Prepping: Life in the Fix-It Shop

While the long-pending breakdown of modern society has not yet arrived, we have to wonder what we’ll “do for a living” when it does?

There are any number of choices, obviously:

  • There will be a lot of openings for contract “musicle” to make sure that people who bother you are reprimanded even if “police” will no longer be effective.
  • Then there will be food growers – and this is what we think of as a “fertile” field for development of skills.
  • But beyond those items (body armor or hoe & rake) what else will people need?

Our answer is a local Fix-It shop.  It’s a delusional notion, but it gives us an excuse to own three kinds of welders and all many of power tools and scrap metal.  I’m especially fond of two garbage cans of clean aluminum scrap.

A soldering iron and solder, some aluminum, low melt point rod…yeah bring on the broken!

We worry about the problem of “modern collapse” because we have never been in a world with such glaring “single points of failure.

That;s because without the Internet, YouTube videos to guide us, FedEx and UPS doing overnights, Amazon fulfilling the parts needs, or online .PDF’s of owner’s manuals, the “art of fixing” will become a widely appreciated new occupation.

It also won’t be easy.  And this is where modern mass-marketing will come back to bite us all on the butt.

The problem (macro view of a Fix-It Shop) is that we live in a world of competing products.

Which, when you come down to it is very smart marketing.  When the compound-interest driven break-up of Civilization arrives?  Well, that’s when competing products become the worst nightmare of all.

Not following?

Let’s take a typical household appliance and break it.

Now, standing in the kitchen (where I am NOT really going to smash $1,200 worth of KitchenAid refrigerator/freezer!) we eye our first “parts victim.” It helps to know that behind the “branding game” there are only a handful of real manufacturers, but does anyone know who that is?

Once past that little speed bump, and assuming you know that some Whirlpool parts will fit the KitchenAid, do you know which models cross where?  No, of course not.  No one ever mentioned it and with the Internet down, even with a clever mind and a few good hand tools, you’re out of business.

But, you can begin to notice little hints.  For example, I recently picked up a 3-pack of water filters for the exampler KitchenAid.  What I ended up with was “4396841Water Filter Compatible With 4396710, 4396841, EDR3RXD1, Filter 3, P2RWG2, Kenmore 46-9030, Kenmore 9083, Pur Water Filter, 3 PCS. ”

Which means what?  I get a “mental model” started that Pur might have gone to the different manufacturers with their filter system OR on maker behind the scenes is involved.

I don’t know as anyone has ever done the “Prepper’s Definitive Cross-Fitting Parts Encyclopedia” but when you think about it, there are lots of common manufacturer sourced parts:

  • On small has engines, Tecumseh and Briggs & Stratton, along with Honda are pretty common.
  • I’ve got a carburetor replacement project on a gas powered- weed eater and looks like Poulan is merging into Husqvarna…
  • A lot of the riding mowers seem to be based on a Yard Machines…

And on this last example, something tickles the brain and whispered “N o, wasn’t Yard Machines made by MTD?  Which finds this in Wikipedia under MTD:

It originated as a tool and die maker (Modern Tool and Die Company). MTD’s main competitors are Stihl, Ariens, Snapper Inc., John Deere and Husqvarna. Over the years, MTD acquired the Troy-Bilt, Bolens, Cub Cadet, and Yard-Man brands and/or companies.

Fine.  But what about Poulan and Husqvarna?  Well, following the scent we find that Husqvarna has been in the serious “b rand roll-up business” for years:

  • Husqvarna
  • Gardena
  • McCulloch
  • PoulanPro
  • WeedEater
  • Flymo
  • Jonsered
  • Klippo
  • Diamant Boart
  • RedMax
  • HTC

When it comes to DC power systems, I happened to be in that field when an outfit called Xantrex came through the DC inverter business and began to “roll-up” brands.  Among their acquisitions was the company I was working for and the related Heart Interface, but it didn’t stop there.  They also picked up the Trace company.  Memory fails to recall whether StatPower – one of the original high-frequency/sine wave inverters, was part of that or not.

Point is, there’s a whole semi-hidden layer to how modern business works that a prepper needs to be aware of IF they are going to be in the “Fit It” field.

In a lot of ways, I sympathize with Henry Ford’s notion “You can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it is black…

The point is that if humankind were really interesting in controlling climate change and such, we wouldn’t have to do anything but stop wasting 1/3rd of all human effort on MARKETING COMPETING PRODUCTSi.

