Prepping: Fix-It Shop Basics (Part I)

OK, suppose the worst happens:  the lights go out – the Internet has been attacked – but where you live, dedicated worker are getting the power on a couple of hours per day.

You have been able to scrape-by – supplementing some wholly inadequate stored foods with a few fresh veggies from your quickly-planted garden.

There’s no work to do – and since there is no Internet, only radios that people have been using for low-power local communications – there’s not much to do.


There are a handful of skills that will be of inestimable value in such conditions:  Being able to provide at least some advanced healthcare.  Being able to put in and raise a good garden.  Being able to put together moderately complicated bartering in your community (think trading bank). And being able to “Fix Things.”

Of all of these, three are pretty easy to come up to speed on.  A good study manual on emergency medicine will cover those requirements.  Backed-up with a good first aid kit, you ought to be able to handle everything from a sliver to just short of surgery. Advanced CPR classes, a half dozen large cheap bottles of baby aspirin, plus lots of Band-Aid’s and Neosporin.

The garden?  Well, that comes from experience with actually doing some gardening.  And barter?  Think of something you have, that someone might want – and list some things YOU want dabble your toes on Craigslist.  Maybe start by listing a “skilled trade/Artisan” listing and work up from there.  Or, if you see something that catches your eye, call and offer a trade for something excess your needs.  Part cash, part trade is often a winner.

Eventually, you may be able to set up a small “Fix-It” shop.

What Goes into a Fix-It Shop?

It depends a lot of where you are and what kind of environment you’ve chosen to live in.

Obvioously, the most survivable places in America will be modestly sized towns of less than 50,000 – the kind yiou can walk around in an hour or two, or walk directly to any business in the town in 30-minutes, or less.

Somewhere cold enough to kill a few bugs with deep frosts in winter, warm enough to be less than a sauna in the summer, and a place with plentiful water.

A good sense of community mattrers, too.

Many such places exist in America and why they are not wildly populated is beyond me.  “Tech” is a job magnet, until it’s not.  We totally get that.

Closing down China, if only for a while due to the coronavirus outbreak, may actually be a very good thing for the planet:  A chance to get back to fixing things.

There are lots of things that will need fixing if TSHTF, but its the exceptional article or source that says more than :”Get water, get armed, get med, and if necessary, get out!”

There will always be an economy.  Based on what, we may not know yet:  Seeds? Silver?  Books (especially reference)?  Skills? Barter?  Sure – all of the above.

In something less than a mountainside town, a bike shop would be a logical kind of “small shop” to have going in your garage.  Easy to set up, not difficult – if you like working with your hands – and since bikes tend to be human-powered and incredibly useful in gird hard down conditions, ask yourself “How close is the nearest bike shop?”

Finding Room for a Shop

A couple of things you need to set up a post-crash bike shop.  A selection of used (reconditioned) bikes, or lightly used new ones.  With some of these dandy bike hoists from Amazon (RAD Sportz Bicycle Hoist Quality Garage Storage Bike Lift with 100 lb Capacity Even Works as Ladder Lift Premium Quality – $14.03, also available in 3-packs) you can get “product” on display and out of the way all in one swift move:

By the way, as part of this “dry run” exercise, for several years now, I’ve been putting up pulley’s on screw-in hooks all over the shop.  Here’s one, over the air compressor, that is holding 50-feet of air hose and an electric string trimmer:

The line doesn’t have to be anything fancy – 3/8ths poly rope will hold a lot.

One other “finding” in this is that cheap pulleys on screw-hooks is NOT the right way to hand heavier gear.  For things like the backpack leaf blower and chain saws, the answer is 450 pound rated real pulleys like this:

These come in a 5-pack from Amazon National N233-247 1-1/2″ ZN Single Pulley for about $35.  Saves $10-bucks from the single unit price.

The key to ANY pulley you hang up in the rafters is tdo make sure they are big enough.  Take a few minutes and read up on “turning friction” of pulleys.

Last few tools will include a bike stand – fold-up variety. $58 bucks for a Yaheetech Adjustable 52″ to 75″ Pro Bike Repair Stand w/Telescopic Arm & Balancing Pole Cycle Bicycle Rack makes sense, depending on your long-term outlook.

