Ap­pren­tice has time on his hands

CHB Mail - - NEWS -

In the work­shop be­hind The Clock Shop in Waipawa ev­ery­thing runs like clock­work.

“It ticks along nicely,” says Jim Greef, who with his wife Anne owns the shop.

There are a lot of clock puns to be had in the work­shop, where horol­o­gist Jim re­pairs and re­stores clocks and watches from the an­tique to more mod­ern quartz bat­tery time­pieces.

There are an­tique clocks in var­i­ous states of re­pair, there are sev­eral self-wind­ing watches twirling slowly on a wind­ing ap­pa­ra­tus, and in the cor­ner of the work­shop there is an­other rar­ity: An ap­pren­tice.

One of only four or five watch­mak­ing and re­pair ap­pren­tices in the coun­try, Alan Py­att says he is more than happy with his ca­reer choice, even though ini­tially it was some­thing he’d never heard of.

“I wanted an ap­pren­tice­ship as I didn’t want to get stuck with a big stu­dent loan,” says Alan.

“So I tried build­ing. The tools were larger and scarier than I ex­pected and I didn’t have the body for build­ing, all that heavy lift­ing and sun­burn,” he laughs.

He stum­bled across watch­mak­ing when he met a friend of Jim’s, who sug­gested maybe he try clock re­pairs.

“I had never heard of it, but it’s like a desk job only fun and prac­ti­cal.”

Alan finds the job fas­ci­nat­ing. “Over­hauls, where you take the clock apart and get it back to­gether and run­ning nicely are very sat­is­fy­ing. It can take as lit­tle as 15 min­utes to take a clock apart, then about an hour and a half to put it all to­gether again. You have to do di­ag­nos­tics, ad­dress any wear and tear . . . some of them have been ly­ing around a long time.”

The clocks are al­most all an­tiques and come from all over the South­ern North Is­land.

“You can’t get spare parts,” ex­plains Jim, “the shops that made these parts are long closed. So we have to make them.”

The work­shop has lathes, sol­der­ing equip­ment, and minute drills and files.

Jim holds up a file only a lit­tle thicker than a hair.

“This is a square file,” he says.

Work­ing with such pre­ci­sion, Jim says an ap­pren­tice has to have a calm pres­ence as well as a nat­u­ral ap­ti­tude.

Alan adds “and an abil­ity to hold your breath”.

It was one of the things he learned at one of his first cour­ses.

“When you are work­ing with screws that are so small they are just specks . . . one sneeze and there goes some­one’s 200-yearold watch.”

On the other end of the scale are the grand­fa­ther clocks, re­moved from their cases and mounted on spe­cially-made brack­ets for re­pair, their chains and im­mensely heavy weights hang­ing below them.

Along with restora­tions and re­pairs, The Clock Shop has a donor clock scheme, where peo­ple can do­nate un­wanted an­tique clocks that they have cho­sen not to re­pair.

These sit in stor­age, avail­able to any­one who would like to chose one and have it re­paired.

Jim says it gives the old clocks a sec­ond chance to be used and en­joyed, rather than thrown away.

“Peo­ple can chose a clock and I will re­pair it for them and just charge them for the re­pairs. The clock is free.”

Alan is three years into his ap­pren­tice­ship in what he says is his life­long ca­reer.

“I will do this for the rest of my life, so long as there is work around. There are so many dif­fer­ent types of clock I will never be bored.” He’s also get­ting hooked on the mer­chan­dise.

“I am get­ting more and more clocks.”

Clock­mak­ing ap­pren­tice Alan Py­att con­cen­trates on the work­ings of an an­tique time­piece.

Jim Greef tak­ing time out in his work­shop at Waipawa’s The Clock Shop.

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