I am not a handyman. I have never claimed to be – see my July column about having someone else fix my dishwasher. I have just enough knowledge of power tools and carpentry and metallurgy to hurt myself if I try to do any project more significant than installing a new knob on my closet door.
Yet I’ve always been drawn to repairing things. Although the majority of the work I do now with my hands is limited to typing on a keyboard, I’ve always enjoyed pulling things apart and...well, wrecking them, usually. Putting things back together was never really my style, though there was a time I could do a pretty decent lap weld.
I was far more excited to see the rustbucket 1960 Chevy Apache C10 for sale in the tiny town of Interior, S.D., than I was to see the 2019 Corvette ZR1 hugging the curves on a scenic highway through the Badlands. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I could see the potential in a vehicle like that. Maybe because the idea of fixing it was just fun.
It’s not as if I have ever had a place to work on a vehicle, or the tools to do the work, or any of the mechanical knowledge to make an engine work in a truck that old (or a new truck, for that matter). The limit of my skills would probably be to change the oil, and there’s an above-zero chance I would mess even that up. But I always wanted to give it a try, to rescue something ravaged by time from the brink of oblivion and give it new life in the world.
Netflix recently put up the third season of a British show called “The Repair Shop,” where that’s all a group of artisans do. They restore old things back to their former glory and learn about the history of each item in the process. It might be the most soothing TV show out there. There’s no competition, the drama is limited to “Will this 100-year-old piece of wood fall apart in my hand when I touch it?” and everyone is so thankful when they see the items from their childhood brought back to life. It’s joy distilled into 43-minute increments.
So naturally, being the impressionable young man I am, I bought myself a knockoff Dremel kit and set off to find something to make new, as I had wanted to for many of my years on this Earth. It started with a 1948 Polaroid Land camera, a Senior Center Thrift Barn find that was almost in new condition anyway. A few hours with wire and felt brushes and it would have been ready to take photos again if Polaroid still made the film for it.
Now I’ve got a handful of metal objects to clean the rust from and restore for my editor. It’s just enough to pull me out of the Josh-shaped depression in my armchair and my mind. I’m having fun. It may not be an old Chevy Apache, but it’s a start.