That just leaves a good Allen wrench assortment – real sockets since the metal those easy-to-carry dog bone type wrenches isn’t very sturdy.  And then, of course, a set of screwdrivers!

Make absolutely certain than you have the odd kinds of sizes including Torx wrenches.

Last, but not least, a good manual on bike repair, tire-changing tools and spare tubes in several sizes.  Be sure to have a good selection of bike tire patches (vulcanizing are better than glue-type, but nothing ever beat the old tire-shop “flame-on vulcanizing” back in the day).

Half a dozen chains and extra links, chain tool, and some oil, sure.  Brake pads…eventually.  Add spare tires, too.

Before collapse, don’t bother with trying to be a dealer.  Just sell Amazon bikes that you assemble and tune to perfection.  People will pay for service.  Kevlar tire liners are great, too..

If you have a router and an old 2-by-12 you can make up a Bike Shop sign.  And, depending on zoning requirements, you could be in business in no time.  Zoining won’t matter when collapse comes calling.

In the event of an economic crack-up, people will still be looking for ways to get around, and if you’re clever about it, your skill at fixing things could be turned into food, medicine, or whatever else might be available.  Most simulations of “life afer the big one” seem to neglect some obvious opportunities for business development and expansion.

In our next  (thrilling and exciting) preview of home-scale business after collapse, we’ll talk about expanding into other areas.  First, though, you need a book on bike repairs so how about a copy of Leonard Zinn’s Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance: The World’s Best-Selling Guide to Mountain Bike Repair.  On any book for after collapse, get real paper, non ebooks!

Note to self:  Look up what bike and power equipment solvents kill viruses!

My dream of dispersed manufacturing and “making” may come sooner than anyone thought.

Write when you get rich!

34 thoughts on “Prepping: Fix-It Shop Basics (Part I)”

  1. The RF and EF and EMF meters came in yesterday so I began testing everything around here especially the cell phones and it’s no wonder people all over the world what are using cell phones are getting cancer ,brain tumors , tumors wherever they carry their cell phone at, after I cut the cell phones off and the router Wi-Fi I still noticed High EMF everywhere even in my bed.
    So I went to the electrical mains and cut the thing completely off and I had one of the best night sleep and I feel so much better this morning. Even my bad eye,seems to feel better look better ,see better. Now what else in this man-made environment is killing us. Slowly suppressing us keeping us from realizing our full potentials,,,That’s why people who go camping in their tents away from society leave their cell phones and electrical components at home feel better

  2. “You have been able to scrape-by – supplementing some wholly inadequate stored foods with a few fresh veggies from your quickly-planted garden.”

    Only for those who were prepped enough to survive for 60 – 90 days while waiting for their quickly-planted garden to start producing, of course.

    I like the hanging bike racks and the suggestions for a bike shop. For my part, I have a blacksmith shop. I don’t do horse shoes yet, but I can make a bunch of tools, knives, household helpfuls, etc.

    • Store half a dozen barrels of diesel with Stabil in ’em and you could be a rich man in whatever…whenever…

      Find some leather strapping and making harnesses might be interesting, too – along with a supply of brass fasteners for ’em

  3. Don’t forget cooking – a mini-canister propane camping stove is great for short term ‘stove top’ recipes in a pot or frying pan; a larger grill (propane, charcoal), wood smoker, or combination is nice for any game or roasting garden veggies and tubers. When all else fails, a wood fire with grilling grate and a cooking pot tripod worked for our ancestors for millennia. The latter can be fashioned out of hardwood poles or branches secured with wire, but the legs must be spread outside of the ring of coals for obvious reasons. Boil all non-bottled water for 1 minute (below 5000’) and then let cool before filtering through a fine cloth filled with coarse charcoal to remove chemical impurities. Then cover the water container for later use or fill available bottles and canteens. Rainwater can be collected in any large container placed under a rope or bungee suspended tarp with a hole cut in the center.

