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December 15, 2014 at 6:53 am #49351
My 15 year old son Ansel, wants to go to college to become a theoretical physicist. Comming from a single parent home where, the parent is disabled and belonging to a racial minority, there will probably be some sort of financial help out there for him (or at least we hope). His question to me last night was and I quote “Dad, why couldn’t I learn to do what you’re doing (horology), and then this way I could be sure to put myself through college. If nothing else I’ll have something cool to fall back on. (His words, not mine)
Are there any list members who are actually doing this as more than just a hobby? Could my son do this and actually be able to pay his way through college?
I’m a firm believer that, where there’s a will there’s a way, I just don’t know how to give him an honest answer and I told him I’d post the question to the group.
thanks guys,December 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm #60898
The best advice I can give you Ren is to do a little research and see what competition is around. Even if there is some it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it but just make sure your work is to a better standard.
Myself and William have both started up in the last three years, well, two for me as a business, I think William has been at it a little longer but yes, you can make a living out of it. The biggest thing in the beginning is tooling, there are some tools you just can not do without but seeing what you can do with metal I don’t think it will cause you too much of a problem. Get a website up and running now, by the time you are ready for the business it will be semi established.
Even if it just becomes a paying hobby it is a fantastic way to earn money, like anything you get those bum jobs in that will have you scratching your head for days but I think that is part of the fun.
Bernie has been doing this for a few years too so there is at least 3 of us. Bob did it too of course
Pick up a couple of old clocks and take him through them, try and start with a timepiece as strike work is quite daunting at first.
Oh and ask as many questions as you like
My daughter is starting to show an interest in pocket watches and she is 16, she is already better with tweezers and screwdrivers than I am!
Here is my web site if you want to take a look, free to set up and no monthly costs!
Paul.December 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm #60899
Thank you so much for your input, I really appreciate it.
Not having done too much looking into turning my hobby into a business, I really didn’t know how to answer my son. He’s read your reply over my shoulder and you have managed to put an ear to ear smile on his face.
I’m gifting him a RR Grade Elgin for Christmas/Birthday, which I’ve been testing for accuracy the past 6 days (running like a charm).
I also purchased a K&D 126 winder, PW sleeve wrench, a running Ingersoll Reliance (I already have a movement in need of repair) and just purchased a Marshall Staking tool set (133 stakes and 30 stumps).
I know now that they will go to good use long after I’m gone.
Thank you again,December 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm #60900
BTW, Excellent website, thank you for the link. I especially like the explanation for why you don’t give your work away. Excellent!!December 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm #60901maitai11Participant
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Hokay, chiming in as a newbie who eventually wants to make money at this thing…and I agree with Paul. Tooling, tools, setup, etc. I’m not even close to being squared away (still need a jeweler, lathe, and ALL clock tools – I have everything I need to service pocket watches.) But, what strikes me is the volume one would have to produce in order to really make some money. If I charged $250 per watch, which I know is bad to do by quoting a price before service, it would take me five watches to even begin to break even – see, because the tooling is expensive, even for used stuff, your boy would not only have to get it all, he would also need to generate some good volume – and what I’m learning is it takes an average of 5-10 days for me to get it done because of parts ordering. Which brings me to another point – bench stock. I think most guys who go into business have a stock of common springs, crystals, staffs, and other things.
My advice would be to give him a junk 16s pocket watch, and let him have at it. Then, he’ll know what it’s like to service a watch; to wait for parts; and to front money for his setup. By the way – those watches I would need to break even don’t even count the hours I put into them.
No, from what I see, this whole watch and clock business thing requires a lot of everything – money, time, patience, experience, etc. I’m into my third watch, and I have put dozens of hours into learning – and I don’t even thing I’m that great a student!
Just my two cents, Ren. Let him try to do one, and then he’ll see whether it will fit into his college study schedule – and that’s only to begin with! Funding, and all the other stuff I spoke of learning in the very short time I’ve been doing this has given me a new outlook on what a watchmaker really is! Let’s just put it this way – I didn’t know the extent of what I would need to learn to even get to the place I’m at now – and I’ve only scratched the surface!
