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'Hey, kids, what time is it?' Clock repairman knows!

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

(Photo)
Jack Chaney keeps track of the time at his Clay City business, where he restores, repairs, sells and trades a variety of clocks. Here, he's looking at 19th Century mantel clock stored upstairs in his shop, J.C.'s Clock Repairs.

CLAY CITY -- Finding what makes them tick can be a challenge for some people, but Jack Chaney found his calling early in life.

The Clay City businessman has operated J.C.'s Clock Repair on Main Street for just a couple years, but tinkering with clocks has been a lifelong passion for the 50-year-old. He specializes in repairing and restoring all types of clocks and watches.

"I love any kind of clock," he said inside his downtown clock shop. He was surrounded by more than 2,000 clocks lined up and down its walls and along shelves. Bigger grandfather and grandmother clocks stand on the floor.

Many are antiques while others are trendy, like the Elvis Presley time piece hanging above the doorway to his shop. There are even a few hand-crafted by him for sale in the store. He has almost as many clocks in his home collection -- all acquired from many years of buying, selling and trading the time pieces and attending auctions and conventions. Visitors to his shop can expect to spend anywhere between $10 to $3,700 to own one from his assortment.

"I was always interested in clocks, since I was a boy," Chaney said. While growing up, his dad had an old grandfather clock that caught his attention early on in his boyhood home of Indianapolis.

The fact that his son liked to tinker with all sorts of things convinced Chaney's father that his son would never follow in his footsteps and become a farmer. At 17, Chaney's father asked the teen to work on the grandfather clock he'd always admired. Encouraging his son's talent, he then took him to meet an old watchmaker, who put him to work as an apprentice in his shop. What started as a hobby evetually grew into a trade, and the clock expert says he's enjoyed every minute of it along the way to getting to where he is now.

He chuckled when he explained that clock guys have no sense of time, yet he'd be the first to admit that "time is precious," a motto printed on his business cards.

Chaney, a member of the National Watch and Clock Collectors Association, moved to Clay City about 15 years ago. Always providing surrounding communities with a home clock service, he sometimes had other jobs on the side of the craft he's fully dedicated to now.

Antique clocks are an important connection to the past, and Chaney is determined to keep his old clocks ticking. Whether it means rebuilding them or simply replacing gears and tension springs, he'll do whatever it takes to get a family heirloom running again. Sometimes, they've been stored away several years because they were mistaken to be broken and maybe only needed a professional cleaning.

"They are precise mechanisms -- any little thing can stop them, even dust," Chaney said, adding that it's important to have older, more valuable clocks cleaned professionally on a regular basis and to follow manufacturers care instructions to keep them preserved. He's restoring the tower clock on the Bloomfield courthouse.

Collecting many other things over the years, including horse and elephant figurines and various dolls, he also has a love for fishing, but his clocks always come first. Fascinated by the smaller pieces that make a clock run -- its works -- all the springs, gears, pulleys, chains and chimes inside the clocks he works on, intrigue him. Not only does he have an endless selection of clocks and watches, but he has boxes and boxes of old gears and parts kept on shelves he's never thrown away.

"They're a part of my life," he said, holding onto his magnifyer glass that he often uses to see the tiny parts he works with. It's a job where he'll never stop learning.

Things have changed somewhat over the years he's worked with watches and clocks. At one time, clockmakers were required to have a license, especially to work with electrical clocks. Now, Chaney said it's more important for anyone who likes to work with clocks to have experience and the special tools of the trade. He just trained an apprentice in his shop for six months and is glad to show those interested in pursuing the clock field the ropes.

Nowadays, watches and clocks are available for as little as $3 at some stores. Although they keep more accurate time and are cheaper than their predecessors, Chaney stresses they don't make them like they used to in the good old days when craftsmanship was valued.

"But what was two minutes 80 years ago?," he asked, referring to how time-conscious society has become.

Making a comfortable living at his career, Chaney's not looking to get rich with his clock shop.

"If I could afford to do it, I'd do it for free," he said about his craft, adding that while doing a lot of in-home service on most clocks, a clock repairer should have good people skills and be trustworthy.

There isn't a clock he'd turn down taking a look at, and he can recount times when he's received apple pies and dinners in exchange for his repair work when customers couldn't afford to pay cash.

For more information about home service or getting an estimate of your clock's worth, stop by the shop located at 727 Main St. in Clay City or call Jack Chaney at (812) 939-8123.



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