  4. “Closing down China, if only for a while due to the coronavirus outbreak, may actually be a very good thing for the planet: A chance to get back to fixing things.”

    the other thing it would do.. is bring back manufacturing to a neighborhood near you.. create jobs and skill lines that have been forgotten..

    speaking about the coronavirus.. I read something yesterday that said they had had a vaccine but had it in storage.. this virus now is mutated a slight bit.. but they are all working on getting a new one up to speed..
    That impresses me.. I didn’t think they would bring out the vaccine just gloss over it as if they didn’t have one.. but to admit they had one.. but since its exposure to the masses has changed genetically is a big admittance.. it also gives one a perspective on just how dangerous this virus is to..

  5. It’s hard to believe that Central and South America haven’t been touched by the virus yet according to this map:

    Perhaps it’s just early, though.

    Bikes have been in the back of my mind for years but there’s never been any practical use for them up until now. I don’t think putting a gooseneck ball on a helmet is going to get my livestock trailer down the road but, in the end it may not be necessary. How long would it take for a pandemic to force a grid-down scenario? It could be over a year out but that’s scarcely little time to get things prepped if you’re serious about it and, frankly, I think getting rid of the junk around the house and barns to make room for practical stuff is a higher priority and will take some time in itself. The mantra of all old ranchers is “you never throw anything durable away” but I may have gone too far with that one over the years.

    But I’m much more concerned with the hoard of Millennials that have moved out here that I’ve talked about ad nauseum here in the past. They’re much more concerned with asset appreciation than any ideas of sustainability. If they look at this area as a lifeboat then they’ve already filled it past capacity and there is no other place for them to go. Texas Monthly has an excellent description in February’s cover article of what is being done to Small Towns in Texas by big money. The exodus from the big cities I’ve feared from a cataclysmic event has, actually, already happened.

      • LOL. That’ll also require the old, full length driving jackets and goggles – and that’s just for fair weather. It’s 30 miles to the big town in our area. I can see the return of permanently rented hotel rooms for local travelers.

        It’s not a bad idea so don’t get me wrong. Perspective is everything.

      • “It’s not a bad idea so don’t get me wrong. Perspective is everything.”

        Not to mention the novel cool factor LOL LOL LOL… I know.. the first time I seen one I was working at a grocery store.. the grocery store would keep all the perks that were normally meant for management to keep.. cruises cars.. coats..( I got a team jacket for the cowboys.. really nice coat.. its getting old now but what a great winter coat) anyway before I digress again.. during the xmas party.. they would warehouse the things and then have a drawing and anyone could get it.. the best xmas party ever.. they had a full meal… A HOT.. meal.. not cold like the hospital.. ( oh in comparison the hospital gave out a small pad of sticky note paper with their logo on top for an xmas gift for the floor workers and the meal was small and cold( suppose to be hot ) LOL) .. anyway.. they had an open bar.. a soda milk bar for the kids or those not wanting drinks.. and intertainment.. ( you got paid for the time you were suppose to be working and a bonus… it has now reverted to the standards that all the other companies have.. nothing like when I worked there.. sad but true..) anyway they had one of these.. it was a perk from one of the pizza companies.. wow.. it was sharp.. it was red and black and yellow.. very nice sharp and I wanted so much to be the one that they drew the name out of the box.. but it was cool .. I have wanted to get one ever since..

  6. Here’s a thought about making useful medical stuff at home – build a still. Ethyl alcohol is a serious disinfectant if you can get the proof up to 70% – 90%, ie. mix your grain alcohol with some clean water. Here is a good article, which may appear at first to be written for some current school grads, but which actually has some useful facts which I have seen verified elsewhere. Here is a quote from the link provided below:

    “… a 50 percent ethanol solution needs 15 minutes to kill E. coli bacteria and 45 minutes to kill strep in a “cooked-meat broth,” but just 20 seconds to wipe out pneumonia and strep bacteria on a glass thermometer — presumably a less hospitable environment. Several common bacteria can be killed off in less than two minutes with 70 percent ethanol, and 35 percent will slay some fungi in a minute flat. The stuff also kills many viruses, including HIV, but at low concentrations the job may take hours….”

