Michael Gainey's

Master Clock Repair

AWCI Certified Clockmaker

Columbus, Ohio

By Appointment Only


hall of shame

 The bitter taste of low quality lasts longer than the sweetness of low price.

"The bitter taste of poor quality lasts longer than the sweetness of low price."

Many people take up clock repair as a “logical” extension of their hobby of antique clock collecting and because it is a hobby charge very little for their work.  Because of this, the clock repair trade probably has the largest percentage of untrained, unqualified people of any professional field.  There are also a large number of people who practice clock repair professionally but have never bothered to receive proper training and have therefore developed many bad repair habits.  

The pictures that follow are proof that ugly, improper repair work is alive and well in Central-Ohio and through out the world.  All of the bad repairs you are about to see I have photographed personally.

Come; follow me as I take you on a guided tour through the Hall of Shame.



Bad Lever Repair

This is one of the most egregious bad repairs I have ever seen.  Not because the repair itself is so disgusting (it is) but because of the type and value of clock it was performed on. This Dutch clock,  made in the 1700's  was sold to one of my customers by an upscale antique store in a large city outside of Ohio.  The clock sold for $50,000.  Yes, that's right, $50,000!  Once the clock arrived it did not function so I was called out to have a look.  The new owner had been told that the clock had been completely restored before purchase. 

Looking at the brass lever on the right you can see three different points where the lever had broken and been repaired very poorly with solder.  To the right of that lever is a steel lever and  someone folded up a piece of sheet brass and soldered it around the point where it engages with the rack (sawtooth looking lever) below.

There were other problems inside the movement as well. 

What was most shocking was that the antique store owner was not willing to perform a proper repair to make it right and the clock was returned for a refund.



The more a clock runs, the more a clock wears.  Although proper maintenance slows the wear process, wear is inevitable and will eventually cause all clocks to fail.  When the clock wears out it must be overhauled or restored. 


Wear occurs due to friction which is caused by the turning of steel pivots (think of an axle) in bearing surfaces (holes in the mechanism’s brass plates).  Friction increases when there is a lack of lubrication and the bearing surface becomes dirty.  Because the steel is harder than the brass, the brass “hole” becomes elongated or egg shaped.  This elongation of the bearing surface causes the gear to shift inside the clock mechanism and leads to an improper meshing of the gear teeth.  The improper mesh increases friction and creates drag on the gear train which in turn causes the mechanism to fail.


Prick Punching

Worn Bearing Surface with Prick Punching

The “Mother” of All Bad Repairs

In the middle of the picture we can see the steel pivot protruding through the hole in the clock plate.  The dark crescent shape underneath the pivot is the worn area.  This darker portion is where the pivot originally turned.  The force of the gear next to it has caused the bearing surface to wear upward and away from its original center.  In order to try to correct this, the method of prick punching was used.  Because brass is relatively soft, using a hammer and pointed metal punch, the brass can be moved slightly reducing the size of the elongated hole and hopefully pushing the pivot back towards its original center.


Bearing surfaces are supposed to be round and smooth.  I am quite confident that you can tell that this method will never produce a round smooth bearing surface and it is ugly as well.

More Prick Punching

Here is another example.  If you look closely you can see that the pivot itself has been damaged by the punch causing it to have a very irregular surface.

And Even More

Prick Punched Bearing Surface with Bushing Installed

On the left (above) is a prick punched bearing surface viewed with the movement disassembled.  With the pivot out of the hole you can clearly see the hole’s oval shape.


On the right is the same hole after being properly repaired with a bushing installed.  The bushing has taken away most of the prick marks but you can still see some of the them around the outside of the bushing.  This is why prick punching is such an ugly repair, especially on nice antique movements.

Multiple Prick Punch Wounds

Lest you think that prick punching is done on only one or two bearing surfaces on a clock here is a very nice antique chiming movement.  Look closely (above) and you can see that this fine movement has been beat silly with a prick punch. 

More Amateur Wear Repair

Rathbun or Band-Aid Bushings

The band-aid bushings are the three pieces under the slotted steel screws holding them to the clock plate.  You can see where their name comes from.  Remember that wear causes an elongated hole that moves the pivot away from its original center.  These “bushings” enable a “repairman” to move the pivot back to center without dismantling the clock. 


Use of this type of bushing is often seen defacing antique American strike movements because they have the longer pivots necessary to protrude through the plate far enough for the band-aid bushing to hold it. This saves a great deal of time of course but requires drilling a hole in the clock plate where one did not originally exist.  The slotted hole where the screw goes through enables the “repairman” to adjust the “bushing” into the right position and then tighten the screw.  Pretty clever perhaps but it is not a proper repair. 

Screw In Bushings

Here is another interesting way to repair a worn bearing surface.  Once again, like the other two methods (prick punching and band-aid bushing), use of the screw-in bushing enables a “repairman” to “correct” a worn area without dismantling the clock.  A special tool attaches to the plate and allows a hollow drill bit to cut a hole in the plate around the pivot without removing the pivot.  The inside of the hole is tapped with threads and a bushing, hopefully of the right size, is then screwed down around the pivot. 


Seems like a good idea?  Wrong!  When a bearing surface is worn the pivot is often worn or scarred as well.  Without getting the gear out of the clock you are unable to restore the pivot surface before installing the bushing.  (See my “Overhaul” page for more about this) 


Although this method saves time like the others it does not make for a proper long-term repair.  The unpolished scarred pivot surface will typically chew up the new screw-in bushing in a relatively short time.

