Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

HOROLOGY: The Science of Time

Humans have been measuring time since the beginning of civilizations all over the world. There are almost as many calendars as there are major cultures in the world. Ever since world travel made the world a smaller place, there has been a need for international agreement as to how time is measured. Without a universally agreed upon measure of time, how can we coordinate our schedules with people in other parts of the country, or the world? 

Back in 1878, Canadian Sir Sanford Fleming proposed the system of worldwide time zones that we still use today. He recommended that the world be divided into twenty-four time zones, each spaced 15 degrees of longitude apart. Since the earth rotates once every 24 hours and there are 360 degrees of longitude, each hour the earth rotates one-twenty-fourth of a circle or 15° of longitude. However, with the advent of technology and the Internet, there is a new push for a more standardized, absolute measure of time that would make time truly universal. 

The ticking of a clock can impart many and varied emotions with people.  For some the ticking is a syncopated rhythm that imparts a calming affect on the body and soul.  The sound is relaxing and soothing.

For some a clock ticking is a disturbance, a reminder of what has not been completed, what is yet to come, and the impending end.  The tick-tock sound of a clock is a bothersome background noise that needs to be quieted.

For me, the ticking of a clock is a calming sound that breaks the silence in the home.  It is an enjoyable sound while working keeping you aware of your surroundings, keeping an order in the processes of the day; Keeping you aware so as to not get lost in oneself.

The sound of a clock working has been described as a symphony, this is true.  When you listen to a timepiece operating you can hear the escapement engaging and releasing, you can hear the chimes as they arm, you can hear the parts of the movement as they carry out their job.  
I love the sound of a clock operating, it makes me happy.
See the source image

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I Need a Key

Several times a year, a client will ask for a key for their clock.  Supplying a key is not just going to the back room and pulling out a key.  Clock keys come in numerous configuration as shown below in this group picture.

 Clock keys can be single ended, double ended, a crank style, a long shaft, a short shaft, a wide wing, a narrow wing, etc... (I think you get the picture)  Keys also come in several standard sizes, but can also be custom cut to fit an odd sized clock arbor.

When a key fits correctly it will fit on the arbor with very little play enabling the user to wind the movement with ease.  When a key fits incorrectly, the arbor shoulders can be damaged, the clock may not be able to be wound fully, and the damage to the winding arbor can be so sever that the arbor will need re-shouldered or replaced.

Good arbor

Damaged Arbor

A winding arbor can be re-shouldered with care and a good file.  Once an arbor is re-shouldered it will no longer accept the same size key as the other winding arbor(s) on the movement, thus requiring more than one key to wind the clock.

Double ended keys are required for clocks that have a separate speed adjust arbor, or a special arbor to change the chime melody or silence the chime.

Clock dial showing time and strike winding arbors as well as speed adjust arbor top center by the number 12

In short, there are dozens of different clock key sizes, configurations, and options.  To replace a missing or worn key, it is best to bring the clock into the shop for a proper key fitting.
So yes, I can get you a key, but it is more than just pulling a key out of stock and handing it to you, the key needs to fit the arbor, have the proper length, and have the proper wing width.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mind the Alarm

One of the more popular clocks to come into the shop for repair is the humble kitchen clock.  This tallish, thin, often gingerbready type clock is so named as it was typically found in the kitchen of 19th century homes.  Since it was common to spend upwards of 8 hours a day in the kitchen preparing meals, baking, doing laundry, ironing, and the like, it was necessary to have a clock in this most used room of the house to keep track of time.  The fanciest of these kitchen clocks would have thermometers, weather glasses, and alarms.  Through the passing of time and non use of the alarm, it has been forgotten how to set the alarm; we address that forgotten issue in this writing.

This is a typical kitchen clock from the late 19th century.

Note in the center of the dial a small circular alarm set disc.

The alarm set disc itself looks like this when it is separate from the clock.

The alarm mechanism looks like this when it is separate from the clock.

This is a detail of the alarm setup in a typical kitchen clock

Setting the time for the alarm to activate is a simple task.  The alarm set disc located in the center of the dial is rotated to set the alarm.  This disc must only be rotated CLOCKWISE else damage will occur to the alarm mechanism and the movement will be jammed.

To determine the time for the alarm to activate, the disc must be rotated until the number of the hour for activation is lined up under the hour hand of the clock.  I.E. if you want the alarm to ring at 2:00 o'clock, the alarm disc must be rotated until the numeral 2 is located directly under the hour hand.

