A dab hand at fixing things

Graeme Roxburgh  wears and holds some of his creations at his Upper Junction home. Photo: Peter...
Graeme Roxburgh wears and holds some of his creations at his Upper Junction home. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Dunedin man Graeme Roxburgh makes and fixes everything from musical instruments to hay balers. Reporter Jono Edwards takes a peek at his DIY lifestyle. 

At the Upper Junction home of Graeme Roxburgh (65) the mantra is "why get someone else to do something for you, if you can make or fix it yourself".

"I have this attitude that we could solve New Zealand’s social ills by everyone working less than 40 hours a week and doing more things for themselves," Mr Roxburgh said.

He will likely find an innovative way to fix anything  that is broken.

As you walk into his home all kinds of strange instruments are scattered on the work bench.

One of his most recent projects was creating a piece to fix some Northumbrian smallpipes, he said.

There is a spinning wheel on the other side of the room, which Mr Roxburgh also had a hand in fixing.

Wooden bobbins for a spinning wheel.
Wooden bobbins for a spinning wheel.
"It didn’t come with any bobbins, so I made them. Sometimes when you’re fixing things you need to make the parts."

The art of tinkering was all about improvising, such as  in the example of a flute he fixed recently.

"It was missing a key on it, so I made one out of an old teaspoon."

Mr Roxburgh and his wife Liz Vitali live on a lifestyle block  and until recently he was an IT support worker at the University of Otago.

"Now I’m full-time tinkering and running around on a farm with 30 sheep."

He used to use blade shears to shear the sheep himself, but said his back was "too old for that kind of carry-on now".

However, he and his wife still work as a tag team with him spinning the wool and her knitting to produce all sorts of hats and jerseys.

These garments were all for themselves, friends and family, as selling them was against the DIY spirit, he said.

Northumbrian smallpipes in the process of being tinkered with.
Northumbrian smallpipes in the process of being tinkered with.

Recent extensions were made to the house and  you get the sense that Mr Roxburgh would have  done them  himself if he could.

"I was helping the builder, but these days you’re not allowed to build without having a  licensed builder supervise."

Some of the creations seem like personal challenges, such as a manual wooden hay baler which sits in his shed.

"I made it as a joke, but it actually works."

Mr Roxburgh thinks there is still a DIY spirit in New Zealand, but perhaps not as much as there used to be.

"I think if you want something, and you can, make it yourself. There’s a lot of satisfaction from things you’ve made or fixed yourself."

If anything, DIY was much easier these days thanks to the wonders of the internet, he said.

"You can go on Google and go ‘how do I tiles’. Everything is learnt on the internet these days, it’s great."


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