TimDecember 15, 2014 at 5:22 pm #60902willofiamModerator
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Hey Ren. How awesome is that!!! your son wanting to do what your doing…
I am not sure if your son would be able to put himself through college or not by working on timepieces, but what a wonderful young man to have come up with the idea. guys like that are few and far between, you are lucky Ren
Well, as for me, I guess you can say a hobby gone haywire 😆 Actually I believe it has been a calling…..
I think that working with your hands at ANYTHING will benefit or be something to fall back on throughout your life. I would only caution that putting yourself in a position to HAVE to make money at it can be very stressful and possibly a deterrent.
I was running 2 other businesses when I had decided to slowly start the clock business (I wanted a backup just in case), happy to say it didnt take very long and I had a backlog and was able to sell one business and stop the other, financing the clock shop. In any venture I have undertaken I spent alot of time planning and projecting the outcomes also making sure there was a back up plan, because I like to eat at least once a day. 🙄 ..and then when it looks like it will work out I put 100% into it.
I am sure you have already talked with your son about all the studying and practicing that should go on for some time before actually getting paid for repairing clocks or watches (its alot of hard work). I had worked on many of my own clocks and studied for many many many hours before I finally took in a friends clock for pay, even then it was stressful as I did not want to do anything wrong with it.
The learning process still goes on and will for a long long time…I just saw that Tim had posted and he is seeing the time and effort, planning and expense of what it could take to start up a shop.
Could my son do this and actually be able to pay his way through college?
It would all depend on him. I had a long time friend stop in recently and he was super excited about what I do, I gave him some old watch movements JUST so he could tear them apart and see how he liked dealing with the small parts….its been 2 months now and he hasnt done a thing yet…guess he isnt really that into it at this point, maybe someday. So, in the end its a personal thing and at age 15 sounds like a good time to give him the opportunity to see for himself without any pressure. Who knows where it will lead him, cant hurt to try…and if I may, prayer has played a large role for me in finding the right direction WilliamDecember 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm #60903
Ren, Paul and William gave you some excellent advice. I can’t add much except to say if you do good work, give a good warranty, and treat customers fairly you or your son won’t have any problems. I started as wanting to learn to do this as a hobby but quickly turned into a business. I haven’t advertised one penny and I have more work than I really care to do. I have raised my rates till I lost about 10 to 15 percent which helps and still makes me good money. I don’t take cheap quartz, quartz cuckoo’s or any other cheap clocks. All they do is bite you in the back side and they expect you to fix them for $5 or $10. I make most of my money doing clocks with a few watches thrown in. The other thing I want to say is your son will have to stick with it. He will have to stay with it inbetween his studies. Tell him this year I bought a new Silverado pickup with cash that I had made and saved out of my shop which was a little more than $40,000. So like I said it depends on him. Yes he can make some good money and help pay for college but your work has to be top notch, treat customers clocks as if they were yours. If you wouldn’t do it to yours don’t do it to their’s. If he gets good the customers will find him after a while but plan on maybe a little advertising. Tell him good luck and hope it works for him. He will also have something to make him extra money the rest of his life and if something should happen he can always fix clocks.December 15, 2014 at 5:53 pm #60904maitai11Participant
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I was just looking at your site, and I saw where you indicated toward the end of the home page that you “no longer to work through the post.”
Reason why I’m asking, Paul, is because I think I want to start doing pocket watches via mail – I do not believe Hawaii would have any kind of robust market for vintage pocket watch repair…I could be wrong, but the culture isn’t exactly like it is in Boston or New York where our founding fathers and their descendants all had a pocket watch.
So, if you don’t mind, can you please tell me your reason for not accepting work though the post, and some of the pitfalls you saw?
BTW, all opinions are accepted
TimDecember 16, 2014 at 6:10 am #60905chris mabbottParticipant
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I agree with what others have said. If your young fella is interested, take him under your wing as an apprentice, get him to do the dirty stuff, like all apprentices have to do, strip and clean, polish the parts with a tooth pick, detail the cases, pull out the crystal and clean the old cement from the bezel etc etc.
Have him make up a business plan, this is a good thing to learn anyway. If he’s still interested after, then move to the next level in the apprenticeship.
Remember that back in the day, trainees simply cleaned movements for 1 year and watched their journeyman before being allowed to move up. I think they called it character building 😆
Good luck.December 16, 2014 at 7:53 am #60906
Again, thank you for your input on this thread.