The money all flows to the same places (Husqvarna if you buy Poulan and Schneider Electric which owns Xantrex) but this is because of one of the huge inefficiencies of modern marketing which is all founded on the idea that “bigger is better.”

And sure, sure, for now it is.

I’ve been shopping for a new 65″ TV for the living room.  And while there are many brands out there, I thought RCA, for example, wasn’t making TV’s anymore?  More likely?  The “long chain business molecule” concept leads us to suspect that RCA TV’s are really made by someone else.

In fact, speaking of televisions, a Consumer Reports article here tells us about RCA as of last summer:

” Over the past decade, the trademark, which stood for Radio Corporation of America, has gone through several TV licensees, including TCL a few years ago, and then On Corporation, a Korean TV manufacturer. The RCA brand in the U.S. is now licensed by Curtis International….”

By the way, hats off to Consumer Reports fort mentioning the use of a warranty-doubling credit card in their article.  Many folks don’t know that trick.

We also like to point out that the “mother lode” of appliance makers is Whirlpool Corporation which makes the following brands:

  • Acros (México)
  • Affresh Washer Cleaners
  • Amana
  • Ariston
  • Bauknecht
  • Brastemp (Brazil)
  • Consul
  • Diqua (China)
  • Estate
  • Gladiator GarageWorks
  • Hefei Sanyo (China)
  • Hotpoint (Europe)
  • Ignis [it]
  • Indesit
  • Inglis
  • Jenn-Air
  • KitchenAid
  • Maytag
  • Polar
  • Privileg
  • Roper
  • Royalstar [zh] (China)
  • Stinol
  • Whirlpool

The recent bankruptcy filing by Sears leaves the future of their Kenmore brand in question.

Do with that info what you will but, over the long haul, there’s a certain appeal of a “root brand.”

In Wednesday’s report, we’ll begin on a couple of simple Fit-It Shop tasks and go through some “process.”  One of them is a Poulan Pro weed eater that needs to be converted into a brush cutter.  So that’s a Husqvarna product. The other is repair of a 17-month old Scepter 55″ television and (almost strangely in today’s globalized world) that’s an American company HQ’ed in the City of Industry (Los Angeles) area.

As the lead-in to these adventures though, it may be worth your time to begin looking who the hidden manufacturers are behind your major product purchases.  The notion is “root maker” products may have better long-term parts availability.

This all assumes the power stays on…Which is why we’re doing the alternative energy design book on the Peoplenomics side of the house.

Ah, the hidden “long chain business/brand molecules” huh?

Write when you get rich,

21 thoughts on “Prepping: Life in the Fix-It Shop”

  1. Many years ago, I was living overseas and driving a Ford LTD around. The control module went bad and I was having a hard time getting it replaced (these were pre-internet days). My local mechanic was creative and found a Mercedes Benz module that worked. Another example of generic parts is the current Tanaka airbag fiasco. Finally, I have a 55″ LG tv that is starting to show some wear and tear on the screen. Did some ‘net research and learned a it was a common problem related to a poorly constructed controller card going bad. Better to replace the card than the whole TV… Also learned that most TV’s have the same parts inside. My point is if one is intrepid enough, and creative enough, and patient enough, one can fix just about anything if a similar spare part is available. Labor costs aren’t a decision factor anymore.

    • …Pickle bucket with some septic tank bacteria in the bottom covers the need quite well –

      Home made septic treatment:

      Boil ½ -gallon of water. Add 2 ½ cups each of sugar and cornmeal. Stir and mix well. Once cooled, add 4 packages of dry yeast. Store in a container with a vented, or loose-fitting lid. To use: Cap and shake treatment. Add 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) to a pickle bucket. Add ½ cup water. UNCAP TREATMENT BEFORE STORING REMAINDER! Cut a round or oval shaped hole in the pickle bucket lid. Toilet is now ready for use. Empty and recharge every 1-2 weeks. If available, a trash bag may be placed inside the bucket to facilitate clean-up.

      Personally, I’d much rather dig a bucket-sized hole, once a month, than dig a barrel-sized hole, once a year…

      • The used bucket sized holes could be reworked into booby traps. Nails & wood to break the ankle & puncture it causing infection thereby protecting the perimiter.

  2. When It All Blows A Gut, and Great Depression Mark Two begins — something I dearly hope will NOT happen; but that’s why I own fire extinguishers — it will quickly become apparent that there will be people who are self-sufficient to some degree, and people who are helpless and hapless without the “support” of people (like me) who DO know How Things Work, and can MAKE things, and even FIX things.

