07 February, 2010

Vintage Sunday: Making It Do

My family and I live in "the old homestead."  Our house was built in the 1920's by my wife's grandfather and his pals he worked with at the mills.

Most of the original features of the house are still intact - for better or worse, as it turns out.  For example, one of the first things we did when we moved in was move the hot water heater out of the kitchen, where it had been since the house was built.

We had a lot of cleaning and clearing to do as well.  I brought truckloads of clothes to the Salvation Army and Goodwill, we held a massive estate sale, and we donated a large number of items to one of the local nursing homes.  Even at that, there are still nooks and crannies in the house that reveal interesting secrets.

The two items above are examples of this.  The display card on the left holds two Mendet aluminum disks along with their fastening hardware (small brass screws and square nuts.)  Mendet repair disks were made to fix small holes in household items to extend their serviceable life after being damaged.  A pair of disks would be put on either side of a hole in, say, the side of an aluminum pan, or in a rubber hot water bottle.  Then the pair would be fittend with the nut and bolt passing through the disks and the hole, and the nut would be tightened down until the Mendet made a water-tight clamping repair to the item.  Four Mendets sold on the card for a dime.  Being able to repair a 75-cent hot water bottle for 2½ cents was certainly worth it at the time.

On the right is another display card holding two heat-resistant plastic knobs for pot lids.  This is actually just one of many such cards I turned up when cleaning the pantry, and I'm kind of glad they were there since I really have used a couple of them.

On a shelf by my workbench in the basement, I have a small wooden box, a bit larger than a shoebox.  In it I keep a variety of repair parts we found when we were preparing the house for moving in.  There are pot handles and knobs, glass percolator domes, cabinet latches, replacement appliance plugs, and a spool of lamp cord, among many other items.  They've come in handy more than once.

Some of my friends find it amusing that I would replace the pull-chain switch in a light fixture or tear down an electric coffee percolator to replace the thermostat; for them, it's a waste of time when it's so much easier to pitch the thing into the trash and buy a cheap drip coffee maker for under $20 at Walmart.  I guess if I were starting out with a cheap Walmart coffee pot to begin with, I'd feel the same way, but the small appliances I have now were designed to last for years and be easy to fix.

So I tinker with stuff when it breaks, and fix it instead of throwing it out, and buy old-stock hardware repair kits when I find them at rummage sales and thrift stores.  I probably wouldn't bother to patch a hole in a hot water bottle though.  I'm all for "Waste not, want not" but sometimes one can take it too far.


Anonymous said...

Are these still available today? If so where may i purchase them? My grandmother used to patch her pans with them.

Dave said...

Sorry, Anonymous. The Mendet company hasn't been in business since the 1930's.