John Plewes and clock repair – a must have reference for Canadian collectors

Although there are two dozen clock books in my collection I am always on the look out for more. Some of my books profile various types and styles of clocks, some explore the history of horology while others are concerned with clock repair and case restoration.

Part of every vacation or daily outing in my province of Nova Scotia or elsewhere in Canada involves scouring the used books stores for clock books. Sometimes I am lucky and manage to locate some good ones but quite often I will leave used book stores disappointed.

This past summer (2018) I picked up John Plewes excellent book entitled Repairing and Restoring Pendulum Clocks, published in 1984.

The table of contents describes what he covers in his book.

Contents of the book
Specialized procedures

Although the book is no longer in print it provides excellent examples of clock repair procedures by describing step-by-step instruction for overhauling and repairing many movements plus the repair and restoration of dials, and cases of antique pendulum clocks. Commonly found clocks that you are likely to inherit or find on online auction sites, flea markets and antique stores are covered.

John Plewes covers clocks from Britain, Canada, the US, France and Germany. There are plenty of diagrams and photos in the book to assist the amateur or expert repair person .

For example, Chapter 4 covers the Pequegnat Regulator #1 8-day movement.

“The finest clock made in America”; Pequegnat advertisement. This clock hangs in the Canadian Clock Museum

The clock is markedly similar to the Seth Thomas Regulator #2 shown below.

Seth Thomas Regulator #2

Plewes makes several interesting points regarding the design of this clock. He discusses the difficulty in finding a replacement weight and often the lighter Seth Thomas weight is substituted which leads to the clock stopping after a while. Plewes is surprisingly critical of the #1 at one point stating that the hands are too heavy since they influence the force applied to the train. The pendulum arc changes when the minute hand indicates 20 minutes after, as against that at 50 minutes. The solution, he feels, is to counterweight the hands or install lighter hands. Plewes opines that the whole point of a regulator is to maintain the constant arc and Pequegnat seemed to have missed that point when designing the clock.

Plewes covers a lot of ground in his book. Some of the advice is certainly beyond the skill level of an amateur clock repair person but if you are interested in growing within the world of clock repair and case restoration it will provide an invaluable resource.

Also included are safety tips, shop techniques, and a glossary of terms.

The book was last published over 30 years ago but If you can find it, and are interested in clock repair from a Canadian perspective it is well worth the cost.

2 thoughts on “John Plewes and clock repair – a must have reference for Canadian collectors

  1. It’s interesting that you mentioned how difficult it is to find a counterweight for antique clocks because clockmakers have stopped producing these, so clock repair services would need to install lighter hands as an alternative. This is of special concern to my grandpa because he’s planning on getting the rare 200-year-old grandmother clock from the auction and have it repaired. He wants to present it in good working order, functional, to my grandmother during their diamond wedding anniversary.


    1. Plewes is suggesting that the weight of the hands should match the force applied by the train. In the case of the #1 the hands are too heavy which affects the clocks accuracy. That is something that should be considered when servicing that 200 year old clock. The hands should not only be correct for the clock but have a neutral effect on the train and if a counterweight is required the hands might have to be hand made.



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