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One Of A Kind Masonic Clock

img-190403131827-2When I was growing up in Sylvania, Ohio in the 1960’s, my dad collected clocks and played drums in a popular quartet in the Toledo area.  The guitar player in his group was named Bill Barker, maker of handcrafted guitars.  In 1967, my dad’s stepfather, Harold E. Gordon (or H. E. as we called him), was celebrating his 51st year in the Masons.  Dad thought the occasion deserved a commemorative clock.img-190403131827-3

I remember my dad taking a trip to Schmitt’s antiques in Ypsilanti, MI to purchase a Vienna regulator movement, dial and pendulum for the special clock. He then spent several evenings at the dining room table, drawing up several plans and finally deciding on the final design for the clock.

Dad and I took a trip to Fostoria, Ohio one Saturday morning to a lumber yard that had raw live edge lumber.  After looking through what I thought was endless raw lumber (remember I was 11 years old), dad picked out some live edge walnut boards with good hardwood.
Craft Products, in St. Charles, Illinois, sold numerous accessories and plans to build clocks.   They also sold wood veneer inlays.  A masonic wood inlay was purchased.  Now all the pieces were ready to be assembled.

img-190403131827-1 So, now we are back to Bill Barker.  Dad had arranged to build the clock in Bill’s shop on Central Avenue in Toledo.  It was my first visit to a master craftsman’s workshop.  I was impressed by the guitars in various stages of production.  I also remember tiny wood planes that would take minute shavings of wood with each pass and very small tuning forks that Bill used in the production of his guitar bodies. I asked him if he still had the first guitar he made.  He reached up on the wall and handed the first Barker guitar to me.  I was an impressed 11-year-old.  He then told me that there were too many imperfections in the guitar to ever let anyone play it.  This may have been my first exposure to a true perfectionist.

I learned about woodworking over that Saturday and Sunday.  We planed the lumber, made templets, measured and remeasured.  The clock was coming together.  The door was cut out of the walnut and routed for the glass and the decorative curve around the glass.  Moldings were made for the top and of the case, a recess was made to install the masonic inlay.  Sanding, lots of sanding.  The movement, from an 1864 time only Vienna regulator, was fitted into the case.  The case was then disassembled and finished with Deft satin finish.  I mention the finishing product (Deft) only because I still use it in clock restoration today.  Deft was available in every hardware store until the big box hardware stores and internet put most of the mom and pop hardware stores out of business.  It is now only available through internet stores like Amazon.  The clock was completed over the next few weeks.

My grandfathIMG_8090 (1)er lived about 30 miles north of Cairo, Illinois in a small agricultural town named Anna.  The clock hung in the house that H.E. built on E. Heacock Street from 1967 until his death in the early 80’s.  The clock then hung in my father’s home in Hilliard, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) until he retired in 2004.  The clock then moved with dad to Sun City West, Arizona.  Dad died in September of 2007.  In June of 2009, I came in from working clock service calls to a large box that had been delivered by UPS.  This is not an extraordinary event as clocks are shipped to me for repair and restoration all the time. To my surprise, my stepmother, Joan, had shipped the masonic clock to me.  It has hung in my family room ever since.   Although to a collector, the clock has little value, it is one of the most prized clocks in my collection.

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Service Areas

New Service Coverage Area

Over the last 45 years, I have seen the business of servicing and repairing clocks evolve to a point where there are fewer horologists practicing in most communities. Because of this I am currently expanding our service territory to include not only Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, but also western Virginia, western North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, parts of Florida and parts of Tennessee.

I travel through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, along with parts of Kentucky and West Virginia a couple of times every year. For the past several years, I have been servicing clocks on these trips and I am seeing a definite need in these areas.

Please feel free to call us toll free at 877-249-2721 to discuss your clock service needs.

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Why does it take so long to get an appointment or get my clock back from a shop repair or restoration?

Over the past four decades that I have been in the clock repair and restoration business, I have noticed that my backlog has increased to a level that I am uncomfortable with. When I tell a customer that the overhaul of their movement will take up to six months or the restoration of their family heirloom might take up to a year, I get questions and strange looks. Having their clock sitting on a shelf in my shop does me or the owner no good. I work seven days a week, except for a few hours where I have other commitments. I also have customers ask me “What am I going to do when you retire?”. My response has always been “What do you mean, I retired 43 years ago”. I enjoy what I do that much. The real problem is the lack of young (or any age) people getting into the clock and, even more so, the watch repair and restoration business.
A local watchmaker that I referred all my customers’ watch work to is now suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Another retired with glaucoma. As older clockmakers and watchmakers are disappearing from the work force, there is no one entering the field, which causes a backlog for those of us working. While on vacation in Florida, I was talking to a clock movement importer who told me he no longer has anyone ordering from the Orlando Florida area. Orlando has a population of 2.4 million people. A population that should support up to a dozen clockmakers and there is one, who no longer has the time to do house calls.

