Group helping people learn to fix things

The Fettling group of U3A is an interesting concept. It was suggested by Tony Dyer as being a group of people who would get together to fix things.

It seemed a good idea as we all have bits and pieces of equipment which need repairing so I was keen to enrol.

There were only four of us initially and our first one or two meetings were spent trying to decide how the group should operate and the type of tasks we would undertake. It wasn’t as simple as it had at first seemed.

We were meeting in members houses, garages or workshops and it was obvious that the number of people joining the group would be restricted by the space available – we’d all filled our workshops with equipment and pieces of wood and metal which we were sure would come in useful at some time in the future but these were cluttering up the space and not leaving much room for people.

We needed to get started on something, but what should it be?

Another consideration was that workshops and some of our equipment could be dangerous if used by inexperienced people and whilst we were all covered for insurance purposes in our own workshops, we needed to be covered when we were meeting as a group.

Did U3A provide insurance cover for such circumstances? It did, and there were risk assessments to be completed.

In theory these should have been simple to complete but one of the essential questions was what tasks we would be undertaking and what equipment we would be using. We didn’t yet know.

One of the first tasks undertaken was to help one of the members to assemble a lathe. It was the sort of job where two or three pairs of hands made light work – but more pairs of hands (or bodies) and we’d have been getting in each other’s way.

Whilst we were doing all this we were also talking about the various problems which we had each experienced on other jobs we’d been doing individually and it was then that we began to realise that a main function of the group would be to brainstorm problems and give each other advice on sourcing materials.

We each had different knowledge and experience and when there was a problem to solve, notebooks and sketchpads came out and it was this cross-fertilisation of ideas which proved most useful. We’ve become friends and have each made useful contacts who we know we can contact for advice and help.

The group is continuing and we have two new members joining us tomorrow. It was decided that we’d each take along something which needed fixing. It needed to be portable. What should I take?

The only thing I could think of was to take along a battery operated toy. That should be relatively easy to fix if only I could get some advice on how to take it apart and test the electrical circuits. Easy! I’d leave it out on the dining room table so that it was ready to take next day.

Next priority was to write this article which the editor had said needed to be submitted as soon as possible – if not earlier. So having entertained Susie Whippet for a few minutes, I thought it was time to get to work in the office upstairs.

There was a bit of banging and crashing and one of my heavy walking shoes was brought upstairs and dumped at my feet. Susie was trying to give me a hint that it was time to take her for a walk.

Then when I did go downstairs I found that her own doggie toys were scattered all over the floor. Not only that; she’d got tired of playing with her own toys and spied the one I’d left on the dining table. It had been chewed to pieces and was now totally beyond repair.