    Don’t want to build a still? How about you deciding to stock up on #Everclear, watering in down to the appropriate percentage, bottling it and use it in bartering? Legal? Hell, I don’t know. Do so at your own risk.

    Caution! Don’t use “denatured alcohol” from the workshop such as a shellac thinner. It might not work as well on viruses and possibly can affect sensitive skin. Caution #2: High percentage Isopropyl alcohol might be the best choice for a disinfectant (but more difficult to brew if in a quarantined town).

    • “build a still.”

      If you cannnnt build a still.. you can use and normal cooking pot.

      Place your mash in the pot.
      Put a collector in the center
      Put the lid on upside down so the alcohol vapors collect and drip into the collection chamber.. to expedite the action place water in the inverted lid or ice.

      Keeping your orange and lemon peelings you can get the citrus oil that also works as a disinfectant.

  7. There is a wealth of practical books down at the Home Depot (or equal).

    Electrical, plumbing, carpentry, how appliances work –everything “hands-on.”

    Get them. Read therm. Keep them for reference. When SHTF, be a handy-guy fixing and making stuff. And also fix your own stuff when the commercial handyguys and tradesmen are out of business, or unable to travel.

    (The Boy Scout Field Books were once excellent reference books, if you can find old ones. The new(er) ones have shifted into PC Krappe, but the old ones contain much functional and readily applied knowledge.)

    Provide handy services to your (semi-helpless) neighbors for barter or Real money.

    Above all, don’t be an Eloi. (See H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine.”)

    Here is wisdom: many device failures (anything from table lamps to televisions) will be easily and obviously repaired or kludged simply by taking them carefully apart, and inspecting as you go. Don’t assume you can’t fix it. Try anyway, working thoughtfully and carefully.

    Here is more wisdom: 90% of failures and problems with electronic devices is electro-MECHANICAL in nature. Switches, volume controls, corroded battery boxes, cracked solder or loose wires — etcetera. Simple stuff, easily fixed.

    Have tools and knowledge and gather them NOW!

  8. George and Readers: You may have caught this story from Zero Hedge but here is the gist of the questioning article on why no release of animal studies by the Chinese.

    There are significant gaps in the official investigations into the origins of the novel Coronavirus. In order to contain the virus, one first needs to understand how a virus that allegedly originated in animals found its way to humans. For this to happen, the Chinese authorities need to release their animal testing data and samples. Testing results from animal samples collected at epicenters would give important insights into what animals might serve as intermediate hosts for the new coronavirus.

    This is critical to the containment of the epidemic. For example, if rats are the intermediate hosts for this virus, it would be futile to shut down the cities to restrict people’s movements while infected rats are still moving freely. Results from animal samples could also guide policy decisions that would reduce the risk of another outbreak.

    Makes me wonder if the Chinese maybe aren’t really our friends and the rumors of BioLab escape have more than a grain of truth. Perhaps the missing animal studies might reveal a bit too much about the actual intent of their Bio Research. So far, they’ve only tossed a few bones to the Western World in attempts to appear co-operative; blaming snakes, birds, and other foods from the open farmer’s markets of Wuhan. As long as there is no deep information release, the Chinese can continue to avoid direct blame for this debacle. To continue withholding any information on the viral origins is to foster suspicions that this virus was a war preparation to use on any country they deem as antagonistic to their world dominance plans.
    That would be us. In spite of our being their best customer, they still desire to dominate or eliminate the U.S.A. as a power on the world stage. This attempt on their part may fail as it appears to have backfired on them.
    The Corona virus could be the perfect weapon if all of the human carriers can be a stealth weapon for the first 2 weeks being contagious before their symptoms finally appear. So many Chinese Nationals in the U.S. as (students), tourists, business people and we must not forget the “refugees” sneaking in through the leaky Southern Border. All of them until now, pretty much moving about quite freely.
    Get ready, time grows short.
    Better stock up on all those Chinese made replacement parts for all your thrifty Chinese made car parts and appliances and….. other stuff.
    Incidentally, the Chinese make almost 80 % of our medicines (under license) and medicine per-cursors (and of course the TONS of Fentanyl for our recreation) so you better talk to your doctors about prescription stock ups. The factories of China can’t work 7/24 if all the help is home with the quarantine for Corona virus or dead. Takes time to train replacements.

