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      Oh, to have the title of “Clockmaker”– what a worthy lineage from some true geniuses to carry forward to the next generation…

      But, to get there, it is already evident, I am going to need some tools. I’ve done some research and have discerned, there is probably not enough money in our bank to get what clockmakers think they need. Most certainly, there is not enough money in my bank account to get what is needed. First things, first.

      Any specific suggestions, in three areas of concern:

      1. First necessary tools to purchase for working on clocks? (not interested in watches, yet…fingers are too big)
      2. Sources for tools that are preowned, but not worn out or not needed?
      3. Suggestions on finding old clockmakers/watchmakers who may have tools, equipment, etc. they may want to sell or gift to a newbie?

      Thanks for the assistance.


      Royce Bell
      San Bernardino

      david pierce

        Paul, Bernie, William and Bob are all professional clockmakers. They can certainly tell you the essential starter tools you will need to work on clocks. Uncle Larry’s Watch Shop carries a good selection of used tools and books at a reasonable price so that would be a good place to start looking for clock tools. If you watch Bob’s clock repair videos make a note of the tools he uses in the videos. Check out the members shops by going to the BOARD INDEX and look at the photographs of the members shops. You will find that many standard tools that can be purchased from general hardware suppliers such as hardware stores and home improvement stores. Other tools can be had by buying a standard off the shelf item and modifying it. Take a look at Catskill Painter’s bushing machine made from an inexpensive drill press. The same cannot be said for watches so starting with clocks should cost a lot less money than setting up to repair watches.

        bernie weishapl

          Royce once you get started into doing clocks you will need some good clock supply houses. Timesavers, Black Forest Imports, Ronell Clock Co., R & M Imports, Merritts Antique, etc. Here is a good start for clock and watch suppliers. http://www.nawcc-index.net/ToolsParts.php One of the first things you will need is a mainspring letdown tool. http://timesavers.com/search.html?q=10066&go=Search You will also need some mainspring clamp rings. I have about 4 sets. http://timesavers.com/i-8946795-flat-mainspring-clamp-2-piece-set.html Once you get the mainspring wound up you put this clamp on then let the mainspring down. This will take the power off the clock. DO NOT take apart a clock without doing this. Don’t ask me how I learned this. 😆

          One of your bigger expenses and something I definitely would put first on my list is a mainspring winder. I have tried several and settled on this one. http://timesavers.com/i-8944167-ollie-baker-style-spring-winder.html I have been using mine now for about 15 to 20 yrs and hundreds of mainspring wound with it. For many years when I first opened my business I hand cleaned every part on the clock with a toothbrush but as soon as I could afford it I bought a ultrasonic. http://timesavers.com/i-8947796-10-8-quart-ultrasonic-cleaner-with-heater.html I have had one like this now for about 20 yrs and a heater IMHO helps it clean better. A good set of pliers are a must. http://timesavers.com/i-8949148-4-piece-premium-pliers-set.html I think I have about 30 different pliers I use from day to day. Screw drivers are another must. I have big, small, long, in both phillips and straight.

          When I first started I used this to put bushings in a clock. http://www.perrinwatchparts.com/product/109.aspx As time goes on if you are serious you will add a bushing tool. http://timesavers.com/i-8946793-keystone-bushing-tool.html That also will be a pretty good expense. I have a Elma Bushing Tool which come complete with bushings, reamers, etc and run $1997. http://www.perrinwatchparts.com/product/110.aspx I got mine off ebay for $995.

          As you get deeper into repair you will probably want to get a lathe. I have 2. One is a boley jewelers lathe for smaller parts and a taig lathe which if I could only have one it would be the Taig. http://www.positiveflow.com/taiglathe.htm This guy is a good man to deal with and good prices. I got #2 and then added about $275 worth of accessories. For just a hair over $700. If you got everything I got for a Boley, Levin, etc watchmakers lathe you would have well over a $1000 to maybe $2000 and I can do anything on my Taig as can be done on those.

          A lot of these tools you can buy off ebay a lot cheaper but have to be careful you don’t get hook with a bum tool. I have bought tools that were like new and have bought some that were just crap. So ask questions. You can buy cheap tools but IMHO buy the right tool for the job but don’t buy the cheapest either. I can tell you as others will also tell you, you get what you pay for. You use the tool once or twice and it breaks it will cost you more in the long run than just buying a good tool to begin with.

          Lots of people on here with lots of knowledge. So don’t be afraid to ask questions. My grandfather when he was teaching me woodworking told me the only dumb question was the one you didn’t ask. 😆

          I hope this helps and am sure others will chime in.


            Hello and welcome :)
            Bernie has pretty much covered things and he certainly knows what he is doing so you won’t get much better advice from someone who earns a living doing this. Just to be able to get a clock apart, cleaned and back together requires a few tools, as has been suggested, watch Bobs videos, he shows you exactly what you need. You can get by without a mainspring winder but if you do make sure you have good strong leather gloves and eye protection( you should still use these with a spring winder!), some of these bigger springs can cause you some serious and permanent damage if it goes wrong. The other problem is you can sometimes distort the mainspring removing it and replacing it by hand.
            Until you know how far you want to go and what repairs you do want to do yourself you won’t know exactly what tools you will need but for now just aim to get a movement apart and back together, you will learn a lot as you do this first movement, once you understand how it works you can then look at making any repairs it may need. Try and find a timepiece only movement to start with as it is far simpler.

            bernie weishapl

              Thanks Paul. Paul did make a good point on mainsprings. It was 11 pm when I wrote that so was a little tired. :D Leather gloves and a face shield is a must no matter if winding by hand or with a winder. When a mainspring shatters it can have edges like a razor blade and there is a lot of power in those springs especially the big, wide ones.

