped for the King's Navy or something? :-)

That as how the rule, "Never put your elbows on the table started." People at sea used to put their elbows on the table to keep their plates from sliding around in a heavy sea while eating. Short on help, the King would kidnap men at the taverns, often looking for men with elbows on the table which indicated they had experience at sea. Mothers then told their sons to never do that.

You probably knw that all though.

A great clothing habit to get into is NOT pulling a persons sleeves up above their elbows. This stretches the elastic on sweatshirts and long sleeve shirts and soon ruins them, causing need for replacement.
 
pollinator
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My house is 120 years old, still with the original roof! Fuel bill used to cost a fortune though, so we insulated all the external walls and now it is toasty and warm (from £1K a year to £200 for heating!). It did cost us about £8K for everything (included some new windows and flooring), but we've had it finished long enough now to have paid for itself, and it should be good for another 20 years or so.

Older cars can be kept going, as they're actually fixable without computers. My 1991 car needed some work- the garage wanted £400, but the part was only £12.99 so we did it ourselves! Doesn't work with my Partners newer car- too many computers in it (obviously does depend on what is broken!).

I have various things and appliances that are older than me (including a greenhouse and a stand mixer) but I don't think we do anything specific to keep them working- they just do!
 
Sonja Draven
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Along the line of not washing clothes as much, in the winter I have a couple of big, ugly sweaters that I wear over my shirts all the time.  Double benefit of keeping me warm and I don't care if they get stained/dirty (and they are dark colored so it would be hard to tell anyway).  I just brush it off and then when needed, toss it in the washer and switch to the other one.  In the warmer months, I wear an apron whenever I'm cooking or eating.  In our family we joke about an apron being an adult bib and it works so great to prevent stains on my clothes.  I don't know why everyone doesn't use them.
 
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I tend to make things last because I can't afford to replace them so I figure out how to fix them. I also reuse other people's trash.

Our house is actually a small cabin built with materials I got from tearing down a fire damaged house. 16x21 got small when the kids got big so I added a 28 foot camper on one end. The camper had been hit in the side so I just cut that side out, pulled it next to the cabin, jacked it up and built some steel legs for it to sit on pads.

People go through water heaters quick around here because they went with the 100 and something foot well instead of the 300 and something foot well. The shallower wells are high in lime. When water's heated, that lime separates so the things fill up with chunks of lime. I've been given or picked up 5 water heaters. Made one that works. Had to flush it and dig around with a coat hanger while flushing to get the lime chunks out. Three others got turned into a smoker and one I just picked up a couple of days ago. I'll flush that one out and swap it for the one we're using because that one has a rusty case. 40 gallon while the newer one is 30 and will fit the spot better.

Bought an old table saw from a former employer years ago. It had no oomph. Figured out it could be wired for 110 volts or 220 volts and that it was wired for 220 but has a 110 plug on it. Put 220 to it and it had balls once again. Probably circa 1940s. Weighs a few hundred pounds which makes it so much smoother and less rattly than a newer one.

 
Greg Mamishian
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John, what you do is admirable. This is how people used to live. They creatively adapted to their living situation. Some folks still do as you do but most have lost that ability.
 
Greg Mamishian
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My Father used these hand tools to install Vent-A-Hoods in the 1950's.



I've carried them on my tool belt for 40 years and think of him thousands of times I've used them in my work.
 
pollinator
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In the beginning, trees were expensive at the nursery so I've grown mine from seeds and grafted with scions I've got from friends. They are fruiting now.
I bought a damaged jostaberry plant from nursery for cheap. It has grown to a large bush. Cuttings from it I've sold on the internet paid a lot of things around the garden.
I often visit the local recycle center here and bought things like broken fishing rods, large plastic tubs, large pots etc. to be used in the garden or elsewhere after a bit of repairing.
I used to fix broken stereos, amplifiers, radios and use them a lot before the Walkman invented. I have 2 large boxes of cables and still have my soldering iron handy.
I've got a bar fridge from neighbor's trash and used it as a cheese fridge for years and sold it for 10 bucks.
I invested into good kitchen knives and garden tools that I want to leave them to my kids as a heritage.