  9. Great article. I have a bicycle junkyard in my backyard from the Grandkids bikes. Did some pedal & chain guard exchanges this weekend. The bike work rack from Amazon looks nice, better than turning bike upside down on the grass. The pulley & hoist ideas are beautiful.

  10. You mentioned a “quickly-planted garden”. Growing food takes time & has a a very real learning curve.
    There is no way that I’d count on gardening as “food” (other than sprouts) unless you have had a successful garden before AND it was the right time of the year.

  11. China passed a law nationally last summer that everyone living in China was required to get mandatory vaccinations according to an official list. The law was implemented effective December 1, 2019. December was the first known incidence of the novel CV. One of the vaccinations is apparently a SARS immunization. There’s some evidence that those vaccinated with this shot had massive immune reactions when confronted with the novel CV who’s origin is still unknown. Think ACE-2 related lung sensitivity. This may well be part of the puzzle and a reason for the CCP to use any means necessary to keep things contained and quiet. If this is a CCP mistake, it’s a massive loss of face and can’t be tolerated. It’s also a terrible humanitarian crisis within China. I’m watching the spread of this virus outside China and Asia in general and it’s not nearly as bad(yet). There’s strong evidence of an ethnic component to the epidemiology, though I doubt it was intentional. Unfortunately, media don’t report ethnicity anymore and barely mention sex. Asian males are most at risk due to the much higher level of ACE-2 receptors in their lungs. Those who are residents in China were forced to take the vaccinations and may well be the majority of the lethal casualties.

    The real pattern here should emerge over the next two months or so. Unfortunately, like Fukushima Diachi, saving face could well interfere with solving the problem. Vaccinations, even with the best of intentions can have unintended consequences.

  12. I looked at the Tyvek suits in Home Despot and figured perhaps one was useful to maintain at least a some barrier to the virus if necessary to be at risk. Then I read that the suit was “breathable”. I wonder what this really means since pore size wasn’t mentioned. I’m sure such things can be decontaminated with UV-C lamps and ozone, but will the suits make a significant difference in risk levels(with mask and goggles of course)? Perhaps someone here can expand on this.

    I’m also wondering how people will do business. There are many stores and banks with notices about removing masks and sunglasses when entering the building. We don’t need opportunistic robbers.

    • In contemplation of this.. most of the masks gloves and suits are made where.. china..if the release was a deliberate action.. could the fear factor be just a tool..

      How long is the viruses expected to be alive on a hard surface.

      “an early instance of biological warfare, where the British gave items from a smallpox infirmary as gifts to Native American emissaries with the hope of spreading the deadly disease to nearby tribes. The effectiveness is unknown, although it is known that the method used is inefficient compared to respiratory transmission and these attempts to spread the disease are difficult to differentiate from epidemics occurring from previous contacts with colonists”

      Sell the masks cheap and bet on the fear to drive people to buy them.

      I personally dont think it’s getting loose was an intentional action.. it rode out of the lab on the sleeve of a researcher that didnt follow safety protocol and was in a hurry to get on their way home.

      • Probably for bacteria, but we’re dealing with a virus – at least an order of magnitude smaller. I’d think that any covering is better than no covering.

  13. Don’t forget to lay in a stock of patches and a hand-operated bicycle pump. A few spare tubes won’t hurt anything.

    Think about the things you absolutely must have on hand if deliveries or local travel get curtailed. This is a very different exercise from the bug-out mindset you jet-setters usually obsess on.

    Along with solar equipment, an electric assist cargo bike is on the consideration list. In Texas, a moped requires a license and insurance. Not so for an electric Bike. Is gasoline production a safer bet than solar energy? It depends on how good your surge protection works, in one scenario.

    For now, I’m topping off consumables which would be needed for an extended stay home. I haven’t committed to any new projects.

    I figure that the endemic bugs are just as dangerous or perhaps more so than the imported kind if the medical facilities are pretty much overrun. Walgreens has BOGO’s going on antibiotic cream and clotrimazole cream. The poison ivy scrub is on the list. G___’s recommendations on disinfecting stuff have been sound.

