Southern Folk Pottery near our Asheville Bed and Breakfast →
Repairing Antique Clocks from the Carolina Bed and Breakfast
March 10, 2013 by Susan Murray
I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before but one of the great pleasures of being an innkeeper at our Bed and Breakfast in Asheville North Carolina comes from our encounters with some of the truly interesting and unique craftsmen and artists in the area. North Carolina has long had a tradition of encouraging artists of all sorts. For example, the University of North Carolina is one of the few state universities to have an entire campus devoted to the performing arts and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is recognized worldwide as a leading performing arts conservatory. Anyone who has visited Asheville knows that our town is home to seven performing art venues and many, many art and music festivals. But this just scratches the surface of the talent one can find here in Asheville. Traditional crafts and arts are preserved and built upon by enthusiasts both young and old. You never know what you will find or who you will find doing it.
At the Carolina Bed & Breakfast we have a lot of antiques which we have collected as well as things which came from either my family or James. Among these are a number of old clocks which need a lot of loving care. Experience has taught us how hard it is to find someone who can actually repair antique clocks. (We’ve found people who say they can repair them but that’s a different story). Three years ago when we first arrived I went looking for someone to fix three clocks which over the years had stopped working in some manner or other. I found a shop called Tic-N-Time in the Grove Arcade which has a large selection of clocks of all kinds. And, while none of these clocks are antique, the owner is
quite knowledgeable of the area and he told me about a man out in Hendersonville who repairs clocks out of his home. This was the first time I met Perry Robinson. It was an adventure to drive out and see his small home filled with clocks of all kinds. I thought at the time that James would love to see it and meet Perry. So when two of our clocks slowed down and stopped chiming, I took the opportunity to go out to Hendersonville again. This time, James went with me and I took my camera so I could share the experience with you.
Thirty years ago someone gave Perry an old clock which had stopped working. At the time he had retired from his job with DuPont and “having nothing better to do” he took the clock apart, spread the gears and pieces across his workspace, cleaned them and re-assembled the clock. And that was the beginning. He is entirely self-taught and the journey was not always easy. One of the clocks which we brought to him is an old Seth Thomas ship’s clock. Perry learned the hard way that a ship’s clock rings the watch in a series of bells: one bell through eight bells every half hour, three times a day to signal to the sailors whose watch it is and when it will change. Perry took the clock apart and then realized that the ringing mechanism was unlike anything he had ever seen before. But the man obviously likes a good puzzle and got it back together again.
Now he repairs antique clocks of all kinds. When we were there he showed us a clock he was repairing which was completely made of wood, right down to the gears and hands. It
was interesting to see the different tools he used to work on the clocks. He has a number of ways to hang wall clocks so he can work on them. For Grandfather clocks, he takes the workings out to bring to his home and leaves the case behind. Cuckoo clocks are a special challenge with all the different things that have to happen at the same time.
Looking at all of the clocks in the house, James asked Perry what it was like when all of the clocks rang at once. But Perry told us that most of them were not wound. He winds just a few at a time in order to keep them working. And he showed us some really special chronometers he had collected. These clocks were vital to the navigation of early ships which depended on accurate timekeeping in order to establish their longitude and latitude accurately. The clocks had multiple cases and locks to ensure that the winding and cleaning was only done by the appointed officer.
And just as we were getting ready to leave, Perry showed us a case full of “Head Vases” which his wife collects. I had never heard of such a thing. Apparently these were common during the 1930-60′s. They were mostly made in Japan and used for floral arrangements. They are considered to be prime collectibles and Perry’s wife had a formidable array including one of Jackie Kennedy.
As I said, you never know what you will find in Western North Carolina but having a Bed and Breakfast in Asheville is a sure way to get you looking!
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