Hear Clocks
in the shop

Inside The Shop

Welcome

When people meet me for the first time, whether I’m coming into their home or they’re stepping into my clock shop, they quickly get a sense of how much I love clocks. Being in this business gives me a lot of pleasure and I believe that comes through to my customers.

Since I was young, I’ve been taking apart broken radios, old televisions, and anything else mechanical or electronic I could get my hands on. I enjoyed discovering what kinds of parts were inside and seeing how they fit together to run properly. I would keep at it until I learned not only how they worked, but also how to fix them. Repairing mechanical and electronic things came naturally for me, and then when I got older I pursued an engineering degree in electronics. Over the span of about 30 years, I honed my skills and gained valuable experience with a career in the service industry, first as a copier repair technician and then later as a technical trainer.

Eventually I began thinking about a business that I could retire into. Seemingly out of the blue, the opportunity to learn clock repair came along. I started out repairing clocks as a hobby with no expectations. Really, with my love of mechanical things, I had been preparing for it all my life. I spent between six months and a year planning, designing, and organizing my shop. Then I received formal training and set up vendors. As word got out, the amount of work began to grow. Most people loved their clocks and I found that they appreciated someone who would treat them with the same care and reverence they gave them. I soon realized that clock repair could become the business I had dreamed of. After 10 years of repairing clocks part time, I gave up my regular job, and the clock business officially became a full time endeavor.

Having been in the service industry for so many years, I know that a good reputation depends a great deal on outstanding customer service. I want to provide good communication, timely turnaround, high quality service, and optimal value for money spent. My customers’ happiness in all of these areas is most important to me.

When people welcome me into their homes to repair or service their clocks, I feel like an old country doctor from 50 years ago making a house call. The treasure they want me to repair has special meaning and sentimental value, and rightly so. Because of this I treat each clock as if it were my own.

One of the unique aspects of my business is that when customers visit my clock shop. They walk into the very spot where I perform the work, the very heart of it. In most shops you typically come into a show room with a counter and a cash register where the clock is taken in, but the workshop is in the back. The first thing you’ll see when you enter my shop is a neat, well-organized workspace. I keep it that way because it has to be. That's the only way to keep track of where everybody’s clock is, the various stages of repair that each one goes through, and all the pieces that go with each one. At present I have between 50 and 60 clocks in line for work.

I love seeing all the different clocks, and I love working on them even more. I’m fortunate to be able to enjoy an endless number and variety of clocks vicariously through my customers while I’m repairing them. But it's the people that really make this endeavor worthwhile . . . hearing stories about their clocks . . . seeing their joy and appreciation when I return their treasure to them restored and renewed . . . I'd have to say that getting to know my customers is the greatest gift.

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Clocks in Repair

When a customer comes to my shop, the repair job depends on what brand and type of clock it is, of course, and what they would like to have done to it. Once we've established that, I evaluate the work at no charge. Then I will give the customer a price, find out how quickly they would like it done, put the job in the work log which places the clock in line. I normally have a backlog of three to four months.

Most clocks in my shop for repair are going to go through the same process. The first stage is disassembly and inspection. During this phase I look for anything unexpected, anything I might not have seen during the initial assessment. Next I place all the parts in a hot, ammonia-based solution for an ultrasonic bath that cleans and brightens the brass. Then everything goes through a water wash, followed by a drying agent. Finally, the parts are blown dry and heated in an oven to make sure all the moisture has evaporated so that nothing rusts.

Only then do I start to work on it. The main servicing consists of polishing all the pivots, bushing all the holes that need bushing, and inspecting and/or replacing the main springs. Then I repeat the above cleaning to remove any leftover debris from the bushing process. I grease the springs, reassemble and then oil the movement and set it up for running. The reassembled movement hangs on my wall or stands on a shelf for a test run. I let it run for a week or two to make that it keeps time, and that the chimes ring properly.

Another unique aspect of my service is that I take pictures of each clock in its various stages of disassembly to present to the customer when it’s picked up. Usually the owners are fascinated when they see the intricate inner workings of their clock laid out in shining, individual pieces on a worktable. The pictures show them exactly what it has gone through while in my care and how comprehensive the service was. Also they provide a record that they can keep with their clock so they know what has been done to it.

Some people may not want this much work done to their clock for one reason or another. Sometimes I can take the movement out of its case, oil it, and just do some small cleaning and adjustment without a complete disassembly. If I determine that the clock isn’t too badly worn, this light version of service may be all the clock needs and provide all the customer wants in the way of repair.

I try to be a full service clock repair company by providing other services that I may not do myself. Sometimes the case is damaged or a piece is missing, or the dial has significant wear or is scratched or broken. In other types of clocks, glass pieces in the doors, called tablets, may have been beautifully stenciled or painted, but the images and pictures have faded, worn down, or disappeared altogether. In many instances these features can be restored nearly to their original state, so I collaborate with a variety of skilled artisans and craftsmen who are able to provide the skills that I cannot.

A lot of times customers are interested in learning more about their clock, particularly anything unique and unusual about it – where it was made and the historical period it's from, information relating to the design, and if it’s been modified or retrofitted in some way. I can usually provide most of this information. I can also have appraisals done for insurance purposes by an independent certified appraiser.

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Rare and Beautiful Pieces

There are so many different types and styles of clocks. They all serve the same basic function, but each does it so differently, and they vary widely in how they look. During many historical periods, the styles of the clocks were influenced by the styles of that particular period. If you can envision what the 1800s were like, the clock styles go right along with them – dark wood, dramatic and exaggerated Baroque, heavily decorated Victorian, and Greek revival designs.

Then there was the Art Deco era with its celebration of geometric forms, and the electronic space-age era with its emphasis on technology. There were even specific periods within different countries and regions. Clock designs and styles are so varied, and because of this, I find them uniquely beautiful, even mysterious. And don’t let the age of a clock scare you away. A 300-year-old clock can work just as good as a 3-year-old one, keeping the same good time, serving the same basic function. Some clock maker, perhaps even a master craftsman, designed and built that 300-year-old clock by hand, without the help of computers and power tools, and it can continue to work indefinitely. It can still be rebuilt, repaired, or adjusted if needed.

Novelty clocks are another interesting category. Usually they are more for fun and not necessarily for accurate time keeping, but they can be very cute. Some might have a theme that the owner connects with emotionally. This is one instance where the sentimental value of a clock comes into play, and over the years, I’ve found that sentimentality drives the boat. So whatever style or type clock a customer may have, my goal is to do my best work every time so they can continue to enjoy their timepieces for many years to come.

Clocks seem to be prized for many reasons. Sometimes they are precious heirlooms that represent family members who have come and gone. And clocks can become such an integral part of home decoration that if a family is going to throw a big party, they'll wait until after the occasion to bring the clock in for repair.

The usefulness of clocks has outlived and transcended most trends and fads. Many devices in history have come and gone, but not clocks. They have endured. I find that fascinating. So when I take a family's treasured timepiece into my care, I treat it with all the honor and respect that it deserves. When I have finished servicing or repairing it, I know I’m returning something very precious back to the family. The day a clock comes back home is an exciting time for both me and for the owner. This is why I am so grateful to be doing this work.

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