Some of our volunteers

Some of our volunteers

06 January 2024

January 2024 - BBC Radio Solent Interviews at our December 2023 event

 BBC Radio Solent Interviews at our December 2023 Event

Both volunteers and visitors had a surprise when they were interviewed by BBC Radio Solent’s Annie at our December 9 2023 event. Here are a few ‘soundbytes’ from those interviews.

Ros, you are in your Christmas get-up and I can see that a lot of other people are as well.  I am in my Mummy Christmas outfit with my halo on…. Sometimes, you don’t have to give new. You can give someone a lovely present by getting something repaired for them, something that they treasure.

I’m Dave I’ve got a Santa that needs fixing. How long have you had the Santa? It doesn’t look like the newest thing. It got it from my Grandad. It’s 20-30 years old. It sings “Jinglebell Rock” and shakes its hips. But not at the moment. If we get him undressed... Cover your eyes. <John> We’ve got to get to the circuitry now. Take the feet off. We’ve got to undress him a little bit unfortunately. Fingers crossed… Father Christmas has got his trousers down and his back open. What’s happening now? We are just trying to fault find. We’ve got power to the unit. We are just trying to see where the circuit has got power. It might be a little cable. The test is to take the whole thing apart.

I’m Victoria, I live in Weymouth and I’ve bought a bear to be repaired. Rose, one of my daughters was poorly in hospital and she got the bear as a present to help her through the time that she was not feeling very well. He’s lost his voice so he can’t speak any more and he used to sing. His name is Bingo Bear. It’s probably our fault. We’ve torn something apart and it needs soldering. Hopefully, he’ll sing again.

Kevin here looks like he’s doing a fantastic job. How did you get into fixing stuff like this? I am actually a military aircraft designer. I’ve been designing fighter aircraft since 1976. I helped to design the Eurofighter, ejection sheets, NASA, Boeing aircraft, in-flight refuelling … so engineering has been my whole life. So this is a piece of cake compared to what you have been doing before. 😊

My name is Tara Charlton. I’m hoping to get a Christmas decoration fixed – the battery-operated motor part of the snowman. I think I’ve had it about 8-9 years. When you switch it on it lightsup. It’s just nostalgia for me. My boys were quite young when I first bought it and they loved it. That is very quick. I’m delighted. He’s mended it. It’s got a new elastic band on. That’s brilliant. Are you pleased Mike? I am pleased. I hate it when bits of technology do not come apart in a nice easy manner. So where is it going to go now that you’ve got it fixed and ready? It sounds really odd but it’s going in my little window sill in my kitchen so when I’m doing my boring dishes, which I hate, I’ve got something really nice to look at going round. 😊

I’m Phil from the Repair Café. It might only be something small and ‘tat’ to somebody else but to them, it’s either from a loved one or someone who has passed away and it’s a memory of them. It’s about watching their reaction once you either press a button or wind it up or whatever you do to it. In fact, it’s making me a bit emotional just thinking about what I have seen through this. I just think that’s a great feeling to give that to somebody. 💚

Ros Dean

6 January 2024

15 September 2022

June to September 2022 Juke Box Restoration Project

 I keep saying that we are a Repair Cafe, not The Repair Shop. But we broke our “40 minute” limit yet again. 

 Our visitors had travelled from Wimbourne to our June 2022 event, bearing 2 printed circuit boards from their Juke Box. Some of our electronics repairers said that they couldn’t do anything without a circuit diagram and I think they needed the rest of the juke box too. But we have a wizard called Robert who likes to tackle the tricky jobs in his electronics workshop at home.
The owners tell their story:

“The jukebox was my husband’s late parents’. We had many memorable evenings, dancing & singing. Eventually, like everything, it didn’t work anymore. We tried so-called experts in the field but with no joy. I came across the Repair Cafe through the Martin Lewis website. We decided to give it a go. We had nothing to lose. As the next step was sadly going to be landfill, we had exhausted all other possibilities.

We transported the heavy jukebox to Robert’s home address, where he worked wonders on it. They don’t make a Rowe-Ami R-82 jukebox any more and parts are far and few between, if any at all. He made his own memory board and wrote his own program, sent off to China for parts, he took the grille off to paint, removed the old rotted foam and replaced the broken glass on the selection display, Robert even did an ultrasonic clean on the old classic records.

Robert kept us updated on the progress every week.