As I see it, Ansel will have 2 years of partime horology study under his belt before he can think of selling his talent so, there’s no rush there. He/(we?) probably won’t be opening shop for a while.
As far as a business plan goes, I believe that’s the smartest thing I did when opening up my rodmaking business. it takes a lot of the guess work out and gives you a map to work from so, yes, excellent advise.
I didn’t realize there was as much work out there as there seems to be. Here in Central Florida there seems to be plenty of both, work and watchmakers; more work than watchmakers (and most watchmakers, very much on in years).
I feel confident that he’ll do well as, he has a stick-to-it-ivness that is pretty relentless, yet very passive.
Well, we’ll travel this adventure slowly and with The Big Guy’s help, we’ll be okay. Go slow, go far…
Thanks guys…December 16, 2014 at 8:46 am #60907
I only do clocks so taking work through the post is a problem when you see what some people consider to be adequate packaging. With pocket watches it would not be so much of a problem but still advise your customers to double box them.
Paul.December 16, 2014 at 11:48 am #60908
Ren and Ansel – Some good advice up here now, there are dependant factors on wether it will work as a business, you have to give it a sensible approach and a business plan is a good way to start.
Just to give you something to think about;
1. Work area – Where will you work from, can customers get to it ok, will Insurance be a problem.
2. Working area – A work bench preferably with natural daylight, if not I would seriously consider full spectrum bulbs, also think about a seperate cleaning area and if you are of the opinion it is a good idea to have jars full of Naphtha lying about make sure it can in no way leak vapours!
3. Watch Bobs video on watch repair, just to give you an idea of what tools are needed just for a service let alone repairs, staking set (which you now have, lathe, ultrasonic or some type of cleaning machine etc…
4. Plenty of experience and practice before you even look at a customers watch, this includes turning away work when you can see it is going to either involve making parts or trying to find obsolete parts, to begin with you want the jobs that just require a straight service i.e. they at least look like they are trying to run, if you get any of the un-jewelled european stuff in I would leave that until you are confident you can use a jacot tool well to polish pivots and dont mind doing tiny bushes in watch plates. Learning on customers stuff can be expensive if it goes wrong.
5. Paperwork, setting up your computer to print off receipts, worksheets, invoices etc.
6. Web site – If you get this right you will never have to pay for advertising and it will help to speed up the incoming flow of work rather than relying on word of mouth. It has taken my website almost two years to become established and get a good flow of traffic which is why I suggested setting one up now just in case this does take off.
7. Study, study and then study some more. Buy books, anything you can get your hands on, watch videos on youtube and work on watches. Just like anything else, the more you do it the better you get.
You can earn a living from this but it is all dependant on you Ansel, how quickly you learn, retain information, eye hand co-ordination etc. but as with everything in life, the more you put in, the more you get out!
Paul.December 16, 2014 at 11:55 am #60909
I am with Paul on this one. I haven’t had a problem with pocket watches that are mailed to me but I can tell ya clocks are another thing. I have had clocks come in by USPS that looked like they were drop kicked and to top it off he just threw the clock in the box with peanuts. Took me 3 weeks just to fix the case. So I always have them call me if they are going to send one to me. I have them pack a box in a box. The clock in the first box wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap and then that box in another box full of peanuts. So I dropped the website many years ago and decided I don’t want the responsibility. Just got enough headaches and don’t need one more. 😆December 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm #60910
I tried that Bernie but people thought I must have been joking, one guy sent in his french slate striking clock in a cardboard box with a 3mm thick piece of polystyrene in the bottom of the box and wrote in big letter on the top of the box “This Way Up”. I dont know how but only the base had come away and there was no other damage. Was still a pain messing about with plaster of paris getting it glued back together. I just feel now it aint worth the trouble, plus I hate going to the post office
Paul.December 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm #60911
I hear ya Paul. I haven’t really had much trouble if they call me first and I explain what needs to be done. I just finished and sent back a grandfather movement from Oklahoma City which is about 450 miles from here. He mailed it to me after I explained what needed to be done. He even went one better and built a nice wood box and mounted the movement to a seat board inside that wooden box with the bottom mounting screws. He put that inside another box full of peanuts. Came thru without a hitch.
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