CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Dave West held the flat clock up to eye level in the palm of his left hand like a serving tray then tilted his head to look at its hour, minute, and second hands.
West had been working for nearly 40 minutes to repair the clock for Tina Mendes and the job was nearing completion.
“You want to make sure all the hands are parallel and aren’t touching each other right now or we’ll have to start over again later,” he said.
The clock hands were fine, however there was a slight problem getting the clock’s face cover secured properly. That repair delayed the final completion of the project another 30 minutes.
It wasn’t a problem for Mendes, who with her husband Dean, came to the Clifton Park Repair Café last Saturday with two clocks, a vacuum cleaner, and a hands-free smartphone car holder. All four items needed repair and after getting three of the four fixed Tina Mendes was praying West could do the same for her kitchen clock.
“It was a housewarming gift from my mother and she has since passed away,” Mendes said. “It’s very important to me and having it working would be so much better than stored in a box downstairs.”
Dean Mendes watched as West worked on the clock which had been designed to replicate a steaming coffee cup and saucer. His clock had been repaired earlier and he was keeping careful watch lest it be accidently damaged. The repairs for both clocks had not come easily.
A quick look at each from several volunteer repairmen had noted individual problems with each. The repairs could be done but only with parts from a clock repair kit. The kits had been located at a store in the Village Plaza and the Mendes had run out and purchased two of them and returned.
“I travel internationally and this clock has the world imprinted on its face. I really like it,” Dean Mendes said. “The motor wasn’t working and the kits came with them.”
The Mendes were just two of 51 people who attended Saturday’s Repair Café in the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library. It was the second such event for the town’s G.R.E.E.N. Committee. A third one is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. June 13 in the library once again.
There is no fee to bring items in for repair although it’s requested that one ask permission if someone has more than two.
The idea of gathering volunteers who like the challenge of repairing things and offering their services as a way to keep broken items out of landfills began in 2009 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The idea was picked up in New Paltz and has moved its way up the Hudson valley. Repair Cafés are now being held regularly in Saratoga Springs and Schenectady.
“When you bring something to the Repair Café in Schenectady they really limit you to two items because the line is so long,” said G.R.E.E.N. Committee member and Café director Cathy Fruhauf. “You see those chairs over there where people are relaxing; in Schenectady they would all be filled with people holding items they want repaired. They’re waiting for a spot.”
Because it’s a Repair Café, and not a repair workshop, free coffee, sandwiches, and homemade cookies were available.
Items worked on Saturday by the volunteers included wall clocks like those of the Mendes; cuckoo clocks, a paper shredder, a DVD player, laptops, work gloves needing mending, jewelry, lamps and a colorful tabletop carousel that played Christmas carols but whose horses had stop revolving.
“Lamps are the biggest thing we see;” Fruhauf said, “lamps and clocks.”
Indeed, Janet Colton brought in a lamp that had been built in such a way it made repair difficult. Volunteer repairman Dave Singer saw it immediately and brought it to the attention of the fellow volunteer Ted Marotta.
“I got another one with the plastic on it,” Singer said to Marotta.
Colton wondered if that would prevent its repair but Singer simply shrugged and started clipping the plastic pieces off.
As he snipped the electrical cord from the socket shell he told Colton to watch closely as he stripped the plastic insulation from one side of the electrical wire. Then he handed her the tool and told her to give it a try. After two attempts Colton had the feel for stripping a wire.
When Singer finished rewiring the lamp and attaching the ends to a new socket he put in a bulb and switched it on. When the light came on Colton’s eyes widened like a youngster at Christmas.
“It probably hasn’t worked for a year,” she said in wonderment.
“Part of this is to keep these things out of the landfill,” Singer said, “but another part is to educate people so they can do it themselves.”