We cannot thank Robert enough, he went above and beyond, and we are so very grateful to everyone involved. He saved this huge piece of memorabilia from landfill and prevented hazardous substances from leaking out and causing soil and water contamination, harming wildlife and human health.

Once again thank you so much to Robert, Ros and Repair Cafe Weymouth

 ' The Collins'.”

What did Robert get out of it? A real sense of achievement. He produced a one-page summary of the work he did on it. It includes things like:

List of work done on Juke box  “Tried and failed to repair the Memory Unit. It plays sequences such as 130, 131, 140, 141, 150 etc and eventually it plays the selected record when the magazine gets to it. Concluded Z704 (H-7407B) is faulty. This IC (integrated circuit?) is obsolete and unobtainable. Designed new Memory Unit including software. This new board uses a PIC16F723A micro controller instead of the H-7407B.”


There’s a lot more on the list and it wasn’t all electronics. For example,  “Bottom base speaker grille was very rusty. Rubbed down and painted black. Rotted foam cleaned out. Broken glass panel replaced with acrylic panel.”

How much did it cost? A donation to Repair Cafe Weymouth. We do not charge for our services.

 *** Why did he do it? I think, because he can. ***

There are 2453 Repair Cafes throughout the world. You can find the location of one near you here:


10 May 2022

March - May 2022 Carol’s Leather gunbelt repair

As event organiser, I don’t often get the chance to do any repairs. In the absence of Carol, our leather expert, at our March event, I agreed to repair this thick leather gunbelt. It comes complete with holster and ammo slots and its owner tells us that he does wear it sometimes. This is our Judy modelling it before the repair.

I took it home but when I carefully read his description of the work to be done, I realised that he didn’t want the lining glued onto the belt as it was now, but he wanted it stitched around the whole very long length of the belt.

Carol jumped at the challenge but didn’t realise what a long job it would be. Ros


I volunteered to take a look at a leather holster belt. Usually, I try to repair items as they were originally. In this case it had not been sewn before but I agreed to do it.

The first thing to do was to inspect it fully. The belt itself was made of vegetable tanned leather and had some tooling patterns. The lining looked like a later addition in chrome tanned leather. This type of leather has a grey core and cannot be tooled. It had been attached most recently with some sort of rubber cement. I pulled it apart and cleaned off as much rubber cement as possible, ready for re- gluing with some water based leather bond. I had to clamp the length of the belt while this dried.

The next step was to mark where the holes would be. Luckily there was already a handy tooled groove along which I would place the stitches. 

A stitch marking wheel.

I chose this spacing as it was the same as the existing stitches around the holster. I tested a small piece of the holster stitching thread and found it was a man-made thread so I matched that in the rest of the stitching, using a 1mm wide braided polyester thread. 

I did not have a diamond chisel (a quicker method as you can do about 6 holes in one go) in this wide spacing so had to pierce each of the 427 stitches by hand with a diamond awl. When stitching, you don’t actually punch out holes as they would stay open, you pierce the leather which then can close up again around the thread and look much neater.

This took a while as you can imagine as the two layers of leather together were 6mm thick. I then clamped the belt in my hand made stitching pony, threaded a needle onto each end of the first length of thread and started saddle stitching. This is a strong stitch which holds even if a stitch on one side breaks.

Each 60cms of stitches took 2m of thread and took about a hour. Once the whole thing was finished, I cut down the lining leather where it overlapped the upper part, sanded the edges to remove any remaining glue and coloured the revealed grey chrome leather with brown dye

The finished article:



Carol, you are amazing!

25 April 2022

April 2022 Short Staffed

 It was a week before Easter. Many of our volunteers had family commitments, or were unwell and some had tested positive for Covid. We self-tested before the event. With the aid of one new Electronics volunteer, two new sewing volunteers, and two Mechanical volunteers who had only performed at one or two previous events, we had just enough repairers. But we did not have enough organisational volunteers.

In the café area, we had no experienced ‘Meet-and-Greeters’. One of our sewing volunteers who had resigned due to other commitments, came back to help in an unfamiliar role and our Technical Triage volunteer Rob, had to help people to fill in forms. The wife of a new repairer offered to help too and somehow, we had just enough. We usually have about 7 in the meet-and-greet/ Triage roles.

We usually had 4 Team Runners. We had 2. Bernie and Judy are very experienced in looking after teams of volunteers and allocating the jobs and they coped admirably. On Reception, we usually have one person to check the forms and complete missing details and one to receive donations by cash or card and record items taken for home repair by our repairers. Jane did it all.

