Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

Under Time's Spell

INDEPENDENCE -- There are roughly 150 mantle, shelf, grandfather and novelty clocks in Brian Pendleton's small repair shop and showroom on Main Street, giving off a tick-tocking chorus that's like steady rain on pavement.

Brian Pendleton adjusts a cuckoo clock at The Time Wizard clock shop Saturday. Pendleton opened the full-service repair shop and showroom in 2006.

Photo by Pete Strong

Brian Pendleton adjusts a cuckoo clock at The Time Wizard clock shop Saturday. Pendleton opened the full-service repair shop and showroom in 2006.

May 15, 2012

INDEPENDENCE -- There are roughly 150 mantle, shelf, grandfather and novelty clocks in Brian Pendleton's small repair shop and showroom on Main Street, giving off a tick-tocking chorus that's like steady rain on pavement.

The clocks aren't synchronized with one another. Doing so would be pointless because they're powered differently, Pendleton said.

The hands of spring-driven clocks, like alarm clocks, for example, slow as the apparatus unwinds.

More importantly, Pendleton doesn't want them going off all at once.

"Then it's just noise," he said. "You don't get an appreciation for all the sounds they make."

As if to illustrate his point, a "cuckoo" emanates somewhere in the room. A chime rings a moment later. And then a bell.

Pendleton winds a 19th-century French Morbier clock, which interestingly strikes on the hour and again two minutes later.

Photo by Pete Strong

Pendleton winds a 19th-century French Morbier clock, which interestingly strikes on the hour and again two minutes later.

Pendleton is clearing off his workspace when an elderly woman walks through the front door, inquiring what it costs to get her shelf clock running again.

Pendleton invites her to bring it in for a diagnosis, sparing another clock from the scrap heap.

Pendleton said he respects technology, but doesn't like the "throw-away" attitude that comes with it. It's generally easier to replace computers, televisions and other appliances that don't work than to repair them, he said.

You can't do that with a 197-year-old Groaner Wood Works shelf clock, like the one in his shop.

"They're part of our history, clocks and antiques. Once they're destroyed, you can't get them back, they're just gone," he said.

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Mechanical clocks are an endangered species, Pendleton said. Even wrist watches are almost a thing of the past, with people content to use their cell phones to tell time.

Pendleton, who's run The Time Wizard clock shop in Independence for the last six years, said his is a "dying trade."

"I can't say this as much now because I'm 49 ... but I used to say most guys doing clock repair were twice my age," he said.

"Most I know of are passing away or closing," he continued. "And there aren't younger people taking an interest."

But he doesn't lack for activity. Fewer clock repairmen means more people willing to hunt for the service, even in a small town like Independence; Pendleton said he has a few clients in Germany and England.

On many days you'll find him polishing pivot points, cleaning gears and reassembling movements one gear train at a time.

Pendleton

Photo by Pete Strong

Pendleton's workbench is scattered with trays holding thousands of tiny screws, gears, clips and hands.

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"There's a lot of ingenuity, imagination and creativity that goes into manufacturing something with gears and moving parts," Pendleton said. "It's always been a fascination of mine to take something that's not working and make it work again."

It started when he was a child. Pendleton, who was born in Southern California but whose family moved all over the country, said he terrorized his mother with his habit of disassembling home appliances.

His stepfather was a city administrator and a clock hobbyist and his basement doubled as a repair shop. Pendleton said gutted clocks and all their parts intrigued him. When he was 9, he was challenged by his stepfather, Dick Don, to fix a clock movement.

He did -- and became proficient enough that Don started having him handle the mechanical aspect of clock repair jobs while he concentrated on wood work.

The inner workings of a grandfather clock Pendleton is repairing that utilizes tube chimes instead of chime rods; the clock

Photo by Pete Strong

The inner workings of a grandfather clock Pendleton is repairing that utilizes tube chimes instead of chime rods; the clock's hammers play the Westminster Chimes on the hour.

Pendleton enlisted in the Navy after high school and became a machinist assigned to a tender -- a vessel with fully-equipped machine shops that accompany battleships and other boats on patrol.

"Our job was to replace and repair anything needed to keep the fleet moving," said Pendleton, who was assigned to tenders that serviced a destroyer and a nuclear submarine.

After his nine-year military stint, Pendleton resolved to get back to clocks. Self-taught in the trade, he worked for a jeweler in San Diego, then was invited to Salem to manage Don's Father Time Clocks.

Pendleton opened a clock-repair home business in 1995. Eleven years later, he started his full-service shop in Independence.

Much of his business revolves around repairs. Most broken clocks are the result of lack of maintenance -- most people simply don't think to clean or lubricate clocks.

"It's like a car engine ... the principal is the same," he said.

And then there's special conquests, like music boxes or the broken 134-year-old French automata clock purchased at an auction for relatively cheap. The extremely rare clock, a complicated timepiece because of its bell strike and an irregular outward-swinging pendulum, works again. It sells for $4,500.

He rebuilt the motor on a flood-damaged 1925 Sonora phonograph on his showroom floor. It's playing an Art Mooney Orchestra album with clarity on this day.

As mentioned, Pendleton doesn't dismiss new technology. His son built The Time Wizard's website when he was 15 -- "he knows HTML like a second language."

He's shown no interest in clocks, though, Pendleton said.

"He's an electronic kid," Pendleton said. "I don't begrudge him for that."

Learn More

The Time Wizard clock shop is located at 226 S. Main St. in Independence. For more information: 503-838-0799 or www.time-wizard.net.

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Basic kinds of mechanical clocks:

* Spring driven -- timepiece works via a main spring that's wound.

* Weight driven -- powered by the gravitational pull of heavy weights attached to chains, ropes or to a pendulum.

* Electric clock -- uses batteries or alternating current (plug-in) to drive motors or rotors that drive the hands of the clock.

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