Let’s assume you have decided to take the plunge and you are at the beginning stages of building an essential tools list for clock repair. Let me help you with your journey.
In the fall of 2022, I wrote about the five essential tools for clock repair. The sidebar will bring you to that article. Tools for clock repair need not break the bank, in fact, you can begin for less than a $100 investment.
The five basic tool groups included the screwdriver, the letdown tool, the pivot locator, the box wrench, and the pliers. If you are ready to move forward with more challenging repairs here are the next set of tools you will require. Assuming you have already purchased the basic tools the 16 additional tools you will require are relatively inexpensive and are the prelude to making your first big jump to specialized and advanced tools.
This time our budget is less than $400 (all prices quoted in US funds).
Optivisor or eye loupe
The closer you can see the better. I prefer opti-type visors. I cannot get used to an eye loupe but it is certainly cheaper.
Opti-type visors are more expensive but hinged so that they can be pushed upward and out of the way. I have had a couple of visors in the past but the set I use now is the Magnivisor pro series from Carson which is about $60. The little light at the top goes through batteries fast and sometimes I forget to turn it off, so I don’t use it but you might find it helpful for those dark spaces.
$10 will get you a set of three eye loupes on Amazon.
Movement test stand
A test stand is very helpful when disassembling a movement reassembling it and testing it before it is reinstalled in the case.
I have several types for different purposes but I think the one to start with is Gene’s test stand which is under $70. If you are handy in the workshop it is a relatively simple one-day woodworking project that you can build for half the cost.
Clock movement work stand
I use two types. The first is movement plate standoffs and the second is a simple 4-inch high stand cut from a PVC pipe. The standoff set is anchored to the bottom plate by screwing brass end pieces to the four corners of the bottom plate (you can use three if you wish). The standoffs are sometimes called assembly posts and are around the $25 range in cost.
If you have 5-inch PVC pipe lying around simply cut off a 3 or 4-inch section.
The PVC is easy to work with and does not leave screw marks on the movement plates if you are particular about that sort of thing.
Florescent or LED. A color temperature of 6500k is the best compromise. Newer LED magnifying lights have custom color temperature settings. I see them on Amazon for about $50. Florescent bulbs have a shorter life than LED. Recently mine burned out and the replacement cost for the circular light itself is around $40 (for a $50 lamp!).
Clock oil and oil applicator
I have not had much luck with pen-type applicators and the few I have had have split with repeated use. Plus I am not sure the oil contained within is of very high quality. I am a bit old-school and use a cupped dipper and oil reservoir. Mobius and Keystone are good brands.
Count on spending $10 to $20 for quality clock oil. Motor oil, WD40, and 3-in-1 oil are not suitable substitutes and for me, the jury is still out on synthetic oil.
When working with mainsprings, spring clamps are an absolute must for safety reasons. More than one beginner in clock repair has injured themselves by not restraining the mainsprings. A set of flat clamps (my preference) are around $17. If you wish to save money heavy steel wire will do.
Useful for encouraging tiny pivots into place, picking up small clock parts, and a hundred other uses. A set will set you back $10. Bergeon will happily sell you a set for a few hundred dollars but cheaper blunt nose and needle nose tweezers will do.
Measurement in clock repair is important and a micrometer is essential. They are relatively cheap and can be had for under $20 at your local hardware store.
A general all-purpose probing cleaner for those tight crevices and corners. You will be surprised how quickly you can use up a box of 400. Under $3. Also useful for cleaning out your ears when determining whether or not your clock is in beat.
There is no substitute for cleaning clock bushing holes. Buy them in the hundreds, you will need a lot of them. Get them at the checkout counter for under $2.
A level surface is required to have a clock in beat. This one by Starrett is over $50 but you need not spend that much. Count on about $10.
Spider key sets
The 4 and 5-prone sets in even and odd sizes will be enough for a vast number of clocks. As you move along in your hobby you will accumulate box loads of keys but a spider set is handier. Count on about $15.
These are dollar-store items. Great for organizing clock parts (and not losing them). You can pick up a wide variety of sizes for under $10 total.
Screw head holding screwdriver
I have a set by Klein Tools and find it a time-saver, especially when returning a movement to its case and holding and guiding that finicky screw in place. The gripping action holds, starts, and drives slotted screws in awkward, hard-to-reach places. A word of caution; they can be easily ruined if used to torque a screw in place.
I wish they can be purchased separately for a reasonable cost because I never have used the large one. About $60
Great for locating that nut that mysteriously flies through the air and lands on your floor sometimes never to be seen again. There are many other uses as well. The fancy ones are flexible but I have a penlight which is less than $10.
Set of Single-Ended Scaler Probes
Okay, they are the same ones used by dentists to pick at your teeth but they are perfect for pulling that helper wire into position, guiding a pivot in place, or just about any time you need to pick at something, probe an area, de-scale a tooth (clock teeth, I mean), and so on. I bought mine at a dollar store but a set can be had for around $15.
And there you have it.
For the next level, the costs begin to escalate but after purchasing these tools, and becoming familiar with clock movements through practice you will want to explore your hobby further. In a future article, I will describe how you spend big money on more specialized tools but also how you can get away with advanced repairs on the cheap.
2 thoughts on “Beyond the basics – more advanced tools for clock repair”
Hello Mr. Joiner, I have been enjoying your articles for about a year now and I thank you for the effort you put into them. I almost feel like we are neighbours as I live in Cornwallis Park N. S.
I was reading todays article on tools ( I have most of them) but I was wondering what you think of using a $150.00 Canadian Tire instead of a $1,200.00 + Bergeron Bushing tool. I would use all the appropriate clamps and so on.
Thank you so much in advance for your advice.
Joe Smith ________________________________
Hi Joe. Are you thinking of a drill press? Bushing work can be done with a drill press but you would have to verify the runout of any machine you are considering. Runout is basically the amount of “wobble” that is found in the drill press (the drill bit specifically) when it is rotating. A machine with a poor runout will produce a larger and imperfect hole than the drill bit size. I have an inexpensive Canadian Tire drill press and the runout is quite visible (you can see it wobble). I would not use it for bushing work. Higher-priced machines have less runout and can operate at very low speeds and a low-speed drill for proper bushing work is a must.
The next cheapest alternative is bushing by hand using a hand reamer set with KWM bushings. Perrins describes a hand reamer set as a ” made in USA version hand reamer set compatible with KWM Bushings. US Hand Reamer Set consists of 5 Reamers, 1 Chamfering Cutter and a handle. US Hand Reamer Set is a good economical version of the KWM Hand Reamer Set. US Hand Reamer Set includes reamers 1.18 mm, 1.78 mm, 2.68 mm, 3.48 mm, 5.85 mm.”
Either way you still need to buy the bushings be they Bergeon or KWM.