Another Reason Why….

What a study in contrasts.

In my workshop right now I have two projects, each needing repaired.

On the left side I have a four-year-old Troy-Bilt pressure washer with fewer than 40 hours of use on it. When I started the gasoline motor last week, water began pouring out of the pressure pump beneath it. “Your O-ring has gone bad,” was the consensus among those who seem to know about such things.

I called the Lowe’s service number attached to the framework, who then directed me back to the store for service, since it was no longer under warranty. Once at Lowe’s, the service manager informed me that they would have to charge me $89 just to accept it, then would sent it off to a repair center. Upon its return, at an unspecified date, I would then have to pay an additional, unspecified repair charge. Under his breath the Lowe’s employee whispered, “Don’t leave it here,” and recommended a small engine repair shop across town.

I thanked him, left and drove across town. A few minutes later, standing in front of yet another service manager at yet another service counter, I received more bad news: they don’t work on pumps, only engines. “There used to be a guy out in Fairview somewhere,” the service manager offered apologetically, “but I heard he stopped working on them, too.” I took a chance and tracked down the shop, sort of a concrete block cave dug into the back hillside beneath an old-fashioned hardware store. “Nope,” came the curt reply. “Why?” I continued to ask.

” ‘Cause you can buy a new one for almost as much as it costs to fix one.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” I protested. “If a new one is that cheap, it isn’t going to last long either.”

He smiled. “Nope.”

On the other side of my shop sits another project in need of repair. It is a 104-year-old L. & J. G. Stickley model #497 arm chair with an estimated 112,320 hours of use on it. It has a crack in a rear back support, two loose joints, and a thick coat of 1960s dark-tinted “antiquing kit” varnish over it.

Yesterday I squirted woodworker’s glue into the split, then clamped it overnight, placing pieces of scrap pine between the metal jaws and the chair to prevent the clamps from leaving any marks. I did the same for the loose joints, two that had not been pegged together. This morning I removed the clamps and tested the chair: as snug and tight as the day it was made.

On Saturday morning I will slip into my rubber apron, pull on my rubber gloves, and put on my safety glasses in preparation for stripping off the unwanted 1960s overcoat. I won’t be able to save the original shellac finish beneath it, but I will be able to either re-stain or re-fume the wood and duplicate both the original color and finish.

Some difference between a 104-year-old chair and a 4-year-old pressure washer, eh?

The original Arts and Crafts movement represented a rebellion against the shoddy mass-production following in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. People began demanding goods that would last, furniture that was durable, not disposable. And so women and men such as Leopold and John George Stickley began making furniture that, in the words of their older brother, will not “fall to pieces or go out of fashion in a few years… but will be a permanent part of the home surroundings, and that in another fifty or hundred years will be worth many times its first cost….”

And can anyone still wonder why Arts and Crafts has experienced such a resurgence today?

Certainly not anyone who has bought a pressure washer recently.

Until next Monday,

Don’t buy it, rent it!