By B.C Manion
There is something about the rhythmic tick-tock of a clock or the ancient sound of a grandfather’s chimes that has nearly universal appeal.
Those sounds are especially thrilling, however, to those who spend their days repairing clocks that don’t work.
Chris Denherder has sold and repaired clocks for decades and now is passing his knowledge and a few tricks of the trade to his grandson, Andrew Dirkse.
The men work at Timeframe, Inc. which shares space with custom picture framing shop operated by Denherder’s wife, Judy.
The Denherders opened their shop 3 ½ years ago, at 4843 Allen Road in Zephyrhills. They began the business a year after moving into the area to retire. The couple, who lived in Buchanan, Mich., had been snowbirders since 1989.
They found a place on a golf course to retire, but couldn’t quite settle into retirement.
“We were here for a year doing nothing,” Denherder said. Then his wife told him she missed the framing business and wanted to get back into it. She promised him a small corner so he could fix clocks.
Fast-forward to this summer — that’s when the couple’s grandson, who had been building log homes in Bozeman, Mont, came for a visit.
He went back home, quit his job and signed up for some intensive clock repair classes.
Then, he moved back to join his grandfather’s business and he’s thrilled with his decision.
Both men get a kick out of figuring out why a clock is running too slow, running too fast or has stopped completely.
They enjoy figuring out why the chimes chime too often or at the wrong time or don’t chime at all.
“We repair clocks, anything from cuckoos to Grandfathers,” Dirkse said. “We don’t do watches, just clocks,” said Andrew Dirkse.
The business draws its customers primarily from Zephyrhills, Dade City and areas to the north.
Dirkse said he has always enjoyed tinkering with things. When he was a kid he took apart radios and vacuum cleaners, he said.
Now, when he and Denherder repair clocks — at the shop or during house calls, he enjoys trying to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.
Each job is a little different, taking various amounts of time to complete.
“When you’re out working in the field, there’s a million different kinds of clocks,” Denherder said.
Dirkes said took intensive training in Ft. Lauderdale and Cincinnati to gain technical skills needed to attack all sorts of problems. But he also has the benefit of working alongside his grandfather who has built up a vast store of knowledge through decades of experience.
Some clock repairs can be made quickly and simply. Others require a fair bit of sleuthing to figure out exactly what’s wrong and then to find or make a part to repair it.
Sometimes it would be much cheaper just to buy a new clock. But many people want to hold onto old clocks for nostalgic or sentimental reasons. They may be a family heirloom or were given to them to mark a special occasion.
Sometimes they simply got a good deal and want a showpiece for their homes.
Other times they simply like the way the clock ticks or the chimes sound.
Unlike some repair services, a clock repair always takes time to verify, Dirkse said.
Once the repair has been made, the shop holds onto the clock to let it run for about a week to make sure that it’s working properly, he said. They want to make sure that when the customer gets it home they don’t need to bring it back.
The shop repairs clocks that wind up and clocks that work with weights. Recently it had a clock dating back to 1804.
If you’re going to get an antique clock, it’s a good idea to learn how to wind it properly, Dirkse said. It’s important to develop a feel for your clock. If it is a spring-driven clock, it’s possible to wind it too tightly and break the spring.
It’s also important to know how to set the beat.
“A clock has to tick-tock evenly in order to stay running. It’s not a fixed thing.”
“If you’re going to buy an antique clock, you really should know how to put it in beat,” he said.
Clock maintenance is critical, too.
“It’s a working machine. It needs to be lubricated,” Denherder said, recalling he went to one job and asked the owner when the clock had last been service. The owner replied: “I think it was in the ’90s.”
Doing routine maintenance helps avoid expensive repairs, Dirkse said.
The two men love talking about clocks and are glad to pass along what they know. They do not offer appraisals, but have roughly a dozen catalogs containing all kinds of clocks. The clock repair industry is declining, as fewer people enter the trade and others die or retire, Denherder said.
“Right after Andrew came to work here in September, the only other fellow I knew (who did clock repairs) passed away. I’ve been getting Dade City calls like crazy.”
As for Dirkse, he sees himself sticking with it.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I like the history of it, I suppose.”
For more information about the shop’s services and hours call (813) 788-7400.