I Make a New One
September 14, 2020 3:41 AM   Subscribe

If you've watched any restoration videos on YouTube, you'll have seen a lot of rusty parts being dipped in paint stripper before reassembly. But have you seen home-sand-blasting, spot-welding, and meticulous recreation of individual screws and springs from scratch, until each antique piece of junk looks newer than new? My Mechanics is the Swiss master of mechanical restoration, with hours of calming viewing: Oil lamp. Ox-tongue iron. Kitchen scale. Ratchet screwdriver. Broken rusty lock with missing key. He also has a separate channel about how he does it, an Instagram page, Twitter feed, and a nice line of T-shirts.
posted by rory (30 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Spot on with the title. I've been watching these for a while now. They're a nice antidote to a disposable culture, although it's maybe more wasteful to restore these things (and paint them black - almost always black) than it would be to just recycle the metal. I can't imagine spending as much time as that restoring what are sometimes just cheap things. I want that screwdriver, though.
posted by pipeski at 4:04 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

My Mechanics is need awesome an channel, and the person behind it is talented both in machining/fabrication/repair and in video making. It's a great way to unwind.

Unfortunately the restoration genre is also rife with frauds, especially in the technology category. I subscribe to several channels that repair old game consoles and computers - cleaning up battery corrosion, replacing capacitors and ICs, brightening the plastics etc - and a lot of the recommended related videos are fake. By that I mean that they misrepresent the order things are done, or swap in replacement parts when claiming to be cleaning, or just flat out bathe the final repaired item in saltwater until it rusts and then claim that's something they found at the side of the road and are now going to start to repair.

It's a shame that a lot of the "incredible" repairs on YouTube are indeed "not credible". But once you develop a healthy BS detector it's a really cathartic niche to explore, especially this year. And I can't think of a better place to start than My Mechanics.
posted by samworm at 4:11 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've been watching his channel for a long time. There's a wonderful moment of frisson in most videos after he shows us a really knackered part and the caption "I make a new one" comes up. You know you're in for a treat.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:14 AM on September 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Why do I never read the post title until after I comment?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:16 AM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Reminds me a bit of Uri Tuchman's channel where he does a lot of engraving and metal fabrication, and some painting, and also of Claude Paillard's video of making vacuum tubes from scratch, though neither of these channel's have to to with restoring things.
posted by smcameron at 4:19 AM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

There's also TysyTube, they're actually friends, but Tysy's restorations aren't as awesome. The channels I most associate with My Mechanics (aside from the above-mentioned Uri, who has been featured on Mefi) are Plasmo because of his absolute mastery and Torbjörn Åhman and Stavros Gakos because of their commitment to silent work.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:37 AM on September 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

These have been mentioned in past threads about take-an-old-thing-and-make-it-like-new YT, but:

Baumgartner Restoration - fine art
Dashner Design & Restoration - mid-century furniture
Will Matthews - random restorations, hasn't posted in awhile
Working Wooden Planes - wood planes

ASMR adjacent channels:

Clickspring - builds intricate mechanical devices from scratch
Joint Ventures - dozens of increasingly complex wood joints
posted by gwint at 6:03 AM on September 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

See also The Repair Shop
posted by BWA at 6:04 AM on September 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

I love this guy. We got to his videos of of Baumgartner (I guess youtube didn't have any Nazi restoration experts to recommend) and have been making our way through them. We both find them really relaxing and sometimes use them to help fall asleep. I didn't know about the second channel, this is fantastic.

His making new things is also fantastic. I love the solid metal 8 ball and my favorite is turning a large metal bolt into a combination lock.

I haven't done any real crafting in ages and this makes me want to learn some new stuff. I think those are post-pandemic and probably post-NYC goals though.
posted by Hactar at 6:47 AM on September 14, 2020

Watching him make that little steel ball in the screwdriver video was so...eye-opening? I mean, I have definitely not given much thought to how one might fabricate a sphere out of metal at home, but that is just not how I would have envisioned it!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 6:54 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

The screwdriver video was really interesting. I always have the same questions when this kind of video is linked here about the cost of setting up that kind of workshop and the amount of time the fabrication and video-making would take, but regardless, I appreciate watching the result.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 AM on September 14, 2020

I love Restoration Tube, and follow a curated list of channels. Some of these are new to me. Nobody has mentioned Rescue & Restore yet -- they specialise in old metal toys (and powder coats!! I love the powder coats). I also like Hand Tool Rescue and Dies In Every Film Customs, two completely different beardy men.

