Repair Clark County to help fix broken household items

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Pat Kagi inspects a vintage radio in need of repair at the ReTails Thrift Store in Vancouver on Friday, Nov. 8. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

“Get around to it” piles happen to the best of us. These are the boxes and bags we keep in our garages, basements and attics that are filled with broken necklaces we meant to repair, dull knives we meant to sharpen and antique gadgets we meant to take to an expert to see if they’re worth keeping.

Fortunately for Clark County residents, the Columbia Springs’ Repair Clark County program is here to help.

On Saturday, the countywide repair group, which includes almost 180 volunteers armed with a bevy of knowledge about how to repair everything from bicycles to vintage toasters, will host a free, two-hour event at the Camas Public Library.

The public can bring broken household items to be diagnosed and, often, fixed for free.

“The goal is to serve the community and conserve resources,” says Repair Clark County coordinator Terra Heilman. “We have a pretty good success rate. About 85 percent of the items people bring to these events (are able to be repaired).”

The Repair Clark County Camas event will run from noon to 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Camas library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas.

Members of the public can bring knives and other blades in need of sharpening, sewing projects, broken jewelry, bicycles in need of repair and antique or modern household appliances and electronics. Volunteers will diagnose the repair problem and attempt to repair the items during the event.

The Camas event will also offer testing for tube-containing antiques such as vintage radios. That addition is thanks to “fixers” from the Northwest Vintage Radio Society, who came to the last event hosted by Repair Clark County in Battle Ground.

“It was so successful, we’ve invited them back to our last event of the year,” Heilman said of the vintage radio society.

Many people who come to the Repair Clark County events bring items that have sentimental value, Heilman said.

“If we can help someone with a sentimental item, that’s great,” she said. “It means resources that won’t be trashed, and we had a part in preserving the history and story of the piece.”

Preserving usable objects that also have great visual appeal is what drew Pat Kagi to the Northwest Vintage Radio Society. Kagi, the Society’s current president, bought his first vintage radio in 1996, and has been hooked ever since.

“I was working for a bank then and an older gentleman sold it to me for $10. I still have it,” Kagi said of his first vintage radio, a 1930s Zenith Tombstone.

“When I look at these radios I see so much effort and detail that went into making them,” Kagi said.

Kagi and Heilman both say they hate to see the classic radios and other vintage household items go to the landfill when there’s a chance to clean them up, repair their broken tubes or motors and bring them back to life.

Recently, the duo teamed up to help test and repair donated vintage radios and record players at the ReTails Thrift Shop in Vancouver, which benefits the animals at the Humane Society of Southwest Washington.

Volunteers from Repair Clark County test appliances and electronics for the thrift shop, but Kagi specializes in fixing the vintage radios. On a recent sunny Friday, he and Heilman pointed out several radios Kagi had repaired — including a 1953 Philco Transitone and a 1954 bakelite Trav-Ler — that will soon be sold at the ReTails store.

Although two hours isn’t typically long enough to actually repair these types of vintage tube items at the Repair Clark County events, Kagi said he and his Vintage Radio Society peers help event-goers understand if their vintage radio can be fixed and, if not, what it might need to be repaired and who might be able to help fix it.

“What better way to start enjoying your family’s treasured radio than to bring it to the repair clinic where we can test it for you?” Kagi said. “We will safely test and diagnose your radio or other vintage item and try to isolate the problem area. Our goal is to get the radio up and running again, but if the problem is not solved during the event, we will refer you to a qualified radio technician.”

Sometimes that’s what event participants are looking for, anyway, Heilman added.

“Some people bring something they’ve had in their garage for years and they just want to know if it’s worth keeping (and repairing) or if they can finally let it go,” she said.

Items not accepted at the repair event are those too large or too heavy for one person to carry; microwaves; large appliances like stoves or freezers; chainsaws; lawnmowers; and items that are deemed too dangerous, dirty or that are leaking fluids or have a strong odor.

For more information about Repair Clark County, visit To learn more about the Northwest Vintage Radio Society, visit