Unscrewed by Ed Sobey

Energy & Sustainability Workshop
Unscrewed by Ed Sobey

Every time I see some great mechanical, hydraulic, or electromechanical contraption left by the side of the curb for trash, I think about all of the great raw materials inside that I could use. Ed Sobey’s new book, Unscrewed, gives sage advice regarding how to mine the gold in them thar heaps of broken appliances.

For example, I have three ink-jet printers cluttering my basement that I no longer have a use for. According to Sobey’s book, there’s all sorts of good stuff inside –- motors, gears, pulleys, and so forth. Of course that much I already knew. The useful thing about Unscrewed is the advice it provides regarding liberating them for reuse.

Once the part is out, it’s up to you as to what to do with it. According to Sobey:

An old flatbed scanner can be used to build a desk lamp; a DustBuster impeller can be converted to quickly prep a charcoal grill; and the gears, rollers, and stepper motor found in an ink-jet printer can become a robot. The pump from a motorized bubble gun can be refitted to work as a fountain or a pump to irrigate your indoor plants.

Of course, just about anything could go into a kinetic sculpture (the last resort for using something cool that just doesn’t have any practical use). Unscrewed is about taking old stuff, reducing it to raw materials, and recycling it into new projects. The wheel of mechanical life turns round n’ round.

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William Gurstelle

William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

View more articles by William Gurstelle


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