I am very unlikely ever to have this much specialised equipment at my disposal. Watching someone else use it (and deal with the mess) lets me enjoy it vicariously.

I wonder what happens to all the metal scraps from the machining process. I assume it all gets collected and recycled, but I experience mild anxiety whenever I see a huge block of steel whittled down to a toothpick.
posted by confluency at 8:06 AM on September 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

He remakes so many of the parts that are damaged, I was having a “Ship of Theseus” moment in a couple of his videos.
posted by cazoo at 8:15 AM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't have a link but if you like this you'll love LADB Restoration, a French man who restores large winemaking and agriculture tools, who also has an adorable cat named Avril who frequently appears in videos.
posted by panhopticon at 8:21 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love this channel!
posted by ellieBOA at 8:54 AM on September 14, 2020

Restoring and old, rusted Soviet anvil. I swear this is like magic to me.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:56 AM on September 14, 2020

Ooh, since nobody mentioned his channel yet, a lot of The Post Apocalyptic Inventor's most popular videos are restorations of stuff from junkyards. To appease his "German soul," even the power tools get washed and scrubbed down, with soothing Westphalian-accented narration.

Because he's based in the classic rust-belt of West Germany, he'll often get some lovely blacksmithing or 19th-century tools which are still functional and lovely, and used sometimes to repair other parts.

There's something soothing about a fellow who just has to scrub down a janky old angle grinder, even if it was already working right.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:02 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

ooh, Grimpteuthis just mentioned my other favorite channel, Great Idea.

When they got it right, the Soviets had some of the most amazing mechanical devices, and they are a joy to watch. I like the chainsaw restoration.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite genres of YouTube! Lots of good recommendations above. Another favorite restoration channel is Thomas Johnson Antique Furniture Restoration. One difference between him and other restorers (aside from the fact that he works in wood, not metal) is that he is always conscious of maintaining as much of the object's authenticity as possible. It's interesting to see the choices he makes to that end.
posted by odin53 at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm playing Satisfactory at the moment, and watching the screwdriver video was great fun, in that context.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:53 AM on September 14, 2020

MM is fantastic, and his Patreon is highly recommended for hours and hours more content-- I ripped through his back-catalog in a week about 6 months ago and haven't been as productive since.
posted by supercres at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2020

I like the chainsaw restoration .

The restoration is neat to watch. But I can't quite figure out the chainsaw itself -- it looks like someone bolted the handles from a rototiller to a folding chainsaw. (The before version seems to have some kind of tank hanging off the bottom, too.) The ergonomics make no sense to me except for certain kinds of vertical cuts like what he shows at the end of the video, and even that looks awkward -- I don't see how you could cut a tree down with this, or any other kind of horizontal or angled cut, and it looks tiring to use. (I also wonder about how well you could control kickback, but older traditional chainsaws also had zero safety features back then.)
posted by Dip Flash at 2:52 PM on September 14, 2020

All early chainsaws are terrifying, both ergonomically and in the (total lack of) safety features.

Also, either for original weighty design concerns, or out of some skeuomorphy of the two-man buck saw it replaced, all of the original chainsaws for wood that I know of were also two-man saws. All of the early one-man saws...I swear, they're still two-man designs, with the second handle taken off. The rototiller-style handles are less terrifying than some other designs I've seen, that practically put your second hand support INSIDE the bar.

There are definitely some triumphs of utter contempt for the end-user in Soviet design, but I don't think this is one of those victories. I am also baffled as to what its narrow use-case is, though.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:11 PM on September 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

although it's maybe more wasteful to restore these things (and paint them black - almost always black) than it would be to just recycle the metal

Sounds like you might enjoy bigstackD.
posted by The Tensor at 3:57 PM on September 14, 2020

I see Thomas Johnson Furniture Restoration, in Gorham... Maine. has already been mentioned. Great channel, the b-roll of the cats/dogs/farm/wild animals at the beginning/end of each episode make it worth watching even if you aren't into meticulous restoration of very old/brittle furniture.