As mentioned before, a good care of the item prolongs its life.


 
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My hobby is keeping 30yr old computers going.

Ways to make your computer last longer:
-Shut down, never use the sleep/hibernate function
-Never defragment your hard drive (the benefit is nano-scale, the drive-stress is significant)
-Never use real-time antivirus (prevents idling of components)
-Don't leave it turned off for months (like a car)
-If you remove dust from the internals, wait an hour before powering on (static)
-Frequently drain laptop battery to Low as possible, but never leave it depleted or half-charged for long
-Use a $2 USB hub to avoid damaging the internal USB ports with daily plugging/unplugging
 
pollinator
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Not too long ago my shop CD player slowly degraded to the point where it was rarely able to play the CDs anymore.  It would spin them, but couldn't lock in so to speak, get the track info, and play them.  I almost threw it out planning to get a new one as I'd had to do multiple times in the past.  (I think the dust I generate in the shop is particularly hard on CD players.)  Then I remembered a friend who used to get "junk" audio cassette players way back in the day and fix them in minutes with some denatured alcohol and a q-tip to clean the heads.  It seemed like he told me he'd done that with the lens on CD players too.  I tried it and now I have a perfectly working CD player again.  :)  I now wonder how many of the ones I'd tossed out in the past just needed to have the lens cleaned.

Shortly after fixing the shop player the CD player in my home stereo quit working too.  Naturally it was about 1 month after the warranty expired.  Annoyed I decided to go ahead and enter the "no user serviceable parts" zone and see what I could see, figuring I couldn't make it any worse since it didn't work at all already.  I didn't really see anything, but pushing connectors down I felt one seem to settle deeper into it's plug.  When I put it back together and tried it the CD player was back to working just fine.  My guess is that it was just a connection that had worked loose, perhaps not being properly in place to begin with but had just enough contact to work.  That also reminded me of my days in college video production, back when this involved huge heavy cameras, separate tape decks, monitors, and such.  If something didn't work the FIRST thing you always did was to "wiggle the wires".  90% of the time this fixed the problem.
 
Travis Johnson
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Sometimes making things last is what you read. I have a fetish for Farm Show, a newspaper where people like us submit what they have built, voted as their best or worst buys. Like consumer reports, there is no advertising, and it is tons of snippets of information.

I got a bunch of old Singer Treadle sewing machine, and after digging the last one out of the attic, was going to toss it, but a guy in that newspaper showed that he uses them to make antique looking model tractors. That one project alone will pay for the subscription for the entire year.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Travis Johnson wrote:

I got a bunch of old Singer Treadle sewing machine, and after digging the last one out of the attic, was going to toss it, but a guy in that newspaper showed that he uses them to make antique looking model tractors. That one project alone will pay for the subscription for the entire year.


Ack!! Don't toss them or cut them up for metal!! You can get WAY MORE for them intact! People like me look for them for sewing machines, grinding wheels, etc. They are not easy to find anymore!! And there are more people trying to go back to lower tech or off grid.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:

I got a bunch of old Singer Treadle sewing machine, and after digging the last one out of the attic, was going to toss it, but a guy in that newspaper showed that he uses them to make antique looking model tractors. That one project alone will pay for the subscription for the entire year.


Ack!! Don't toss them or cut them up for metal!! You can get WAY MORE for them intact! People like me look for them for sewing machines, grinding wheels, etc. They are not easy to find anymore!! And there are more people trying to go back to lower tech or off grid.



I spent a couple years looking for one and finally bought mine.  What a shame that people don't preserve these things.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:I use ethanol free gas in small engines.  I have no experience to the contrary but that's what I've been told and it's worked for me for quite a while.



I agree.
My mower died.  Turns out the gaskets in the carburetor were made from a type of rubber that breaks down in alcohol.
I've been told that is quite common in small engines.
So, I only use ethanol free gas in small engines also.
 
The City calls upon her steadfast protectors. Now for a tiny ad:
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
http://woodheat.net
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