Is Penny Wisdom Plain Foolish?

I spent an hour this evening fixing an appliance that I bought at a yard sale many years ago for a coin. Not only that, but I solely and regularly use this appliance for my daily work. You may wonder how I use a potpourri crock pot for my work? As the heater part of a small double boiler for an etchant that can eat through glass or titanium, of course.

And what can go wrong with a crock pot? Well, this one has been dropped a couple of times. But the crack was dealt with well enough some years ago by a liberal application of Acrylic monomer (Super Glue).

So what was wrong? The crack had weakened the heating element (Ni-chrome filament) and it finally burned through. So I took the thing apart and spliced in a bit of fine brass wire that I had lying around. That delicate job was the easy part, given strong magnifying goggles and tiny tools.

But these diabolical inexpensive units are designed to not-be reassembled. They had actually added an extra part to the design to make reassembly impossible. It took me over a half hour to outwit the designers and get the base re-attached in a manner that would let me take it apart again for future repairs.

For a dozen deductible dollars I can have a new one delivered to my house via eBay. Why do I regularly chose to spend so much time to repair disposable appliances?

My parents both went through economic times much worse than the U.S. Depression, losing nearly everything but their lives. They raised me with essential parsimony. Not actual deprivation, mind you. Just a frugal mindset that pervades my being. I hate to throw anything usable away.

But now I have predictable (if meager) income, and no debt. I have money in the bank, and could afford nice things. But it just feels wasteful to throw away something that I can fix. I mentioned this in “How Does a Microwave Work?

Things I no longer need may end up on eBay. I usually net less than minimum wage for my time on most of these sales. But the widget/parts/book gets a new life with someone who really wants it, and the post office makes some money.

So the object at hand today is the realization that I am an oddball tinker living in a throw-away society, illustrated by a stripped-down 4″ crock pot.

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