    As a Maker-Fixer (M-F-er), I have a Marketable Skill, that I can trade for whatever passes for “money” during The Great Inconvenience. I can’t fix everything, but I can Make or Fix a LOT of things, and I have a nice inventory of tools of many kinds, and a vast and wonderful Junque Boxx crammed with Useful Parts of all kinds.

    I’ve gone so far as to set up a nice but modest Garage Operation with numerous Ure-approved and identified items. This suits me now as a Home Craftsman and M-F-er, as well as being Ready for When She Blows.

    I’m in an upscale neighborhood where most folks have highly computer-dependent and mostly quite Abstract “jobs” that don’t require or confer any Handy Guy Skills — so, they’re mostly pretty helpless. Many to most are a short walk from here — for when gasoline becomes precious.

    When She Blows, many things that are now “not worth repairing” suddenly WILL be Well Worth Repairing when the source of new replacement items is gone or very, very slow and extremely expensive.

    “Find A Need, And Fill It.” The most classic statement of basic American Entrepreneurship I ever did see.

    Most of Master George’s readers are Skilled Persons as well. His lively and informative scrivenings seem to attract lots of M-Fers…

    You could do this yourself, and help (and profit from) your neighbors when the time comes.

    • Yep. I suspect most of George’s readers have a good background in fixing stuff….It sure would be interesting to see what backgrounds and skills the folks that read Peoplenomics have…maybe George could figure out how to put a regional bulletin board together to identify specific skill sets and backgrounds.

  3. George

    “repair of a 17-month old Scepter 55? television”.

    You might want to check out the EEVblog tutorials on youtube. There’s about a thousand of them now and Dave gets into bringing dead electronics back to life including TV’s.. Very informative and entertaining. He’s a electronics design engineer.

    His explanation of circuit Node analysis took ten minutes and was pure genius. It took my collage professor a week and he did not get the material across to us. Dave simplifies the complex!

    He also has a tutorial on soldering surface mount devices that saved me a ton of effort.

    Good luck on the repair!

  4. I have to agree that being able to fix most things is a super valuable skill, but let’s not forget the skills of the Rake and Ho!

    People need pleasure too.

  5. Hey George, The fix-it repair side of my machine shop / metal fab business has always been a key part of the business and during a down turn it is what kept the doors open over 35yrs and expect it will be that way again soon

  6. Husqvarna you say? They also make the mower deck parts for craftsman lawn tractors. Some of the poorest quality metal i’ve encountered. Replaced many mandrell housings and bearings which of course means pulling off the deck over and over for more fun times. Two thumbs waaaay down!8(
    I also love to mercilessly bash gates water pumps and moog ball joints.
    2 formerly great brands that are now just more chinese junk. Buy made in Japan whenever possible! No more gates for me so bando or mitsuboshi for timing belts and aisin or npw for water pumps. Here’s a good but dated guide to quality aftermarket auto parts manufacturers, some are now on the chinese junk lists so do your research.Special shout out to denso for great quality parts!

    also check rockauto for parts and look for the little red hearts (user favorites)
    then head over to ebay and (sometimes) get it cheaper.

    • Husky has three product tiers. Their top-shelf stuff is still made in Sweden. I don’t believe MTD messed with that production (although TBH, the Swedes might be sourcing bearings from China now, since it seems everyone else is.) Their 2nd and 3rd tier stuff is MTD product with a badge job. The mid-level stuff is made in the U.S., using mostly American, Japanese, and Taiwanese parts. The garbage is made in China, using Chinese parts. There is virtually no non-cosmetic difference between a box-store Husky riding mower, and a Simplicity, Craftsman, Wheel Horse, MTD Pro, John Deere, or Snapper, other than the perceived value or snob appeal to the purchaser.

      …Sorry to hear that about Moog.

      Gates was the Gold Standard in power transmission belts, forfrickinEVER! Then they opened the factory in China. A new Gates V-belt or serpentine bent squeals. It will squeal for years, until it breaks or wears out, irrespective of its tension or how-frequently it is dressed. Goodyear came out with “quiet-tech,” then sold their belt manufacturing off to Continental. A Conti “Quiet Tech” belt will squeal for a few hours, then run quiet for the remainder of its lifespan — AFAIK the only automotive belts which still run quiet.

