First pic shows a badly worn clock weight pulley strap. Next are the bushings I made for the repair. The last pic shows partial assembly. I’m really having fun making use of my newly acquired machining equipment.
Arizona Horizon and Arizona State University Channel 8 featured Frank Beaudrot and All About Time Clock Shop last Friday evening.
Watch the segment here!
An Arizona man has a rare talent and intense passion for fixing clocks. Frank Beaudrot has spent decades bringing family heirlooms back to life. His shop is filled with a variety of clocks -grandfathers, mantles, and cuckoos- some dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. In special cases, Beaudrot even makes house calls.
Something clicked inside the mind of Frank Beaudrot when he first took apart a clock. He was, at the time, 7 years old.
Fascinated with clocks’ inner workings, he soon learned how to put them back together, too.
For decades, Beaudrot has been giving clocks — some priceless, many sentimental — new life, fulfilling a small but necessary niche in the Valley economy.
And his rare talent for clock repair has drawn plenty of notice in metro Phoenix. With a backlog of work six months long, he’s a clock repairman perpetually fighting Father Time.
His shop, All About Time Clock Repair, is at Glendale and 27th Avenue in Phoenix, but he makes house calls throughout the state and even climbs into clock towers in shopping centers.
“I repair all kinds of household clocks, from the simple, battery-operated clock up to the larger grandfather clocks, and everything in between,” he said. “Everything from mechanical wind clocks to weight-driven clocks. It doesn’t matter. As long as it’s a household clock, there’s something we can do to fix it.”
Among his regular customers is Allan Privette of Yarnell, a clock collector, who escaped the recent Yarnell Hill Fire. As Privette fled in his car, he was enveloped by smoke and soot, and flames were licking near his car while electrical and phone lines were melting and falling. Before Privette left his home, he grabbed some precious possessions, including his cats and a few clocks from his collection of more than 80.
“I was very lucky,” Privette said. “I got my Atmos clock, my grandma’s clock, my Franz Hermle clock and one other. It’s all I could fit in the car.”
An Atmos clock, made in Switzerland, does not have to be wound by hand. It is powered by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure.
Privette feared that he had lost his home and his valuable clock collection. He had spent a day watering pecan trees and irises along his driveway, making the ground wet. The fire stopped at his line of trees.
Privette says Beaudrot has a half-dozen of his that he’s working on.
Beaudrot has repaired clocks professionally since 1973, but before then, he helped in his father’s jewelry store. In high school, he apprenticed with a master clockmaker. He worked in California from 1976 to 1981, the year he opened a retail store in his current location. After a decade, he ended the retail operation to focus on repair, although he sells some refurbished clocks at his shop.
Among the tower clocks he has climbed to repair is one on Stetson Drive between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Scottsdale. He also has worked on tower clocks in Tucson, Peoria, Tempe and central Phoenix.
Beaudrot says what he enjoys most in his work is the troubleshooting.
“I have to understand the workings of a clock inside and outside in detail,” he said. “I have to know that to be efficient and successful. If you spend 20 minutes identifying a problem when it should take you 30 seconds, you’ve wasted time.”
Beaudrot enjoys the mechanics of the process, the satisfaction of working with gears and parts. He has custom-fabricated parts and even created tools that weren’t available to make the repairs.
“Sometimes I never use that tool again, but I do what I need to do to get the repair done,” he said.
Beaudrot sees beauty in the mechanisms, especially the well-made ones from Switzerland and Germany. Regardless of the brand in America, the mechanism likely was made by one of three German manufacturers, the only such companies still in business.
Many customers have sentimental attachment to their clocks, such as family heirlooms, and the clock owners must decide if a repair is worth it.
“A lot of clocks, the actual value is $150, and the repair could exceed that by twice,” Beaudrot said. “We’re straightforward and honest. We will not tell a customer a clock is worth more than it is to repair it.”
Beaudrot said that much of what he sees are clocks that have been neglected or poorly maintained, not having been oiled and serviced on a regular basis.
“It’s important that mechanical clocks be oiled every couple of years, especially here in Arizona, where it’s so dry and so hot,” he said.
Without oil, moving parts wear out and more extensive repairs are necessary. But he advises against the clock’s owner doing the oiling.
“The customer can make things wear out faster if they apply oil to the wrong places,” he said. “Oil in the wrong places tends to attract dust and dirt, causing the clock to bog down.”
Not only is he surrounded by clocks at his shop but at home, as well.
“I listen to them all day long,” he said.
My Very First Tower Clock. Here’s a photo I dug up that was taken back in 1978. At the time, I was the service manager for Ted’s Clock Emporium in Glendale, California. (you can read more about that on my “About” page on my website). The local newspaper must have been having slow news day so they came and did a human interest piece on Ted’s. Yes, that’s me standing precariously on the rails. You can’t see it in the picture, but under my smock is a safety harness.