    One of my elder near relatives warned me to stock up on toilet paper this week, so I know the end of the world as we know it must be at hand. You can’t buy too much toilet paper or paper towels.

    • It also doesn’t hurt to pay some of your utility and comm bills in advance, and get out of debt. It is usually the economics that does you in, anyway. The bugs are just another environmental hazard.

  14. Dear Mr. Ure,

    “Oooh, they paved Paradise, and put up a…”

    The penny dropped on the feeling “I thought I saw those buildings in the background before from a different angle” upon reading in Wikipedia that the images we were all fed of the uber-fast Leishenshan Hospital construction has the facility sited on a former parking lot in the Athletes Village for the World Military Games held last October in Wuhan. The hospital’s namesake ancient Chinese deity among other things purportedly punishes mortals who have committed secret crimes. One imagines this is not a coinkydoink lost upon the populace.

    1. Sun Yat Sen
    2. Chang kai-Shek

  15. Bike repair…

    Kerosene, muriatic acid, and sodium carbonate (washing soda…)

    Unless ferrous parts are very badly pitted, they can be restored and reused, but rust will gunk-up bearings and freeze spoke nipples. In good times, a bike shop cuts-out frozen spokes (or replaces the wheel) and replaces bearings. In bad times, especially when the supply of new parts becomes unstable or non-existent, used, rusty, icky, nasty, and worn parts may be the only available option. Being able to degrease in kerosene, electrolytically (nondestructively) remove rust via a sodium carbonate based solution, and clean/prep metals with a dilute HCl solution are as important as knowing how to tune a wheel, align a derailleur, or balance a stubborn brake caliper.

    Laying in a supply of post-war Canadian nickels (up to the mid-60s — they’re pure nickel and can be picked-up or culled with a magnet) while they can be had for cheap, and a coil of _quality_ copper wire might be handy. Chrome plating requires a bunch of dangerous steps, performed with some really physically and environmentally bad chemicals, but anyone can do a nickel or silver plating job (the copper is a base-plating for either) and the real function of both plating and painting is protection of whatever object you wish to protect. If the supply of paint dries-up, plating may again become the best available option for protecting iron and steel that’re exposed to the elements.

    I’ve seen people carve brake pads out of leather, and out of block-rubber (a piece of tire or a cast off rubber boot heel, works well enough.)

    In my travels, I have seen both two and four person quadratandem bicycles, built both as a surrey and as a buckboard. I’ve never examined one “up close and personal” so I don’t know how their drivelines and gearing are arranged, but I can tell y’all they sure look neat.

    The thing about George’s “Bike Shop” is it is allegorical. If one wants to, virtually anybody can fix virtually anything, and rebuild any simple machine. It requires only a need or desire. Reading a “how-to” may be a short cut, but being observant, remembering odd tidbits (like the nickel content of old, but not-numismatically-significant Canadian nickels), and learning how to “think outside the box” is a much more powerful short cut. My bicycle repair notes above, apply to lots of stuff you can think of to repair, and a lot of stuff you won’t think of, until you need to.

  16. I’ll suggest another trade.
    When SHTF and people want meat, they will harvest from around where they live. They may not want to be advertising this by shooting something, even a .22. They can use an air rifle or pistol, as long as it shoots pellets, not BBs.
    This means some of the cheapest Big Box store air rifles like a Daisy 880 can be employed to bring in Squirrels, Rabbits, doves, and pigeons off of power lines and bird feeders. If you can disassemble and reseal such guns, you can have a shop for these, The tools for pumpers like the Daisy’s, the Benjamin’s and the like are same as the Bike shop. If you want to get into the springers, like RWS, Gamo, etc. you need a spring compressor. The internet has many designs available. Seals are the same as for hydraulic equipment.
    Keep Seals, and a supply of pellets on hand to trade.
    Simple job and after doing a few of your own, you are an expert.
    Do not underestimate even low powered airguns, a 6-12 ft-lb gun can be plenty accurate enough to bring home the “bacon.”

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