What a team!

Luckily, we had a similar reduction in the number of visitors and thus repairs.

A memorable repair was that of Kota the animatronic triceratops, brought in by our good friend Nigel of the Palm House. The battery contacts were very rusty. Nigel was really hoping that we could get Kota working again for Dinosaur week at the Palm House in early May. John managed to de-rust them and Kota lives to entertain children again. 

People often ask me if I watch the ‘Repair Shop’ on TV. I don’t. It is fascinating to see the end result of a restoration but so frustrating that they do not focus on the techniques, tools and materials used. They seem to focus on the emotional rection of the visitor when they see the finished item, with a long pause as they wait for the tears, We had a ‘Repair Shop moment’ when a musical box was repaired. It just needed a good clean. The lady owner told us that it was the first gift that her father ever bought for her mother. He had passed away last year. This was the first time she had heard it play in many years. As her husband gave her shoulders a squeeze and I heard the tremor in her voice, a tingle went up my spine. 

We had a few failed repairs that were due to planned obsolescence. It was impossible to open the item without breaking the outer cover. The ‘Right to Repair’ only applies to a small category of appliances at the moment. Hopefully, in future, it will be extended to cover small domestic appliances. We enter the data from our forms into the RepairMonitor system used by Repair Cafes all over the world. Analysis of that data gives the insight needed to lobby manufacturers to improve repairability. We do need Model number and age of the item on the forms to help with that please. 😊

 Ros Dean 


30 March 2022

March 2022 Our first event in 2 years, Top Club and £860 for Ukraine

 March 2022 Our First event in 2 years, Top Club and £860 for Ukraine

 After 2 years in Coronavirus pandemic, we still needed to find much bigger premises, where both our visitors and volunteers could be well-spaced and feel safe. We had found Top Club 6 months previously but it took a few months to get permission from Dorset Council to use a room at their premises that is used once a week by Childrens’ Services and is not normally available for hire. That gave us 2 big rooms with lots of power points for repairs and a café area, outside seating and a free car park. Fantastic!

Would people be able to find Top Club? Our previous location at the Palm House was an iconic landmark and central. We had 1400 followers on Facebook but we needed to appeal to new audiences. The Dorset Echo published a short article and BBC Radio Solent and Keep 106 radio helped to spread the word.

We had a lost a few volunteers who had become involved with other activities, or moved away or were still being cautious about venturing into potentially crowded places. We recruited new ones, glued the new address onto posters, flyers and business cards, got as much publicity as we could and we were thrilled to have our first event at Top Club on Saturday 12 March.

At first, it looked like we were not going to be busy but we quickly dismissed that idea. Both visitors and volunteers had been saving up their repairs for 2 years. All our repairers were kept busy. We saw vacuum cleaners, record players, computer gaming devices, garden shears and secateurs for sharpening, lawn mowers, lamps, toasters, clocks, bread-makers, a laptop, drill, garden statue, jewellery, music box, curtains, remote control car, sewing machine, leather sofa cushion cover, jeans, tent, bag, tent, ornaments etc.


We fixed a Dansette radio from the 1950’s.


One of our electronics repairers, Robert, prefers to fix things in his workshop at home. Most of my repairs went to Robert. J


A  lady brought in 2 lampshades with holes in them.

Phil can work magic. He glued the missing piece in to the Tiffany lampshade and rebuilt the missing piece in the acrylic lampshade with superglue. The photos show work in progress prior to the polishing stage.


Carol wasn’t at the event but she gleefully agreed to work on a Western leather gunbelt, complete with holster and bullet loops. 

The lining leather is glued on and the owner would like it stitched. Carol has a diamond tipped awl and a template to make the holes evenly all the way around the thick leather belt. She will sew it by hand and clean the belt with a home-made leather balm. It’s a very long job but she’s a leather enthusiast.




The remote-controlled dalek was another job repaired by Robert. Apparently, it had never worked. It does work now and frantically orders “Exterminate!”.



There was a B&O Beogram too. Do you remember B&O hi-fi equipment? It was very stylish and they are now collectors’ items. A B&O Beogram something like this one was brought in.

We love a good story. Peter told us that it was presented to his father when he retired in 1973. He had been the Director of the Atomic Research Establishment at Winfrith. That was a very valuable gift. 