The story behind this clock is that the movement was originally from a bank building that was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Mall developer had a new “tower” built for it near the food court. It had been motorized for automatic winding and not long afterwards, it started giving them trouble. Ted’s had a store located in the mall so we were the ones management called to repair it. This was truly “learning on the job” for me.
I chuckle every time I read the caption under the picture, “All repair work is done on Ted’s premises”. Clearly this one wouldn’t have fit on my bench!!
Check Out My New Cleaning Room. I’m so excited to finally have my “new” cleaning room completed! A larger work area, two new ultrasonic cleaning tanks and plenty of room for the pre-soak and three stage rinsing tanks will allow me to more efficiently process the volume of work I have. Now I have the ability to clean clock mechanisms more cost effectively. At $52 per gallon of ultrasonic instrument cleaner and $20 per gallon of rinsing solution, I needed a way to improve efficiency. Now I have it!!
Back in the main part of my shop, I’m also expanding my horological machining capabilities, so keep checking this blog for more pics of that department. New milling machines, thread cutting machines, lathes, presses, microscopes and more!! Pics coming soon!
My “Photo Tour” is coming soon so please check back to my website regularly.
WOW! Does this clock bring back memories!! I installed this tower clock in Tucson, AZ back in the mid 1980’s. At the time, the building was a new Southwest Savings and Loan under construction, and I was commissioned to provide and install the working components for the clock. With the help of a friend, we set up scaffolding and spent the better part of a morning installing a National Time and Signal 4-way tower clock mechanism. There is only one main drive motor centrally located inside the cube, with four drive shafts extending out to each of the faces. Access to the inside of the cube is from a hatch underneath. The dials are illuminated from behind with neon to create an indirectly lighted face. Really cool at night!
I was in Tucson a few weeks ago and drove past the building (now another bank) and just had to snap a few photos! I was pleasantly surprised to see it keeping good time! If you’re ever in Tucson, check out the southwest corner of Broadway and Pantano. Let me know if it’s still on time!
Preserving Memories. Here is an obsolete chain wheel from an older cuckoo clock. The ratchet pawl is worn out so I’m fabricating a new one. The customer said it belonged to her Mother who loved to hear the music every morning at breakfast. It’s great to be able to restore these memory makers so they can once again be enjoyed.
For more information about All About Time Repair, visit my website at www.AllAboutTimeClockRepair.com
French Crystal Regulator with a Genuine Mercury Pendulum.
This is a movement from a French Crystal Regulator that I started on today. It’s ready to go through the cleaning process. What’s particularly interesting is that this clock has a genuine mercury pendulum. The two silvery cylinders you see on the pendulum are actually glass vials, partially filled with mercury. Its purpose is to maintain accurate timekeeping despite temperature variations.
Metal expands when the temperature rises, so the pendulum will actually lengthen, causing the clock to run slower. However, the mercury in the vial rises upward with the elevated temperature. This causes the “functional pendulum length” to remain relatively stable, and the clock maintains more accurate time. Cooler weather has the opposite effect and will shorten the pendulum. Normally this would cause the clock to gain time, but the mercury level lowers, keeping “functional pendulum length” the same. Think of it as the “center of gravity” remaining constant.
Other types of temperature compensating pendulums were created and put into operation because many years ago it was impossible to maintain a steady temperature without central heating and cooling systems. Nowadays, because we don’t experience the same degree of temperature changes in our homes, the “temperature compensating pendulums” are relatively non-existent. Non-functional replicas have taken their place. The mercury pendulum went “fake” decades ago. Most of what I see are replicas that contain a silver colored insert that looks like mercury. Those pendulum have no temperature compensating action at all.
I’m hoping to soon post pictures of some of the other types of temperature compensating pendulums. Stay tuned!!
A Pivotal Point! This photo is going to become part of a “Photo Tour” I’m preparing for my website. The Tour will include photos of the various stages of a complete clock movement overhaul which I hope will be of interest to those who visit my site. This photo shows me polishing a pivot on a clock wheel to a smooth new surface. Pivots are the axles the gears turn on.
When they get scratched up or grooved, wear and tear is accelerated to the point where the clock will fail to run properly. Once polished, the pivot hole in which the pivot rides is restored with a new hardened brass bushing.
I hope you’ll revisit my site to see the Photo Tour. I’ll blog it’s completion!
By the way, in this photo, the lathe I’m using is a Sherline miniature machinists’ lathe. I was trained 40+ years ago on a watchmakers’ lathe, but have found the machinist’s lathe to be far more versatile for the kind of work I do. I can fabricate tiny parts that I never could on a watchmaker’s lathe. It would NOT be practical for a watch repairman, however.
Stunning Bronze Ansonia Statue Clock
This photo was taken so many years ago that I can’t remember the details of what repairs were needed. Stunning Bronze Ansonia Statue Clock I seem to recall we overhauled the movement so the customer could sell it in proper working condition. This is the kind of beautiful timepiece that evokes the “ooohhs” and “aaahhs” from customers when they visit my shop.