Thursday, March 31, 2016

art is bother, so is repairing things. live long and repair!

“Sorry it was so much bother”
“Don’t worry about it, everything I do is bother!”
I like to bother about stuff, that’s my day-job: dream, design, then make. Hundreds of small steps and details to bother about, on the way to something new. Along the way, I repair a lot of my own stuff.

My friend and neighbour is a:
“Please look after my dog”
“Who wants cake and mojito’s?”
- kind of neighbour.
And he broke a favourite belt.

It wasn’t expensive, but it is quite lovely: supple, dark Italian leather, with a cast buckle that delivered all the strain of bending over after a big dinner onto a tiny plate of who-knows-what cast metal that is - was - less than 1mm thick. Poor design.

Why not just buy another belt? Maybe he should have—but it’s the principle… We can mend things, and I could share a little happiness by drilling two holes and swinging a hammer to set 2 fat new rivets through a serious piece of scrap brass—that belt now has 5.7mm of quality metal to take the strain. A quick lick of sand-paper and the belt is ready to party again; I happily succumbed to that intrinsically human need to repair*, and enjoy material until it has truly exhausted it’s lifetime.
Rivets save the day, and the belt. Gotta love a rivet.
Someone undoubtedly has a PhD in understanding this need to bother—and of course art and craft go way beyond function (although this unusual request is now very functional again!).

*repair. The creative in me wants to know why we have let go of repair... Why don't we say "reduce, re-use, repair"? And then - and only then - when it's completely exhausted... recycle? Who agreed that so much poor design and built-in obsolescence was OK? Can we really afford it in the very largest sense?

I'd love to research that (and archeology), because it feels like we have given something up, and I don't know that we ever actually agreed to it. But right now I don't have time (ah, there's the rub...) because I’m already bothering about my next piece of artwork, and that's much, much trickier than this was...

Live long and repair!
If you want some help to try this belt-buckle repair for yourself, please read on to see the rear view of the buckle, and get a very quick description of how to...


And meanwhile, here's the rear view of the buckle - just in case you need to do a repair like this, and a very short description of how to... 

I used: a scrap piece of 16ga (1.3mm) brass shaped with a jeweller's saw and files to fit inside the buckle profile so that it is invisible from the front; 2 x 12ga (measured 2.2mm) brass escutcheon (upholstery) pins from Lee Valley; a range of drill bits up to 2.2mm and scrap wood to drill into; needle nose pliers or a hand-vise to hold the pin as you trim it down to rivet length; tin snips or wire-cutters or a junior hacksaw - dependent on your hand-strength - to trim the pin down to length; bits of sand-paper to make the finish look consistent again.

Be very cautious on sanding and tidying up after... This buckle is some unknown white metal, with just an antique brass coating and some varnish, not a lot of real material to allow for a good clean-up without damaging the whole look.
Scrap brass plate and rear (hammered) side of rivet heads

Hmmm - how long do you make the tail for a rivet? Insert the pin through all the sheets, squeeze together and mark a point above the hole that is about 1.5x the diameter of the pin. So in my case no more than 3mm of the pin was left above the hole, and could be hammered and spread without it collapsing and bending over.

You need a good sized peen (thin straight face) on the hammer to really round over a fat rivet tail, the peen on my goldsmith's hammer is about 12mm; you'll likely get a few touch-downs on the metal as you round it all over, but that's OK on the back. Go quite slowly and change directions as you hammer. And you'll need something to support the rivet head as you hammer - support on some hard plastic, or better still, use a bur to make a dimple in any of the steel blocks or anything you use as an anvil that is booting around your work or craft-bench.   

If this repair job happens again, or anyone begs ...or sends me a broken belt... I'll try and fit in a proper tutorial ;) 

Live long and repair.

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