The executive director of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC), Tim Wilcox, wrote in the July/August edition of the NAWCC Bulletin:

“…The community of horologists seems to be ever shrinking, but the passion and interest is as strong as ever. Time and time keeping will always have a solid role in the scheme of humanity. Clocks and watches are inanimate scientific instruments, yet they will continually posses and exude unique, historical, significant, and personal stories that will attract and connect every level of human existence with horology.” (1 Wilcox)

So please be patient with the time it takes to do the work on your clock. I refuse, and I am sure you would not want me, to lower the quality of my work in order to put work out faster. To restore your clock into original working order will take time. Thank you for your patience and your business.


(1) Executive Director Tom Wilcox’s quote used with permission and appears in the July/August
2018, Volume 60/4, Number 434, page 297 of the Watch & Clock Bulletin, Journal of the
National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC), article titled “We share the
stor(ies) of Time…”

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After

Sessions Kitchen Clock – Before and After

Before

Several months ago, a customer asked if I could restore a clock he found in his Father’s farm house in central Illinois. He remembered the clock from his childhood. The case was in very bad shape. The wood was dry and the finish was cracked. The clock probably sat on a shelf in the kitchen, next to a wood or coal burning cook stove for years. The glass in the door was gone and the pendulum had been cut down both sides. This would have raised the center of gravity of the pendulum allowing the clock to run faster.

 

AfterThe case was so dried out that it actually fell apart. The old finish was stripped off and some warping of the wood top was taken out. The case was finished, glued back together, new glass, dial, and a new pendulum was installed. The movement was overhauled and tested. Shown below are the before and after pictures of the clock.

Greg Davis – Owner

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Fantastic Find

My father (Boyd Davis) collected clocks all his life, a passion that I seem to have inherited. In 1971, my father and mother opened a clock retail store in Columbus , Ohio (The House of Clocks on Lane Ave). Since I was a junior in high school when the store opened, I’ve never been sure if the store was part of his love for clocks or set up as a second income for the family, or both.

My father had a retired jeweler that did trade work for him. In November 1974, the retired jeweler brought in a box full of clock case and movement parts he had been storing in his attic. He gave it to my father saying “I don’t know exactly what this is, but I’m sure it’s American. I’m sure it’s something special and I want you to have it”. My father offered to buy the box for $50, which was quickly refused. Since the store was busy, the box was placed on a shelf in the back room.

Just before Christmas, my father cleared a table in the back room, took the box down and proceeded to examined it, placing the pieces of the box into position on the table. The clock was totally apart, since all the glue joins had come apart, but it was all there. Much to my father’s surprise, he slowly laid out a complete J. C. Brown Acorn clock (case, movement, fusee mechanism and tablet). The clock was totally restored by father over the next several months.

My father, being one of the most honest men I ever knew, gave the gentleman 3 new Colonial grandfather clocks of his choosing, as payment for the clock. One for each of his grown daughters for Christmas; however, he refused the fourth clock that my father offered to place in his home.

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The clock held a very prominent and prestigious place in my mother and father’s home for several years. It was the star of his collection. My father and mother divorced in 1980 after 27 years of marriage. The clock collection was sold, along with other possessions, to settle the divorce. I often wonder who is now showing off this magnificent sample of American clock making history in their collection. I can only hope it is admired as much as my father admired it.

Greg Davis

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1807 – Affordiable clocks for the masses

In  Eli Terry entered into a contract with 2 other men to manufacture 4000 clock movements with dials, hands, weights, and pendulums in a 4 year period. This in clock circles is known as the Porter Contract. In 1806 Terry bought a sawmill that used water power in Plymouth CT. He then hired laborers with specific abilities to produce the various pieces of the clocks, to an accuracy that made the parts interchangeable. One of the first in America to accomplish interchangeable mass produced parts for a product. The fact that the parts were made and assembled by skilled craftsmen, kept the cost down and allowed a much greater production volume, way more than 1 clockmaker could accomplish by himself. Thus was started, in this country, a new business of mass producing clocks, which brought the cost of a clock down to where the masses could afford them. Clocks were no longer for just the aristocrats. Apprenticing with Eli Terry at this time was Seth Thomas and Silas. Hoadley, who both went on to be noted American clockmakers. In my career of over 40 years, I have had the pleasure of restoring several of the now 210 year old all wood movements.