The alarm mechanism must be wound separately with either a separate key or some have a key permanently affixed to the alarm mechanism.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no "snooze" on the alarm mechanism, once it starts ringing, it will continue to ring until the spring is spent.  Also note, there is no AM or PM setting.  If you decide to set the alarm for 2:00 o'clock it will activate at 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon; so wind the alarm mechanism only when you want to be alerted by the alarm.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sweeten That Finish

Many of the antique and vintage clocks that arrive in my shop for repair and restoration of the movements, have cases that need attention.  Unless a clock case has been coated in paint or a urethane coating, I exercise a sympathetic restoration approach.
If the case has minor scuffing or whitish water marks, I use a product manufactured by Howards called resto-a-finish. This product is essentially a mineral oil with a dye in it and is available in several different hues/colors.

When applying this product, I begin by cleaning the case of all dust, dirt, and loose finish using a soft, china bristle, parts brush.  After the initial cleaning, restor-a-finish can be applied with a china bristle brush, a soft cotton rag, or 0000 steel wool, depending on the condition of the current finish and the look desired.

Should the finish need more than just a refresh from restor-a-finish, I use a soft paste wax with a color added to breath life back into the case and imbue a warm, soft hue to the finish.  My product of choice for this is BriWax from England.   BriWax comes in several shades from clear to ebony.
Again start with a soft, china bristle brush to remove dust, dirt, and any loose finish from the clock case.  Apply the wax with a soft cloth or 0000 steel wool, buffing the finish to a pleasant, warm sheen.

I often use a hand crafted beeswax polish on historic or special pieces.  A simple beeswax polish can be made from grated beeswax and pure, clear turpentine.  Simply grate the beeswax into a glass jar that has a screw on lid, add your pure, clear turpentine to cover.  The beeswax will dissolve in less than a day and create a nice paste wax for application.  Apply this wax with a soft cloth and buff to a warm satin sheen.

Should the finish of the case be to the point that is has gone black with age, severely checked/alligatored, or has failed to the point that it is flaking off, I use a refinishing solution of boiled linseed oil and pure turpentine.
The recipe for the solution is 2 parts boiled linseed oil & 3 parts turpentine.  Apply the mixture with 0000 steel wool rubbing in a circular fashion until the finish is softened.  Rinse the steel wool often in the solution to ensure the impurities are removed and not redeposited on the finish.  After the finish is cleaned and reworked to the desired appearance, go over the entire piece with a clean 0000 steel wool pad that has been dampened with the refinishing mixture, going with the grain.  Allow the finish cure for 72 hours, then topcoat with the beeswax polish shown above.

The example below is a mid 19th century ogee clock that was located into the rafters of the detached garage after a house fire.  The clock remained in the rafters of the garage from the 1950's until 2017 when it was discovered by owners grandson.  During my restoration of the case, I found a photo of customers great-great grandfather under the grime on the lower tablet.
The case was reclaimed with the boiled linseed oil and turpentine mixture, then top coated with the beeswax and turpentine polish.  A pleased customer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Pine Knoll Clock Shop on Television!

Should you ever have wondered what Dorrin sounded like, watch the following special on Pine Knoll Clock Shop & Appraisals.  The clock shop starts around the 15 minute marker.  Thanks for watching!

Pine Knoll Clock Shop & Appraisals on Television

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Water Works Park Floral Clock

When I was 10 years old or so, I took a trip with the CB Rangers Explorers to Detroit.  One of the highlights of the trip was a stop at Dearborn Village where I got to see the famous Floral Clock that Henry Ford moved to the village from the Detroit Water Works Park, subsequently retrofitting the original water powered movement with a weight driven pendulum movement.  I am currently working on finding original plans for this clock in hopes of recreating this in its original water powered design.
The changes I anticipate including on my version of this famous clock:
1) Crafted from Lexan allowing visitors to view the works
2) No live florals would be planted on the clock, I would use preserved vegetation for the numerals and leave the remainder open to view the mechanism.

This is the clock as it was originally displayed at the Water Works Park

This is how the clock looked when displayed at the Dearborn Village

Below is the story of the Floral Clock provided by the Historic Detroit Organization:

Water Works Park

Few cities in the United States had waterworks systems in the early 1800s. A growing Detroit had growing thirst, so the eventually opened its first distribution system at Jefferson and Randolph Street, which served the city from 1827 until 1850. Having outgrown that, the city built a replacement in 1854 in “the extreme outskirts” of Detroit, near present-day Eastern Market. It opened three years later. But the regionalization of the area’s water system coupled with the city’s growing population and status as a manufacturing center put the plant under incredible strain.
The City Waterworks bought 56 acres of land from owner Robert P. Toms for $35,000 (about $678,000 today, when adjusted for inflation). Located off East Jefferson Avenue near Cadillac Boulevard, east of Belle Isle and even farther from downtown that the last facility, water flowed through the plant for the first time on Dec. 15, 1877, and was fully operational by 1879.
While the area’s main focus was supplying drinking water to the city, this swath of land was much more than just the site of another plant. The water commissioners decided to open the grounds to the public as a park.
This park — which still exists today but is no longer open to the public — would eventually encompass 110 acres with swimming and picnic areas, play equipment like swings and teeter-totters, baseball diamonds, even a library.