We were using the SumUp card payment machine for the first time. Britain was also doing all it could to support the displaced people of the Ukraine. When we spotted that SumUp would double any donations made to the Ukraine through their website, we agreed to give all we could spare from the donations from this event to support the Red Cross efforts there.

People were very generous. We started the event with a balance of £26 in the bank. There were a lot of things we need for the Repair Café but we decided they could wait. We donated £430 to the Ukraine and SumUp doubled it so we raised £860. Fantastic!

We also sent a shoe box full of mobile phones to the Ukraine.

 We saw 91 repairs. 5 are still being worked upon. Of the 86 completed repairs, 83% were fixed or partly fixed and advice was given.      We also sent a shoe box full of mobile phones to the Ukraine.

 We saw 91 repairs. 5 are still being worked upon. Of the 86 completed repairs, 83% were fixed or partly fixed and advice was given. 

The committee, Ros, Bernie, Judy and Audrey, are really proud of our volunteers and our visitors. Thank you all! 

Ros Dean

02 November 2020

Restoring memories - Grandfather's Wooden Toolbox

 I never met my grandfather. He was a ‘Leading Seaman on HMS Hood’ when he married my grandmother in 1922. He died of TB when my father was just 5 years old. You may recall that HMS Hood was a battleship sunk by the Bismarck in 1941. I hoarded the filthy, oil and paint covered toolbox that I found under mounds of tools in my father’s shed 10 years ago, and finally got around to restoring it during the Coranavirus lockdown. 

In scrounging old furniture and as part of my upholstery hobby, encouraged by a Dad who could fix anything, I had gained the confidence to tackle restoration projects. I unscrewed the little brass knobs from the drawers and the handle and removed the remnants of felt drawer liners.  Stage 1 was the cleaning. I found my aunt’s secret recipe “from the Victoria and Albert Museum”, for cleaning antique furniture “To be taken only if you are antique and made of wood”. 

This is it:

1 part White Spirit

1 part Methylated Spirit

1 part white vinegar

1/2 part Linseed Oil.

As I planned to give a first coat of diluted varnish, rather than wax or oil, I omitted the Linseed oil. I shook the ingredients together in a plastic bottle. I used very, very fine wire wool ‘0000’ grade to apply small amount of the cleaning liquid from a margarine tub, working in the direction of the grain.  As the wads of wire wool became filthy, I replaced them with clean ones. There were small particles of wire wool and concealed dirt left in the box and drawers, so I first brushed the surfaces then vacuumed them. 

I should have brushed on a first coat of clear varnish diluted with white spirit to all surfaces. I had learned from stripping wooden doors that this helps to protect them from stains. Unable to easily find a container, I applied a coat of neat varnish. The coats of wax subsequently applied would have bonded better onto a thinner coat of varnish. 

The box is probably oak. Unable to get to shops during lockdown and wanting to use products that had been in the shed for many years, I used a ‘Mahogany’ coloured wax. I applied the first two coats using a pad of ‘0000’ wire wool, working in circles in a small area at a time, and then finishing in the direction of the grain. I worked at it until there was no hint of wax or red stain, and a shine started to build up. Allowing a day or two between coats, I applied more layers of wax using a ‘rubber’ made of lint-fee material – a wad of fabric from an old tea towel. I applied it to the inside and outside of the drawers and the door of the box too. After eight coats I was happy with the shine and thought my father grandfather would be proud. 

I cleaned the brass knobs from the drawers and their screws. First I soaked them I Coca Cola. It had little effect. They were tarnished but not rusty.  I used brass cleaner and fine wire wool on both knobs and screws. That worked. All that was left of the handle were the steel fixings and a blue metal strap. One of our volunteers suggested that this could be all that was left of an original leather strap. Our volunteer specialising in leather repairs suggested a website for leather straps and I found a suitable replacement.

A wooden door slots into a groove in the bottom of the frame and is held in place only by turning the key in the lock. But I had no key. Seeking help from our antique restorer volunteer again, he had a key made to fit the lock.

It still wasn’t finished. This tool cabinet had held precision tools like calipers and micrometers. I bought some sticky backed green felt (online) and there was just enough to line all the drawers. 

I never met my grandfather but I feel we have got to know each other quite well now, through a shared memory. 

You can watch the videos we made about the restoration here:

Cleaning and waxing grandfather’s wooden toolbox

The restoration of Grandfather’s toolbox is complete!

Ros Dean