NOTES FROM THE BENCH
Clock Repair Archive - - About this journal:
I must apologize for the disorganized condition of this journal. It is a work in progress, far
from finished. The text version is a huge file
but it is text so it will be readable by as many as possible. It will take a few seconds to download, however. No special programs are required to read this on the web. Any operating system that will support even
the simplest browser, including text browsers, will be able to display this information. This is very
bland and boring you might say. You are probably right; however I will continue to offer this text
version because it is fast and does not exclude those persons, who by no fault of their own, do not
have access to high speed internet connections
or expensive computer equipment (Yes, to many people new computer equipment is very expensive and out of
reach). I have included some pictures but they are in links to keep things as fast as possible. Please be
aware that when you click on a link to a picture it may take considerable time for the page to download if
you have a slow connection. There is much information here and I must admit it is very disorganized and
somewhat cryptic at times as you read through.The reason is that this is a collection of notes made at the
bench while doing repair over a period of about 15 years with information added from additional experience
prior to that time period. These are pretty much still in the "notes" phase, useful mainly to other repair
persons. As I get time I will be editing this document, so it should improve greatly with time. The subject
links now(03/16/03) cover about 1/4 of the text version in it's current condensed form.
Why put them on the net now when they are just a bunch of disorganized notes ? First, clock repair is a
trade with skills that are not widely published. Second, clock repair is an old trade and information
technology is a new trade. It is my opinion that mixing the two is very important mainly because they both
should exist to help people and together they can both be of more use to all persons. Information itself
is, in my opinion, to be shared with all persons. This is how we grow and change for the betterment of all
humanity. I don't mean to say that clock repair will help all humanity. It is merely a small part of the huge
sphere of general knowledge. There are many aspects of clock repair that will help people get a different
perspective on life itself, and some if it is just downright interesting to many people.
To search for a topic, you can go back to the graphic version page through the link at the bottom of this page
where there is a more complete index, or you can use the "find" function in your browser to search for terms
on the complete archive page.
Over the years there have been millions of clocks made; with thousands of various models and styles, both
in case style and mechanism design. The scope of this journal covers clocks made from the late 1700's to the
present day (1990's). The information presented here is based on approximately 25 years of involvement in
various aspects of clock repair, which include: manufacturing of new clocks; retail repair at the bench;
some counter work; many hours of customer contact on the telephone, and some management duties. I will be
attempting to present all that I have learned so others will have the opportunity to benefit from this
One of the biggest problems in clock repair is, in my opinion, fixing clocks that have already been fixed
and still don't work. Look for blobs of solder, sheet metal screws super glue or other types of glue, and
excessive amounts of oil. These are warning signals, if you see any of these, be prepared to find all sorts
of problems when doing the work. Another problem which shows up when repair shops get busy is the continued
barrage of interruptions from various sources such as telephone calls, customers, and questions from
trainees. If you are managing a repair shop, keep in mind that after a certain point the number of
interruptions that you allow your repair technicians to endure will reduce their efficiency so as to make
them totally useless as technicians, or receptionists! Not that there is anything wrong with receptionists
or technicians, just that their jobs are not compatible. I will be covering mostly mechanical repair, and
not much on case repair, as this is woodworking and is not my expertise.If you are repairing clocks for a
living, there is a balance to be maintained. Enough work needs to be done to make a living, but without
sacrificing quality. Sometimes it is best to tell a customer no rather than do a halfway job because it will
usually come back to haunt you; or worse it won't come back to you; but to the other shop in town.
Repairing clocks requires the patience of a saint, resourcefulness and creativity, and far above
average mechanical aptitude. Unfortunately clock repair is an occupation that has about as many ways to
do things as there are people doing them . There are "correct" ways to do things that work; and there
are ways to do things that work. "Correct" yes, but by whose standards? Usually if a clock doesn't work
there is not much physical danger to anyone. For example, if someone does work on your car's brake system
and that system fails, the results can be fatal. Much government regulation is therefore necessary to
preserve people's safety. So there are correct ways to fix brakes and incorrect ways to fix them and it
is mandatory that they be fixed the "correct" way. Not so with clocks. In countries other that the U.S.
there are clock guilds that establish methods of repair. These guilds have had in the past much power.
Not so much now. If your clock gets fixed in a manner that is not "correct" it may still work, and work
just fine. If you are a hobbyist fixing clocks for fun , then you make your own rules. When fixing clocks
for a living, the temptation to get the job done as quickly as possible is often too great for many to
resist; and as a result work is often done in what I call a "quick fix" manor ( blobs of solder; pieces
of brass glued to the plate I guess to supposedly hold pivots in place; blobs of glue holding levers
together; screw on bushings; teeth tack - soldered on the outside of gears; the list goes on). These
tactics often work and work quite well for some time. Sometimes things go wrong that even the best repair
person cannot anticipate.For example I have disassembled clocks that have come to me for repair with many
nice looking bushings installed only to find pivots that have nicks and pits and scratches all over them.
This can happen even if the repair person was very careful to polish the pivots and fit the new bushings
before putting the clock back together.
My position is that clock repair should , as closely as possible, restore a clock to its original condition.
How do you know what "original condition is"? You deal with customers over and over again who bring clocks in
that have been in their family for 100 and sometimes 150 years and they tell you what its history is. You see
these situations over and over again and after 10 or 15 years you will know the meaning of "original
condition". Often times it becomes painfully apparent that clock repair is not a good way to make a living
because the time involved is too great , or the skills needed simply do not exist to restore a clock to
original condition. However, in many repair situations where a part is missing or damaged beyond reasonable
repair, modern replacement parts are available that will very closely match the original part. This helps.
What I am attempting to do here is give my perspective on repair. I know what works and what does not work.
I have seen many short cuts people have used that worked for a while. I have seen how those short cuts fail.
This tells me not to use them.
About the author:
David has worked in the clock repair trade for nearly 25 years from 1972 to 1997, and has spent
slightly over two thirds of that time at the bench doing actual repair work problem solving and
occasionally making parts for a total of about 15,200 clocks ( that is slighly over 35,000 hours of actual
repair experience ). The rest of the time he spent in telephone customer service, training,
middle management, and direct contact with customers at the counter troubleshooting problems
with an additional number of clocks. At the beginning of his career he spent about 5 years in the
manufacturing of clocks doing assembly and repairs.
David has an extensive
background in electronics; specifically RF communications. He has an FCC amateur radio license, and a
commercial FCC radiotelephone operators license. He is A+ certified and Linux+ certified. He has worked
in light construction. His formal education consists of a high school degree and college level
study in various subjects, including math and science. He received an associate of arts degree from EDCC
in July of 2004, and a Bachelors degree from the University of Washington in June of 2006. Prior to his
clock repair career, he had firefighting training and aircraft maintainance training in the US Navy, and
had sea duty in the Mediteranean during the crisis in the late 60s. David spends much of his spare time
outdoors, attempting to preserve what little there is left of our precious enviromment.
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