When 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.
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 heartwood.
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.
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 grandfather 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.