It’s been a while…..

Hello Friends!  It’s been a while.  It’s been a long while now since I’ve written anything in the blogging world.  It’s been about five years actually and my how time goes by.  It’s been a little over 5 years since the passing of my Dad and my taking the reigns solo of the clock repair business he founded as well as this blog that he started long ago.  He taught me his Trade, my Trade, and he taught me very well.  When I took hold of the blog I had the best of intentions of writing more often.  It didn’t quite go that way though.  I’ve thought of it often but nothing has gotten written.  There have been many interesting things happen in my clock shop over the last five years that I would have loved to share with you all.  I’ve learned a lot of interesting things too that I would love to share.  Perhaps I will be able to share a few of those stories with you in the near future.  I’ve seen some really amazing clocks pass through my shop in the last few years since I’ve written.  I’ve seen a few clocks the like I never would have dreamed I’d see and given them a second life.  I’ve seen some very beautiful cases indeed and a few clock movements that were true works of art themselves, beautiful marvels of mechanical engineering. I’ve seen some awesome cuckoo clocks and had the great pleasure of restoring them to full working order and enjoying them for a short time while they test ran on my wall before flying my coop to go home.  I’ve been called on and asked to do a few house calls and seen some beautiful Tallcases.  Most of the clocks were fairly common I suppose but each one is special to their owner and that alone makes them truly priceless.  There have been hundreds of clocks pass through my hands just in these last five years. I worked on another few hundred before those in the years when I Apprenticed under and worked for my Dad.  I lost count long ago.  I keep records and I think one day I might count and see just how many there have really been but then I think I really don’t want to know.  It’s been a wild ride I can assure you.  Being in the clock repair business can be like holding a Tiger by it’s tail most of the time if your really good at it.  If your not so good at it or an amateur that Tiger could eat you up and quick! Most of the clocks I’ve repaired in the last 5 years were very good patients and didn’t give me too much trouble.  Some of the clocks were a little more problematic and put up some resistance to my efforts.  Some were real monsters and fought hard till the bitter sweet end.   Each one is different in it’s own way.  It’s a gamble with each clock you take into your care on what problems your going to run into and how long each one may take you to restore them.  That is something my friends that is not easy to explain to someone who is not a professional in the Clocksmithing Trade and lived it. In my opinion one of the hardest things to deal with in this business is the fact that few people can truly understand this even when the tale is told.  Few people can truly understand just how many hours upon hours might have to be put into their clocks in order to give them back running again.  Even the clocks that go relatively easy take a lot of time and energy if you do the work right and refuse to cut any corners.  You had better or they will be back to haunt you.  The ones that are problematic can eat up your time like a hungry wolf as the days pass by and turn into weeks.  The clocks that prove to be real monsters can suck the life right out of you and really put you out.  My friend Mike, a true professional mind you, calls the bad ones “Time Vampires” and boy how right he is because that’s exactly how some clocks can tend to be.  Some of them really have a mind of their own and drive you crazy doing what they want to do but not quite what they’re supposed to do at all times and they don’t want to tell you why but you have to figure them out. Some of them are known to make finding out why they are being most difficult most difficult indeed too!  I guess those are what I would call the playful ones.  I love Clocksmith work very much and you really have too otherwise it could drive you insane.  I have written in the last five years, I’ve written quite a lot actually…but not in my blog.  My Dad believed in sharing information and answering peoples questions about their clocks.  I do too and I’ve tried my best to follow in his footsteps. I enjoy it even though it can be really taxing to do on top of everything else one has to do in this business, in life and in keeping oneself in good health so you can continue to work on .  I can understand why someone else would choose not answer questions related to their craft. I have people write to me with clock questions from all over the world and I try to respond to them all with good answers as I am able and if I am able.  I’ve missed a lot of questions too in the last five years, if you wrote to me and asked me a question that went unanswered I am truly sorry but I get so many questions asked of me I can’t possibly get around to them all as I would have liked.  I stay way too busy in the work shop for that and there has been times here and there where I have just flat out not been able to.  When I began five years ago I had though and had full intention to answer every single one I would receive.  I’ve tried to answer the most of them and for sure the best of them and I hope at least I’ve been at least somewhat successful in that.  I’ve tried to get the ones answered that would help people the most and help those who truly needed my help the most and sometimes had to overlook and not respond to many of the simple questions I’ve received that the answer to could easily be found elsewhere if I could not reply and they sought the answer elsewhere on the internet.  I don’t reply typically to questions whose answers can be found on the frequently asked questions page of my website.  I get so many of those it would make your head spin.  You would think a guy who answered questions about clock repair and had a FAQ page would not get so many of those same questions but it indeed happens to me every day.  In the beginning I used to respond to those with a brief response and a please see my FAQ page just to be helpful but that quickly became too much additional weight to bear.  I would if I could just to be friendly and helpful I suppose but I very seldom can.  When I’m writing answers to questions I’m punched in on my personal Time clock and working for free because I enjoy it and it’s helps people and I believe that helps me. I don’t answer dumb questions either.  I’ve heard it said that the only dumb question is one that’s not asked but ya’ll I am hear to tell you that is not true!  “Clock doesn’t run?” is not a question!  It’s a statement in fact but when posed as a question it qualifies for a dumb one in my book and I’ve gotten that one many times.  “Pendulum doesn’t swing?” is not one either and I’ve seen that one too and both of them more times than I could count. I have so more funny examples I could share.  Maybe I can write about some of those silly questions in a future blog post along with the answers I would love to reply to them with but I wouldn’t actually as it would be unkind besides the fact I don’t have the time too regardless but I just know they would make a hilariously funny and interesting blog post.  I bet I could get you rolling on the floor laughing friends.  Bottom line is I stay very busy in the work shop and if you were to write to me and ask me a question that is not at least one complete sentence, well, you might not be receiving an answer from me anytime soon.  In the last five years I’ve met so many wonderful people by being in this business.  My customers are some of the best people you could ever hope to meet and I truly mean that.  I feel like they are all my friends in a way and I have actually made friends with a couple of folks and we talk often on clocks and such.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve met a couple of not so nice people in the last five years too. I wish I could have seen them coming I would have kindly asked them to take their business elsewhere if I had known what awaited for me.  I’ve made many new friends and lost a few friends too in the last 5 years.  One of my best and long time friends passed away in 2013 from a sudden heart attack just a little over a year after my Dad passed from a failed heart.  He was a friend to my Dad as well I and a big part of the life here in the clock shop. I lost my Cousin Beth whom I loved very much not long after as the cancer took her quick. My Grandmother took on the Alzheimer’s and it made a long two years watching her go slowly.  She passed just a little over a year back now.  My oldest daughter not only went through high school over the last 5 years she graduated with honors and left for college this Fall. I can’t tell you how proud of her I am as well as my younger girl whose just starting as a Freshman at the High School now.  I along with the rest of the world watched a new President of these United States be elected in these last five years since I’ve written into the blog as well as a lot of other big events that have come and gone and are now down in the history books.  The clocks have kept on ticking the time away through it all here and I’m quite proud of that.  I wanted to write tonight on this pleasant September night to say hello to you all let everyone know that I’m still here and working hard at it and to let everyone who reads this know just a little of what all has happened with me since I last wrote.  It’s hard to believe so much time has past actually looking back while writing this.  It is said Time flys!  Tempus Fugit and Tempus Regit are true I think indeed and applies to all including blogging.  A Clockmaker most certainly understands this I would say. Time flys, Time rules, and Time is money!  I hope it is not 5 more years slip past me before I write again.  I never intended the last 5 to pass by without.  I had hoped to write more often and do again now.  Maybe with a little luck I can write many times over the coming 5 years and share with you some great clock information and stories.  I’m not sure but I am going to try in hopes that my blog will help someone out there some day, an aspiring and up and coming Clocksmith perhaps or just anyone interested in clocks and or the Clocksmith’s Trade. That would sure make it having been worth my time to spend writing if it helps someone someday.  It’s been fun writing this tonight.  It’s been very therapeutic actually as I’ve missed the blog badly and been wanting to begin writing again for some time now because it has indeed been a while…….