More Very Bad Attempts at Wear Repair

The repair above gets the award for clever use of a straight pin.  The soldered on pin is pushing against the pivot to try to hold it in its proper place.  Pretty isn’t it?

This person did not even exert himself enough to get some band-aid bushings but instead gave this clock got the deluxe treatment with crude chunks of brass soldered over top of the worn bearing surfaces.

This clock may have actually been taken apart to install these bushings but look at the “very fine” method used to hold them in place.  Pretty isn’t it?


With the exception of perhaps this last picture the one thing all the preceding pictures have in common is that an attempt was made to repair the worn clock without dismantling it. It is practically impossible to do this without defacing the clock and rarely results in a durable repair.

Worn Bearing Surface Repaired Properly

Now that’s more like it!  This side by side before and after photo shows how a repaired bearing surface is supposed to look.  The left side shows the oval shaped hole, without prick punch marks thank goodness.  The right side shows the same area with a properly installed bushing.  You almost cannot tell that a bushing has been installed except for the slightly different color of the bushing.

         Improper Use of Solder

Solder Blob

Pretty isn’t it!  The dark spot just above and to the right of the solder blob is a pivot.  I am not sure what this person had in mind here except they obviously did not have a clue as to what they were doing.  The discoloration of the brass plate is typically caused by flux, which is used to prepare an area to be soldered.  After the soldering is done the area must be cleaned or this type of discoloration will only make the idiotic repair look even worse.

Soldered Escape Wheel Bridge

Okay, here is a new one.  This is kind of hard to see in the picture but this "repairman" actually took a small thin piece of brass, bent it over to a right angle, inserted one end into the elongated bearing surface moving the pivot back where it belongs and then soldering it in place.  Like the previous picture the soldered area was not cleaned up afterward.  The flux has actually caused the steel pivot to rust.  Beautiful!  This type of repair is bound to last a long time.......not!

Corroded Movement Due To Solder

Does this need any explanation?  This movement was a disaster, almost beyond repair.  In fact, the cost of repairing this mess got so high the customer did not allow me to restore the entire movement.  Rust and corrosion had practically eaten its way through one of the gear arbors.


The previous repairman had soldered a new piece onto the striking rack, soldered a new tail onto the rack hook and it even looks like it was done without removing the parts from the movement as the steel parts immediately surrounding this area were all rusted and corroded.  This was all a bad idea to start with but he could have at least cleaned up after himself and saved the movement from even more destruction.

Bad Mainspring Barrel Repair


This mainspring barrel had two damaged teeth, probably caused by the mainspring breaking.  This “repairman” attempted to replace the teeth by drilling a set of holes where the teeth were and inserting pins in their place. 

Here you can see the two pins intruding upon the space where the mainspring is held. 


Floating Balance


In order to regulate floating balance style escapements it is sometimes necessary to add or subtract weight from the balance wheel.  Because this person did not have the proper weight that fits into the small holes you see he thought that perhaps a piece of toothpick and some glue would do the trick.

Marked Plate

If you can’t remember where everything goes, might as well make your notes right on the clock right?  Wrong!

In the previous picture the marks were done in pencil so they could have been removed but for some reason did not bother to do so.  In this picture just above they scratched the wear direction markings right into the plate surface. He couldn’t have done this on piece of paper instead?  You can also see above the scratched arrows the “ghost” of a band aid bushing that I had removed prior to taking this picture.

Badly Worn Pivot

Scarred Winding Arbor

This is what happens when you wind your clock with a pair a pliers.  The tip of what you are looking at is where a key slides over for winding.  Keys are not very expensive and any clock shop worth their salt will have a full supply of every key size available.  Do not do this to your clock!

Rigged Lever Repair

Anything look out of place here?  I do recognize the lever with the hole in it in the middle of the picture but it is not from this clock.  That lever has been soldered to another and then wired to the end of the other piece.  The way this is rigged it would trip the strike function every time it tripped the chime?  Wow!

Another Bad Barrel Repair

There are several problems here.  First of all there were some damaged teeth on this barrel (the ones that look silver) not visible in this shot.  I believe there was an attempt made to repair the teeth without removing the barrel.  In order to reach the teeth a chunk was cut out of the movement plate to grant better access.  Also shown in this photo is the nut seen on the bottom of the barrel.  This was an attempt at repairing the mainspring catch which had apparently broken off. 

Another view of the chunk cut out of the movement plate.

This is a picture of the two mainsprings barrels that were in the clock shown above.  Where you see the hole in the bottom of the barrel on the left is where the nut and bolt used to be to form the catch.  These shots were taken before I performed a proper repair.  It appears than an attempt was made to form teeth out of some sort of liquid metal pored over the broken teeth area and then filed to “proper” shape. 

Best for Last

There is so much wrong with this repair let me count the ways.  1. A bolt must have been used to replace the entire gear arbor/axle.  All the nuts you see were used to space the brass gear in the right place.  2. Then the bolt was filed at either end to form a pivot.  Mind you the pivot is supposed to be perfectly round and hyper smooth.  As you can see this is not even close.  3. The pinion (white thing at top) is plastic and was cut from some other gear and placed here.  4. The bolt and machine screw on the right is supposed to replace a pin like the brass one on the left.  There is no way this was ever going to function.  Someone spent a great deal of time on this monstrosity. 

Think it doesn’t matter who repairs your clock?  Think again.  When you want it done right give me a call.