The clock

Among its attractions were lagoons, swimming areas, a large observation tower and the Floral Clock, which stood near the entrance that was made of flowers and run off water pressure. The clock was unveiled in the park in 1893 and was designed by Elbridge A. “Scrib” Scribner, the superintendent of the park’s grounds. Scribner’s clock ran on cup-shaped paddlewheels that moved as water flowed. The clock itself was made up of more than 7,000 plants that were held in place by chicken wire. It stood seven-and-a-half feet high and was 10 feet across. The dial was 6 feet in diameter and had numerals made out of alternantheras, a type of shrub. The rest of the clock’s face was sempervivum Tectorum, known as common houseleek. In front of the clock sat beds of tulips or begonias.
By the 1930s, however, the clock had become a liability. Park visitors were no longer enraptured by its water-powered wonder. It also stopped keeping accurate time. In 1934, automaker Henry Ford had a fascination with clocks — not to mention relics of American history — and bought the floral timepiece to display at his Greenfield Village. The clock was altered, however, replacing the water-powered mechanism with a traditional pendulum-and-weight mechanism. Unlike its days being powered by water, the floral clock had to be wound twice a day. But also unlike the old days, the clock now kept accurate time. The restored clock sat near the Greenfield Village Gatehouse and was dedicated July 4, 1935. Much like it had at Water Works Park, the clock would delight visitors to Greenfield Village for another 39 years.
In 1974, however, the clock started breaking down, and it was decided to retire the old timepiece. In 1989, Greenfield Village returned the clock to the City of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department, which oversees what was Water Works Park.
The clock was moved to the entrance on the island side of the MacArthur Bridge in 1990.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Clock Shop in 2019 and Beyond

Dorrin K Mace, Horologist, Certified Antiques Appraiser

Owner of Pine Knoll Clock Shop & Appraisals

Dorrin began his interest in clocks and antiques in 1969 when his maternal grandfather passed on and the family farm went up for auction.  Nearly 200 years of history was encapsulated in the family house and out buildings; the damaged clocks in the machine shed were the most intriguing to Dorrin.

From that moment, the journey of becoming a clock repairman/horologist began. 

Dorrin began his career repairing clocks and in 2001 opened a brick and mortar store front on Rt58 between Grove City, PA & Mercer, PA.

In the early years Dorrin was dissuaded from following his dream of being a clock repairman as he was told “Mechanical Clocks will be all but gone by the late 1980’s, replaced by everything digital” (These naysayers were wrong as Dorrin works approximately 70 hours a week and sees no slowing of the work in the future)

Clock repair and restoration are a passion of Dorrin, treating each piece as his own.

“The before and after transformation is always amazing to my customers and even to myself” states Dorrin.  Bringing a family piece back to life is a great accomplishment.

Clock repairs, restorations, and clock maintenance are a charge that I take great pride in, continually honing my craft to better serve my customers and clients.  House calls for large clocks are offered within a 75 mile radius of the shop.

In 2014 Dorrin launched his “Green Line”, an offering of clocks that utilize reclaimed and recycled materials in the design and build of the clock cases and dials, earning an award from the reuse council in 2015 for innovative design for furniture

The increased popularity of the Green Line clocks has led Dorrin to build a great online presence and finally begin work on creating an inviting online market place.   Look for the launch of the store on this spring.

Having a keen interest and eye for antiques has prompted Dorrin to complete his education in antiques as well as completing course work to be a Certified Antiques Appraiser in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  Dorrin is please to offer his expertise and services to his clients to complete appraisals on their clocks and most household antiques.

What is ahead in 2019 for Pine Knoll Clock Shop & Appraisals:

1.       We will begin our podcast on clock stories, repair tips, and curiosities.  We have several international guests lined up that will give their take on clocks, repairs, and problems from all around the globe

2.       Expanded production and Launch of our online market of our Green Line Clocks

3.       Remodeling/resetting of our showroom and repair areas to allow an expansion in the offerings of our clocks, antiques, and curiosities.

4.       Continuing education to ensure he hones his skills to offer the best repairs and sympathetic restorations to his clients.

5.       Expansion of our offerings of clocks for Professional Groups/Business awards

Please stop and visit us at 1749 Mercer Grove City Road ~ Mercer, PA; Ph 724 748 4058

Shop hours: Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri 10-5:30; Sat 9-1

Visit us on Facebook; the web:; or my blog:

Emails can be directed to: