Repairing full time.

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  • #49742
    david carlson
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 11
    • Total Posts: 21

    I am wondering how many people on here do clock/watch repair full time. I have been in the industry that I am for 37 years and it is time for a change.

    Is it possible to make a decent living doing repairs? I may not give up totally on what I am doing now, which is drafting….but will definitely slow down. Sometimes it is too much pressure because of the deadlines.

    I would love to be able to open up a shop some where and repair and sell old clocks. I love hearing the ticking in my office now and the chimes.

    What are your thoughts?

    #63586
    bernie weishapl
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 58
    • Total Posts: 1218

    There are several on here that do repairs full time. I did clocks and pocket watches for about 27 yrs part time while I worked. I retired 6 yrs ago and used full time repairs as income to supplement my retirement and did quite well. I would never have gotten rich but would have did ok. Part of the problem was even though I did it full time I had also slowed down. In the last couple of years I have stopped working on pocket watches due to my eyes and then a tremor in my left hand. I also don’t do any cheap quartz clocks. I just got tired of the old wow that seems like a high price for repairs for what I paid for it at walmart. I am 20 to 25 clocks behind in my shop now and just tell them 3 or 4 months. Of course keep in mind being retired means a little travel, traveling to watch grandkids play sports, etc. also takes time away for the shop.

    So I guess what I am trying to say the first few years will be tough getting started and getting your name out there. After a few years I quit advertising because word of mouth did that for me. I think William does his clock repair full time and does quite well. I have several friends that do it full time and are making it quite well. The biggest key in my eyes are do excellent work for a fair charge and the work will find you. I also am so confident in my work I give a full 1 yr warranty. So I would get it started before you decide to drop your job now and once you get it built up then make that decision if to go for it full time or just part time. It is kind of hard to know what area you are in, what the situation is there, how much competition do you have in the area, etc. I don’t have anyone within a 200 mile radius of me so I am it. I live in a mostly agricultural area. The two biggest cities from us is 196 miles one way and the other is 165 miles one way. Lots of stuff to think about.

    #63587
    dave booth
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 6
    • Total Posts: 56

    I did clock repair fulltime, working out of my house from 2007 until 2012. I was able to get plenty of work, but discovered that I wasn’t able to keep the cash flow steady enough to make mortgage payments. It seemed that the work was “either feast or famine”. I also got badly “burned” on a couple of Hermele balance movements, before I discovered that you simply cannot repair them, because you can’t warranty the work. Fair warning – if you have a customer who wants a clock with a modern German movement (Hermele, Keinnninger or Urgos) repaired, don’t try to fix theold movement. Order a new one, and switch them out. Also, beware of the Hermele balance movement s – often you will receive brand new ones that are defective. Test them carefully before returning the clock to the customer, or you will find yourself as I did, doing a tremendous amount of free warranty work.

    #63588
    willofiam
    Moderator
    • Topics Started: 75
    • Total Posts: 1437

    Hey David, @David Carlson wrote:

    Is it possible to make a decent living doing repairs?

    For me…yes. I think it depends on your area, the kind of work you do, what are going to offer, ect…Like Bernie mentioned, @Bernie Weishapl wrote:

    I would get it started before you decide to drop your job now and once you get it built up then make that decision if to go for it full time or just part time.

    I did exactly that. I was running 2 other small businesses while training myself, building up tooling and machinery for clock and pocket watch repair. I restored many of my own first, then, for fun and experience I restored several friends clocks. Pocket watches I added later since I saw a crossover with clocks, then I found out I love to restore the pocket watch also, a nice change up for me. Though I knew this was the direction I would go after I did all my research in my area I waited until I was able to afford putting 100% into the clock shop and be full time. It is alot of work, time and money as it is with any venture. Like Bernie also mentions. word of mouth can either make you or break you so depending on what you are offering for a service is good food for thought, I take in ALL types of clocks from small pin pallet desk clocks to large tubular chime grandfather clocks to Viennas, cuckoo clocks, and everything between from the very old to rather new. (I really like the variety) that may be helping me stay busy BUT some do well specializing in one type or style of timepiece. No battery clocks please, though there is a demand… you have to determine if you want to do them also. Doing your local research to try and understand the need for clock or watch repair in your area is essential. When I started I found a fair pile of tooling and supplies for clocks and pocket watches. That gentleman was selling everything because he could not get anyone to pay enough for him to be able to put food on the table (he was less than 3 hours away from where I live). A good idea for any new business startup is to do the research for your local area.

    Also what Dave mentioned, @Dave Booth wrote:

    I also got badly “burned” on a couple of Hermle balance movements, before I discovered that you simply cannot repair them,

    yes, absolutely, starting out you may “get burned” I prefer to call it a “learning experience” When starting out in any type of service /repair business you have to expect a few jobs not paying too much if any. I have found that it is only because of my lack of knowledge when I may struggle with a repair. I prefer not to keep track of how long it takes me on each clock, maybe a poor way to run a business BUT I feel it does not pressure me and I am at a point where I know approximately my hourly wage (less any extra breaks I may take) ;) OH and yes…the balance movements are serviceable, but @Dave Booth wrote:

    Test them carefully before returning the clock to the customer

    As Dave mentions…wise practice for ANY clock or watch you work on.

    Also Dave I would disagree with @Dave Booth wrote:

    Fair warning – if you have a customer who wants a clock with a modern German movement (Hermele, Keinnninger or Urgos) repaired, don’t try to fix theold movement. Order a new one, and switch them out

    It is my experience that (Hermele, Keinnninger or Urgos) ARE serviceable AND with good success. I have serviced, restored and repair many of these movements (looking at a Urgos grandfather clock movement that I recently overhauled running in my test stand right now) Many times a cleaning, fresh oil and a couple of bushings will bring one of these movements to like new condition. Besides that it is well worth the time to study and understand the function of those movements to be able to make small repairs and adjustments. The Hermle, Kieninger, Urgos, Jauch are very popular worldwide and can be a large part of a clock repair shops business. Very seldom have I come across a movement in such bad condition it warranted a new one BUT there have been a few times where several of the plated pivots were flaking, no question then that a new movement would be justified. Some of them are not very expensive new, but, take a look at the price of a new Kieninger 9 tube, triple chime, cable drive 😯 , as a extreme example…. you do not want to replace that movement very often. Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, have fun, William

    #63589
    jim1228
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 6
    • Total Posts: 75

    Great post, I couldn’t agree more William.

    Jim

    #63590
    david carlson
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 11
    • Total Posts: 21

    Thanks for all the information and advice. Every business has its headaches, the only way I see around that is to win the lottery. I would for sure work in to it slow, over the next several years. I just know that I don’t want to do my drafting full time, for ever.

    I have gotten kind of addicted to looking at old clocks. I have already been to a couple of auctions and have bought 5 different wall clocks to work on for my self. If I get them going and working good, I will probably keep one for myself and sell or give away the others. My brother has a Seth Thomas Mantle clock that I have disassembled and getting ready to clean and put back together.

    #63591
    bernie weishapl
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 58
    • Total Posts: 1218

    @Dave Booth wrote:

    I did clock repair fulltime, working out of my house from 2007 until 2012. I was able to get plenty of work, but discovered that I wasn’t able to keep the cash flow steady enough to make mortgage payments. It seemed that the work was “either feast or famine”. I also got badly “burned” on a couple of Hermele balance movements, before I discovered that you simply cannot repair them, because you can’t warranty the work. Fair warning – if you have a customer who wants a clock with a modern German movement (Hermele, Keinnninger or Urgos) repaired, don’t try to fix theold movement. Order a new one, and switch them out. Also, beware of the Hermele balance movement s – often you will receive brand new ones that are defective. Test them carefully before returning the clock to the customer, or you will find yourself as I did, doing a tremendous amount of free warranty work.

    I don’t consider it being burned. Like William I consider it a learning experience. I have worked on hundreds of Hermle, Keininger, and Urgo’s movements with no problems at all over my 30 plus years of repairs. I have maybe replaced 5 movements in the last 12 to 15 yrs. The only time I will replace any movement is if it has been run for 30 or more years without any service at all and is badly worn or someone else has worked on them and has did a bad/botched repair job that it would cost more to repair than replace. I find most times it comes down to improper bushing especially on the upper part of the time train, mainsprings that are set, rough pivots needing burnished and polished, improper adjustment of the forks or the balance has a cracked jewel or suspension wire is worn which gets replaced with guitar wire. When I first started working on clocks I found out real quickly that the biggest problem that most have repairing Hermle balance units is improper cleaning (I use One-Dip in a jar and sit it in a Ultrasonic cleaner with liquid in it) and/or repair of the balance. If you can’t get 360 deg of rotation out of the balance then the time train has not been properly repaired and power is being lost somewhere in the train. Mount the balance in a vise, rotate it by hand 270 degrees from stop and let go. It should rotate down and take at minimum 3 mins or more before it stops completely. Most will run 3 to 5 mins before stopping if properly repaired and cleaned. If it does and you put it back in the clock and the clock won’t run then you have a problem in the time train that needs to be addressed and fixed.

    I give a full one year warranty on any clock I repair with 1% or less returns on about 270 or so clocks I repaired last year according to my tax accountant. All movements I repair are given a full 2 week run before returning to the customer. 99% of the time if there are still troubles it will show up during that time. If I have any uncertainty with a clock I will run it a extra week.

    I am attaching a pdf file that a few of us that do clock repair put together. I keep a copy of this beside my bench which I refer to from time to time.

    I hope this will be of help to anyone in the repair of floating balance clocks.

    #63592
    dave booth
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 6
    • Total Posts: 56

    Since I am no longer repairing full time, I simpoly get picky about what I will take in for repair. I have been able to keep busy enough recently by working only on clocks made prior to WW II. (Actually, as luck would have it, the clocks I have most recently worked on were all 18th century or early 19th century British 8 day brass movements.) I don’t know why, but it seems like problems come in batches. The past four movements I worked on all had broken click springs. I have been making new ones by planishing brass sheet until it is work hardened to hold a spring form, then shaping them to match the original. I am toying with the notion of purchasing a slip roller, to speed up the planishing process. Has anyone had any experience with using slip rollers to do that?

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david carlsonRepairing full time.