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Testimonial – French Soapstone Restoration

Dear Mr Davis,
Many years ago when we were living in New Albany you serviced this clock which was left to us by my 
husband’s father. After you performed your magic and delivered it back to a furniture dealer in Westerville for
us to pick up, much to our horror they dropped it and it broke into 'a million' pieces. We were all mortified by their neglect but you stepped up, and several months later you had restored that clock back to its former 
glory. 
We moved to Texas in 2001 and it is in our living room admired by everyone who visits. Just wanted to let 
you know it is still ticking away. Thank you, we will always remember your kindness and perseverance when restoring our heirloom.
Kind regards........Wendy Battle

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Testimonial – Calendar Clock Restoration

We wanted to tell you again how much we appreciate all you did to restore our calendar clock. It is so nice to have it back on the top of our bookcase once again and hear it strike with a deeper, more soothing sound. It is truly a family heirloom and your service will keep it in good condition for years to come. You are a true craftsman.

Sincerely,
Ray and Marsha Crooks

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40 Years of Service – Davis Clock Services

I have found history a fascinating subject most of my life.  Not because of the events, but the people that make up history.  The clock industry in the U.S. and Europe is full of such people.  Through the history of man, there have been time pieces ticking away the seconds of the lives of millions of people.  Just think, a clock made in 1880, during the big clock manufacturing boom in the U.S., has set in someone’s home through years of history. In 1880, James A. Garfield was president, the electric light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison, the first telephone was invented, there was no refrigeration, people traveled by horse and buggy or maybe by steam trains.  There were no vaccinations for common diseases.  The average lifespan was 40.5 years, if infancy was survived.  Most clothing was made by hand of wool or cotton linen. A clock manufactured in the 1880’s has been telling time through the assassinations of 3 presidents, the U.S. involvement in 9 wars, the invention and development of the internal combustion engine, automobiles, air travel, walking on the moon, deep space exploration, great advances in medicine, and the splitting of the atom. I once had an apprentice tell me, “What you do is boring!  You do the same thing day after day.”  He didn’t understand the joy of achievement of taking a clock that has run for decades through all types of family joys and sorrows, and bring it back to working condition to continue being the sentinel of time for a family.  Several years ago, I was coming out of a house after servicing a grandfather clock for a family and saw a watchmaker acquaintance sitting in his drive way enjoying a sunny day.  I walked over to talk for a minute.  After a couple of minutes he stated that his neighbor was “a character”.  My response to him was “Bill, we’re all characters in some way.  That’s what makes life so interesting.” My wife, Jenny, and I have been in the clock service and repair business for 40 years now.  I guess I am one of the few blessed people in this world who actually makes a living doing something I really enjoy doing.  It has been my privilege to be allowed to see a glimpse into your family and lives.  I have been part of the joy of a surprise grandfather clock to a spouse or retirement award for years of service to an organization. During the years of servicing these clocks through the decades, I have observed the birth of children, and then seen them graduate from college, or go into the service to defend our country, get married and have children.  I have moved clocks, from where they have stood for decades, into condo’s, assisted living apartments, and Alzheimer lock down apartments, and eventually to a son or daughter’s home, as the clock continues to mark the time of an individual family. It has been my privilege to keep your clocks in operating order over the past 40 years.  I look forward to continuing to service and repair you clocks in the future.

Greg Davis – Owner

40 year Logo

Logo by: Davis Video & Graphic Productions

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The Voice of the Clocks – Poem by: Anonymous

the voice of the clocks

The Voice of the Clocks

People often complain of sleepless nights and say they heard the clock strike many times.  The voice of the clock may not be a pleasant sound when one wants to be oblivious to it in sleep.  Still, those voices may start thoughts, which will help calm restless minds.

There used to be Grandfather’s clock, that tall and dignified sentinel of the stairway, which ticked out the minutes on its unhurried way.  Its slow strike was a suggestion that life should not be taken too impatiently, that there is plenty of time for everything, and that man should live out his life with less hurry and scurry.

The old kitchen clock in many homes, which had a quick and tingling strike, suggested an opposite point of view.  As a denizen of the working kitchen, its fast strike seems to suggest that there is a lot of work to be done, and it was better to be up and at it.

Then there is the light and silvery tone of many clocks, which seems to suggest that life is full of pleasant beauty, full of charm and music for those who look for that side of existence.

Then there is the deep toned bell effect, which suggest the riches of experience, and how folk can find the deeper happiness by seeking the higher values of life.

Some clocks, like some people, are always ahead of time.  No lagging by the way for these fast and active tickers.  And there are those that lag behind, and are always hurrying in vain to keep up with the rest.

So clocks seem to be like people, grave and gay, fast and slow.  Perhaps those who reflect how much they seem like human beings, and how they keep ticking away with tireless energy for a century, may forget their troubles and go to sleep.

Used in my Great Uncle Emery Davis’s store in Anna, Illinois in the 1940’s

Greg Davis
Davis Clock Services
Hilliard, OH
Davisclockservices.com

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