A month or two ago, I was involved with clocks. Now I think it is safe to say I am becoming committed. What has changed? It is a matter of degree…
Early in the year I bought a couple of clocks and started playing around with them. They fascinated me, and so I decided I wanted to learn more. As I said in my previous post, I’ve started collecting non-functional or damaged clocks with the intent of using them to learn basic repair and maintenance skills. But that is just the start… in no particular order, here is the rest:
- I joined the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC). I could have accessed their forums and such without paying for membership, but it seemed fair to contribute. This gives me access to a community of amateur and professional horologists who can help me identify clocks, guide me in methods for restoring them, and provide a bit of camaraderie
- I read several discussions on the topic and placed my order for my “beginner” set of repair tools. That’s $500 worth of files, clips, magnifiers, and winders
- I ordered a workbench for clock assembly
- I found and ordered several books on clock repair to complement my DVD set
- I started looking at precision lathes and CNC mills for clocks and related work; I watched a series of half a dozen youtube videos on gear milling…
- I researched ultrasonic cleaners and digital microscopes… and realized I was in danger of becoming a tool collector, so I didn’t buy anything
- … but I did order a second more general-purpose workbench, knowing that one day I’ll want those lathes and such
- I started planning out the work for each clock in my “learning” collection, considering the order and steps for each clock
- I read twenty or thirty threads on the NAWCC forums on such topics as tool selection, rare banjo clocks, the mysteries of reverse painted glass repair, and lengthy arguments about tung oil versus linseed or Joe Collins versus Ollie Baker winders
When I look back on the last couple of weeks I might ask myself: what’s with all the enthusiasm? Part of is undoubtedly the novelty: clock repair/restoration is new to me. I’m vastly ignorant, and I can double what I know in a matter of days. I haven’t become “smarter” at this rate in quite a long time. A few days ago, I couldn’t have told you how a gear is milled out of a chunk of brass or other metal: now I am aware of several ways it can be done. I had no clue what was meant by “curly” or “quilted” wood, but now I have a basic idea, and I can also grasp a bit about antique finishes like traditional shellac.
Another aspect of it is the largely physical nature of the work- there is math, and logic, but the result comes down to chunks of brass, steel, and wood working together in some fashion. You can’t wave off or ignore the basic fact that all the book knowledge in the world won’t make a clock suddenly start working. And as a hobby, it gives me a solid foundation of physics and mechanics along with a touch of art. I have really only completed one tiny “repair” in the past week, more of a jury rig in order to test out one my learner clocks, but it gave me a happy little thrill when the clock started ticking out the time. That is a nice feeling of joy and pride that I sometimes miss.
I still love computers and software, but clockworks are sufficiently different and yet similar that the concepts have fired off all sorts of normally dormant neural pathways. Who knows how long this will last, but I consider the money and time well spent. And as they say, it is the journey not the destination that matters.