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Article on pp 12-13 features

Jackson's Clock Works



Repairing Old Clocks Keeps
Dan Jackson Busy

Publication date:
Monday, September 22, 2003

By JIM BAILEY, Staff Reporter

PENDLETON -- Dan Jackson is one of the last of a dying breed. And people from all over the state are keeping him busy. Jackson, 53, has owned and operated Jackson's Clock Works for the past 22 years.

"There are not many of us left that do this," he said. "When I started, you had to have a license to repair clocks in Indiana. I had to take an approved course and pass a test."

The requirement stemmed from the required accuracy of railroad timepieces  when rail transportation was at its zenith. Nowadays, watch and clock repair professionals  are not required to be licensed.

"At the time I started, there were 53 of us who held licenses in Indiana,"  Jackson recalled. "There are a lot fewer of us now."

With electronic digital timepieces available cheap these days, keeping time does not employ as many watchmakers and clockmakers as it once did. But there is enough sentimental attachment to old-style clocks to keep Jackson and his fellow clock repairers busy.

"People hear about me from word of mouth, on the Internet or in the phone book," he said. "I have a lot of repeat customers; when they pick one up they've left to be repaired, they bring another one to be fixed."

He has a lot of calls from neighboring counties, places like Indianapolis, Fishers and Geist, he pointed out. And he recently made a house call in Rushville.

Jackson's interest in clocks began when his father, who was a watchmaker, urged him to take up clock repair. "Watchmakers usually don't like to work on clocks," he pointed out.  "I kept putting him off until I was laid off from Delco Remy. Then I took the course and took the test.  It's probably one of the smartest things I've done."

 Jackson is into the history of clocks, noting that clockmakers used to be close associates of kings. He is a member of a society of horologists, which refers to the study of time. And he belongs to the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute, which brings mailings that refresh him on how to do things.

"I try to stay abreast," he said, pointing to a full bookcase and more of books on clocks. "You get amazing new information from old books."

Some people work on both clocks and watches, he pointed out. "I have enough just working on clocks," he added.

At various times, several clocks can be chiming the hour in his workplace. "It varies," he said. "Right now there's just a cuckoo clock and a mantel clock that chime. Sometimes they all go at once. And sometimes I have to stop them in order to hear what I want from the one I'm working on."

Retiring from Delco four years ago, he now spends full time at his trade. "It's not an occupation you go into to get rich," he explained. "I don't want to take advantage of people. I always tell them if the time I have to put into it will make  it more expensive than the clock is worth on the antique market. But many people want them repaired anyway because they are family heirlooms. Almost weekly I get clocks in that have been in somebody's families for generations."

Jackson said he has never had a clock he couldn't repair, unless the owner decided not to put the time and money into it. He has worked on everything from grandfather clocks to the clock on a restored 1957 Chevrolet. And some things that aren't clocks but have similar mechanisms, such as a rotating Christmas tree stand, an old gramophone and windup toy trains.

He also picked up an old cash register at a flea market. "It had to be worked on to get it going. It's so old it only goes up to $5."

Almost all the old clocks he works on have a story behind them, he noted. A friend from Delco Remy brought in a clock that had belonged to her husband's grandfather, asking him to fix it up and give it to her husband as a gift.

"He teared up and said, 'You know what, my grandfather, the day he died that clock stopped. It hasn't run since.' I told him, 'It's running now.' And that clock outlived the man."

Jackson said his wife, Patricia, who has a degree in entrepreneurship, has encouraged his interest in clocks, taking care of the business end. "I try to just keep my hands dirty," he said.

Jackson enjoys the challenge of fixing a timepiece. Many of his repairs have been been complicated by poor workmanship by previous repairers, he noted.

He's presently working on a clock he estimates to be about 130 years old. "It has a striking mechanism I've never seen before," he said.

"It's an enjoyable craft," he said. "I enjoy taking something that doesn't work and making it work. A lot of parts you can still buy, but others have to be made."   


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