If you're into stringed instruments I'd recommend Ted Woodford who gets in a great variety of broken guitars and other luthiery projects and always does top notch repairs.
posted by mcrandello at 3:58 PM on September 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

My mentor has been a jeweler for his entire adult life. Not a jeweler who will sell you a diamond ring at a shop in The MallTM but instead a jeweler who makes beautiful things, of any/all types of metal. He has for the past 40 years had a teaching studio also, shut down now for COVID19. The number of people ahead of you to get into his classes probably will last longer than he is alive -- he's 72 now, or 73. He is An Artist.TM

All of his life he has had muscle cars, and motorcycles. He has always worked on his own vehicles, laying in the yard underneath them before he and his wife came into their family money, now in a fantastic garage custom built on a lot just down the street from their house. As the years has spun past, he has become more and more a jeweler when working on his cars and motorcycles, and then when building his cars and motorcycles. When he starts in on a 40 or 50 or 80 year old car or truck or bike it will show that it is 40 or 50 or 80 years old. Step by meticulous step, he disassembles these vehicles and then begins, bit by bit, inch by inch, cutting out any rust, sanding out any rust strong enough that it doesn't need to be cut out, fabricating small bits of metal and welding them in place of the bits he has cut out. This is not only on any piece that anyone will ever see but also in some corner of the trunk, underneath a seat, in a wheel well. All of this he approaches with the same care and talent that he puts into a beautiful ring which he makes for his wife, or the light fixture he created for over their dining room table, to the thousands of bits of tile he designed and cut and installed in his bathroom.

He is insane.

I came up in a construction family, worked in the trades for decades starting age 13 all the way until my back and neck totally gave out, mid 30s, arthritis -- you should see the xrays. I still have many of my tools, and break them out as needed. I am not an artist. I'm probably not even a master. But I am absolutely a journeyman. I can do what needs done and I can do it well and mostly reasonably fast. When I was running work I always ended up building things that needed total attention to detail. If you worked on my crew you were not going to fuck up and if you did you were going to go back and fix it. I have built supermarkets, high-rises, this one insanely detailed dress shop in a mall in Houston, I built Willie Nelson's nightclub. I built all kinds of stuff. A bank. On and on. All of these jobs demanded, and received, a willingness and ability to build things correctly.

Bob calls me a butcher.

He is insane.

I won't work with him anymore, hardly at all. This suits us both.

But I can appreciate him. And I do appreciate him. I have seen him do things that are Not Possible. I have seen him create absolutely gorgeous things, and many of them. He made himself a pocket knife, out of stainless steel, with many replications of 1957 Chevrolet parts. It is spectacular. If you're bopping around Austin, you'll maybe see him in his 1934 Ford pickup truck, chopped and channeled, every piece of that truck exactly as his vision saw it. It is spectacular. Maybe you'll see him in his 1957 Chevrolet, which is taken off of the 1957 Chevrolet frame and mounted instead upon a 1994 Corvette frame, it handles every bit as well as a Corvette, it had a fire breathing custom built big block Chevy motor coupled to a five speed Chrysler transmission, much of the dash is from a 1956 Chevrolet rather than the 1957, because he likes that more, and because he is insane. He has 5 Harley Davidson motorcycles, one Indian motorcycle, they are all flawless. One of the Harley's, a sportster, is a gift from his parents on his 18th birthday. I've seen it painted in a number of colors. It's really a nice bike. If it wasn't really a nice bike, it would be a nice bike soon, being as it is in Bob's garage.

Bob dresses cool. He acts cool. He is cool. He got out of going to Vietnam, where many of his friends died, he got out of going because of the tracks on his arms. He has told me that heroin is as warm and loving as any woman could ever be, and for a person such as himself it was just seductive as hell but you see fast that it's all a lie. Which doesn't mean you can kick it but you can see it. He was the kind of junkie who, his hands cuffed behind his back, would look at the cops and call them cocksuckers, which never ended well for him. He moved to Mexico young, began his life as a jeweler there in a city he still goes back to, rode there on that sportster. He kicked his heroin addiction by embracing alcoholism. He began his road into recovery in some of those horses-ass encounter groups in California while he was living on Neil Young's property, apparently a lot of low rent places there at that time.

I know I'm lucky to be his friend.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

If this guy's so great why doesn't he restore the button on his sandblasting machine

His inspired response is on the Antique Kitchen Scale video.
posted by rory at 4:02 AM on September 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

The kitchen scale video was really lovely. I particularly enjoyed how many other restored tools he used to make it. I think I watched him restore that metal cutter months ago and now it works like a dream for him. Thanks for this!
posted by macrael at 6:17 AM on September 15, 2020

Next restoration? "A subscriber sent me this Antikythera mechanism..."

(I have spent way too much time watching these - it is fascinating!)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:41 AM on September 16, 2020

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