              A time only would be a good start. You only have to deal with one spring and one train. Then move up from there.

              Also forgot to add that Dashto.org has clock tools.


                I’ve already discovered that to properly clean a dirty clock requires a complete dismantling and spreading out of the several parts on the table before me. But, is it necessary to completely dismantle the clock to clean and oil it, if it is evident (1) the clock is reasonably clean, (2) the clock has been well-maintained?

                Clearly, a prized antique clock or poorly maintained clock would require the full-Monty (he said with a smile). And, I suppose if I was to do the job commercially, I would completely dismantle, clean, oil, and assemble the clock (thus clarifying in my mind the $250 price quoted to me for cleaning or replacing the 340-020 movement of my c. 1974 Howard Miller mantle clock) every time, but as a hobbyist with no particular aversion to getting my fingers on the clock from time to time, is such disassembly necessary? Here’s one reason why I ask: The warnings (above) about messing with mainsprings are well-regarded by me, especially since I can recall a dozen or more clocks that in my youth were rendered less than operable when the mainsprings, which I thought I could control, proved to be unmanageable and (seemingly) had minds of their own. Quite frankly, I never thought of working on a clock while wearing a face shield. No doubt, I will be quite the sight sitting at the bench and adorned with my Bell motorcycle helmet and face shield.

                That asked, back in the day, many an electronic issue was resolved with a bit of aerosol potentiometer or tuner cleaner from Radio Shack. Are there similar, recommended–key word–products for clocks? Basis of asking: In looking at the pages linked above, it is obvious there are a gazillion bottled, packaged, or aerosoled products. Clearly a novice might do far more damage by using products he neither understands, nor would be recommended by working or experienced clockmakers.

                I took Bob’s advice and looked into membership of NAWCC. I’ll never fuss about the price of ARRL, again.

                bernie weishapl

                  Royce I would not clean and oil a clock that was not disassembled. You can’t get the dirt and dirty oil out of the pivot holes with the pivots in them or with the mainsprings half way wound up you cannot get the dirt/dirty grease out of them. So that being said I don’t care how clean they look or how dirty they look every clock I touch is totally tore down. Don’t let the mainsprings scare you because if you do it won’t work. Watch Bob’s videos and if you let them down into restraint rings, etc they are safe and easy to work with. When I started I cleaned one without taking it down. Less than a year later it would not run. You don’t want that especially even if you do this for friends and family. We had a gentleman who repaired (attempted IMHO) a town over. He would soak in gasoline or camp fire gas then oil without tearing them down. I can’t tell you how many of those clocks I had to redo after he got done with them. Instead of dismantling and bushing the clock properly he would punch the hole closed with a center punch. So all I can say is do the job right the first time, take no short cuts, and things will be fine.

                  The other thing is not knowing your age it is a great source income in retirement. I average about $400 to $500 a week. I worked on clocks part time while I had my full time job and now do it pretty much full time if you can call it that. :D I have not spent one penny on advertisement and have more work than I can handle. I do grandfather service calls in about a 90 mile radius. At any one time I can have as many as 30 clocks in my shop. I have 18 in my shop now and on top of 8 in various state of repair or on the test stand. I work in my shop now 4 days a week and do woodworking 2 days a week. Sunday is my golf day. 😆

                  Bob Tascione

                    Hi Royce,
                    I can’t add anything here since Bernie, Paul and David covered the topic beautifully. Bernie gave a TON of great info and links that will be helpful for many future readers. Just wanted to say I hear you about the price. ARRL is a gift in comparison.
                    Adios for now,


                      If the mainsprings worry you then just look for a clock with smaller barrels or springs. Once you get used to working on the smaller ones (which are easier to manipulate) you can then move up a couple of sizes. I was the same as you when I first started and used to hold them at arms length and shake like a leaf as I wound them back into the barrel. This was only because of what I had read and been told on the internet. I am not saying its easy but it is also not as difficult as you might think.
                      Strip the clock down no matter how clean it looks. one of the most important aspects of this work is making sure every working surface is in great condition otherwise you can run into problems and have to strip the clock down anyway. As with any good work there are no shortcuts but you will be very suprised how quickly you can tear down a movement and get it back together once you have done a few.
                      ARRL – The National Association for Amateur Radio (for those of you who were wondering ;))

                      bernie weishapl

                        Forgot to add along with what Paul said. Every clock I tear down also gets the pivots inspected with a good loupe, burnished and polished. Every hole gets inspected, pegged out with peg wood and bushed if needed. Don’t let the springs get to you. Safety equipment and good work habits will take care of it.

                        I do belong to the ARRL. Callsign WB0FTY.

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