Maintaining a hobby after the pandemic

The pandemic was certainly devastating and no doubt changed everyone and everything. Nothing will ever be quite the same.

As Dickens would say, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. There are no hidden positives in a pandemic but if anything, this past year has given many of us the gift of reflection. It has also given us a chance to slow down and appreciate what is important in life. Part of that slowing down process has allowed us to pursue interests and hobbies that we not have otherwise had time for. Fortunately, my hobby was long established before the pandemic and it helped me get though some tough days.

HAC clock movement
HAC clock movement servicing

Once the pandemic is over, what happens to that newfound hobby? Hmm!

Let’s say your new hobby is clock collecting and repair old clocks but i could be just about anything. How do you maintain your new hobby beyond the pandemic.

Everybody loves lists so here we go!

Connect with like-minded people: In this age of social media, it is easier now than ever before. There are newsgroups, forums, and discussion groups for just about anything. I spend time on the newsgroup where I find solutions to the challenges of clock repair. Input any hobby and you will find discussion groups aplenty and who knows, future friends. I connect with like-minded folks on Facebook.

Facebook group

YouTube is your friend: There are literally millions of videos and if you select the right terms you can find information that might offer solutions to your hobby problem. There is a lot of good advice but not everyone is an expert. I subscribe to several reputable YouTube channels in clock repair and I find their advice helpful. But it is a truly a jungle out there.

Research your hobby: Your local library is an excellent resource. The staff will help you narrow your search for information. For those staying at home, there are some very good websites that are run by well-respected professionals in their field. Blogs and Youtube are other good sources for information. The NAWCC has a subscription-based online research site that I find excellent.

NAWCC website

Start simple and progress slowly:  if you have tackled something more that you are capable of in the beginning you will become easily discouraged. When I was starting out in clock repair I began disassembling and servicing time-only and 30-hour movements before progressing to more complicated clocks. Start simple, gain confidence, hone your skillset and work up to more difficult challenges.

Screw drivers, clock tools
Screwdrivers, an example of basic clock tools

Combine your hobby with other interests: My wife and I love to travel. Admittedly it has been difficult in the past year but small staycations have sustained us. We buy clocks online and travel to different parts of the province to pick them up.

My other interest is photography. Repairing clocks and photography go hand in hand. I take pictures at every step of the way when servicing my clocks.

Using depth of field to isolate the foreground image

Invest in the right tools at the right time: Invest in the right tools at each stage of your hobby; start with the most basic tools that you can find at a hardware or craft store. Spread your costs over time buying things as you need them.

Strategic purchasing means buying that expensive tool when you are absolutely sure you need it and have made a strong commitment to your hobby. For example, in clock repair, there are three essential tools that can be rather pricey. Over the course of four years, I bought a mainspring winder ($450), a bushing machine ($1550), and a mini lathe ($800). You can live without any of these tools and I know many clock repairers who manipulate mainsprings without a spring winder, who bush by hand, and who use a portable drill or drill press for clock repair. Buying used is an option but whatever the case, buy according to your means.

Olie Baker spring winder
Olie Baker spring winder

Don’t be discouraged if things don’t go exactly as planned; A lot of us have high expectations when starting anything new. We have to realize that in any hobby there are hills and valleys, times when things are going well, and times when there are obstacles that seem impossible to overcome. For some hobbies, there is a steep learning curve.

Stick with it, Perseverance is the key. In time mountains become molehills.

Move out of your comfort zone; I work on many simpler one and two train clock movements but seldom work on 3 train movements which are much more complicated. However, I will buy the odd one to help me build confidence and broaden my skillset.

Despite my best efforts the strike side on this parlour clock refuses to run

Keep records: Records can be in most any form from handwritten notes to photographs, to an Excel spreadsheet (see below) or a written account of your successes and experiences such as a blog or website.

Keeping records reminds you of your successes when you are at a low point in your hobby and provides motivation to tackle new challenges.

Well, I hope that provides some ideas for maintaining your new hobby. A hobby can be a transitory thing or life-long pursuit but in tough times it is the one thing that sustains many of us.

21 thoughts on “Maintaining a hobby after the pandemic

  1. Ron. As ever, intelligent, sound advice. The calming process of dismantling and reassembling old clocks with all their mechanical wonder has helped certainly me through lockdown. Taking the advice, when something is not clicking into place, to walk away, make a cup of tea (I am English so of course it is tea) and come back to it refreshed, has got me over the many inevitable frustrations.

    I love the way you combine a love of photography with your clock exploits. And you don’t even mention the act of sharing your knowledge and experiences via your blog as part of your hobby. I hope you know how valuable that is to those of us less proficient beginners!

    Lockdown gave me the time to create a website and blog – focussing on clocks but straying ever further afield as the mood takes me – so I know just how much effort goes into posting regularly, as you do. Keep up the brilliant work. And thanks.



    1. Thanks Hugh. You should pat yourself on the back, I have dropped by your site several times and I like where your mood is taking you.


  2. Well I call it the Chinese pestilence. I can’t use polite words for it. On a lighter note I have an ollie baker spring winder use it at least once a week. sometimes 2 or 3 times. I also have a bushing tool what a godsend. Use that often as well. I quite like working on american clocks despite them having open mainsprings most of the time. I hava waterbury chime and strike triple plate I have to work on. Will be a challenge,needs re bushing and the pivots polishing like glass. I will have to treat as 2 separate movements initially. Looking foreward to working on it. Not sure how common they are. I now do this as my full time job and really enjoy it.


    1. I have also done paid work but prefer not to. It was never my intent to make it a full-time job however, it is a full-time hobby and I really enjoy it.


      1. I have to do it as a job now,started off as a hobby though. I am on working tax credit and self employed, I restore clocks then sell on ebay. If I can get 2 or more on a week that will be o.k.I am getting much faster working on the clocks now. I do some repairing as well for people but don’t really advertise it. There is a shortage of mechanical Clock repairers in the uk. The latest tool I purchased was last december it is a bushing tool , what a god send that is. I find most of the movements I work on need rebushing.


          1. Have you come accross the waterbury triple plate chime and strike, I have one not to sell on though needs re bushing may be a challenge. I think I can do it, I think there are 2 versions of it. I think the pivots have to be really polished up as well.


          2. Interesting to see such a complicated and compact movement with open mainsprings and a countwheel strike.



          3. Yes Ron going to work on mine soon when I have time. I think the pivots are o.k But certainly needs re bushing. I really need a watchmakers lathe so I can re pivot. I have the same case and dial as that but dial much better condition on mine.


          4. Thank you Ron I did start it but i didnt have the experience then I can send photos of the stage that I am up to.


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