A $10 Goodwill clock

Clock Repair 101: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”

The Dark Arts of clock repair open before me. I feel the need to wear flannel. …to create a basement workshop. …and to live where it snows most of the year. What brought this malady on? A clock.

I have an old Seth Thomas “Chicago” series mantel clock that I believe belonged to my paternal grandparents, who were married in 1909. I haven’t run it for years, and got it into my head that it needed repair.

My grandparents' Seth Thomas 'Chicago' series clock
My grandparents’ Seth Thomas ‘Chicago’ series clock

At the Portland Mini Maker Faire 2017, I struck up a conversation with the guy at the local National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors‘ booth, because I figured they, if anyone, would know someone I could trust to skillfully repair my clock. We commiserated about how good (or any) clock repairers are becoming harder and harder to find, and how a good overhaul of a simple clock can easily set you back $400 – well over the value of my clock. Then the guy said, “You know, you can repair your clock yourself. It isn’t hard to learn.” At the time I was totally intimidated by the idea: clocks have all those delicate parts; clock repair requires all those expensive tools; the would-be repairer must be methodical, detail-oriented to the extreme, and not easily frustrated.

Fast forward to this summer. I had bought a Prusa i3 MK3 3d Printer kit, and successfully assembled it. The kit required so much detailed work (for me, 24 hours spread over 4 days), that I only half-jokingly tweeted “Once I’m done with this I’ll be ready to tackle clock repair.”

Fast forward to this September’s Mini Maker Faire. I’m once again talking with a person at the NAWCC booth, and I thought those fatal words, “This doesn’t look so hard.”

The next thing I knew, I was watching clock repair videos (there are tons of them), and had bought a $10, broken clock at Goodwill.

I bought a $10 broken clock
I bought a $10 broken clock

After removing the face, examining the works inside, then searching online a bit I found it was a Montgomery Ward 30 day School Clock, with works made by Korea Time Co. LTD., a company that was formed in 1971 – so we’re not talking an antique in any way, shape, or form. …and it was missing its pendulum. In short, a perfect, junker clock to use to learn clock repair. My plan was to repair a few cheap clocks, then once I knew what I was doing I would tackle my grandparents’ clock.

Little did I know the Dark Path I had started down. In my next post, I show the dangers awaiting the naive clock repairer.