      Timken and NSK are still manufactured in the U.S. You’ll not find them at a dealer or parts store, unless they have some NOS laying around. You have to pull the manufacturer’s part number off the bearing, then cross it to Timken, then purchase (often order) your bearing from a supplier like “Bearings, Inc.” or “Grainger,” to get a bearing that’ll outlast its grease. Expect the longevity of the bearing to more-than-make-up for its premium price.

      Some Aisin is made in Japan. Some is now made in China…

  7. Whirlpool is the principal (but far from only) manufacturer for Kenmore’s major appliance line — ‘Thing is, Kenmore stuff is proprietary. The flow valves for an Amana, Maytag, Speed Queen, Westinghouse, or Whirlpool washing machine are interchangeable (bracket may require removal and remounting.) The valve for a Kenmore washer looks the same, but is a totally different critter, and not interchangeable.

    MTD bought Poulan, Homelite, and McCulloch many years ago. They have acquired Husqvarna, Wheel Horse, Simplicity, Troy Bilt, Jonsered, and Snapper (and a dozen others) over the past 10 years or so.

    John Deere runs two entirely separate lines of L&G tractors — One line built by JD (prices start ~$6k and go up quickly) and a second line, built by MTD and sold in box stores (prices start at ~$1600-$1700 at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.) Snapper, Simplicity, and Wheel Horse used to do this also (and also used MTD as their “consumer product line” manufacturer)… Dunno if any of them still do.

    New (and old) gas tools use B&S, Kohler, and Honda engines, but they also use Onan, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Yanmar engines.

    Most small engines use Tillotson carburetors, or Tillotson clones (Honda.) Perfectly acceptable carb gaskets can be carved from common poster board. Not worth it in a “time vs. money” world, but an essential bit of knowledge in a “time vs. unobtanium” world…

  8. One skill that’s not been mentioned is setting up perimeter alarms and defenses. This includes cameras, of course, and also deterrents of all kinds, monitoring, intrusion attempt proof with time stamp/identification, and armed response/capture. This is already a growing field and will continue. When things can’t be replaced, they can’t be lost to thieves either. I suspect that thievery and wanton destruction will become much more serious crimes when we have less to steal.

    • NM Mike: During the siege period, bear traps planted around the home would be a good deterent. They can be reused & would provide serious enough damage to make the prowlers rethink attacking your camp.

    • Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.

      –George S Patton

      The only way to defend your turf against invasion is to make it look like there’s no reason to invade your turf.

      You shouldn’t be close enough to a population center that a band of outlaws or miscreants is an everyday concern. If it’s an issue now, should the SHTF, it’ll be a daily occurrence until you leave, or die.

      In a grid-down hack, alt-power will keep your eyes open, but bear in-mind while some isolated, insulated, and shielded electronics may survive an EMP,

      no security cameras or electronic monitoring devices will.

      A CMOS or CCD device on the end of an antenna (or hardwired, which for this circumstance is the same thing) has no chance of survival of an electromagnetic pulse.

      If your position is known and flight is impractical, best defense is improvised, lethal booby traps. The best study primer is probably a military or MIL-type publication on Vietnam-era traps. That’s just a guess. I haven’t studied booby traps, because I believe if someone thinks you have stuff that’s worth taking, eventually they will take it, regardless any defensive posture you assume; and the more-difficult your stuff is to take, the more perceived value it will have to the people who’re trying to take it.

      Do you remember the “Theme from Billy Jack?” The song by “Coven,” not the movie? Recall the lines:

      “Now they stood before the treasure
      On the mountain dark and red
      Turned the stone and looked beneath it
      Peace on earth, was all it said.”

      Your stuff can be completely worthless, to everyone except you, but if you defend it against a mob, every time you’re successful, the imaginations of those endeavoring to separate it from you, will assign an ever-more unreasonable value to it, until they actually come at you with enough bodies and materiel to acquire it.

      This is why I favor “invisibility” over “defense…”

      • Ure begs to differ on the EMP effects. For one, the EMP effect is broadly misunderstood by aqll but radio engineers. The main things is that the peak pulse amplitudes mainly in the 0.1 to MHz range
        This means the size of the “transients” will be related principally to antenna length. That’s why the power grid is so much at risk long lines.
        On the other hand, I’ve seen some estimates, based on testing, that up to 93 percent of cars will still function.
        Until they run out of gas and there is no grid, ergo, no uplift done by pumps at service stations. There is more – a lot more – on the emp front, but it’s not in the public domain.

      • On EMP, I figure “better safe than blind”

        Which is why I have a second set of cams tucked away in a Faraday cage ;-)

        However, you don’t dispute the remainder of my post…?

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