All the best to you!  Papa


Posts related to cuckoo clock repair and any questions you might have

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Love of Clocks

I have a love for clocks of all kinds. I don’t just love them because I repair and restore them. I don’t just love them because my father before me loved them. I love the fine crafstmanship that most antique clocks bear. I love their history and the thought of the many hands that have touched them and the many eyes that have gazed at them during their lifetime. I love the peaceful and relaxing sound that the make, a nice steady tick tock that reminds us time rules, time flys, and we are here but for a short while and should enjoy life and be happy making the most of our time. I love the sound of chimes that some clocks make as their tiny hammers hit the chime rods on cue to produce a melody like St. Michael, Whittington or the famous chime of the Westminister clock in London whose largest bell is known World round as “Big Ben” I love the cheerful happy sound of a cuckoo clock as the cuckoo joyfully sings his call to announce the hours and possibly music, dancers and other types of animations come to life about the clock. I love the accuracy of these man made marvels that take the power of gravity or a wound spring and transfer that power into a measurement of time itself. Clocks grace a home or office wall with their Timeless charm and simplistic beauty. Clocks have a life of their own and they seem to bring life to the room that they occupy. They remind us of a time when life was simpler or at least seemed that way. I recently recieved a clock that was saved from destruction for my Birthday. It is a rare clock made by a man named Riley Whiting around 1810 in Conneticut. Riley lived from 1785 to 1835, a mere fifty years and he only made his clocks for around twenty five of those. It’s movement is all handmade from wood. Even the gears are made from wood I speculate from some of the first trees cut in the American forests. The clock came to me from Ohio so during it’s life it traveled from the hands of Whiting in Conneticut to the West probably by wagon. It is two hundred years old now and still running. This clock should be in a museum now but it almost ended up in a dumpster. How many lives has this clock seen come and go. Sometimes I wonder if this clock could talk what kind of stories would it have to tell? Would they be good memories or bad? I’m sure each antique clock I encounter has seen it’s share of hard times, watched life and death go and come, encountered joy and sorrow. So in a way clocks have a lot in common with people in my opinion. Sure they tell us what time it is, how many hours we have left in this short day we are in at present but are they really saying more to us. I think they speak of our mortality and remind us of the fact that tomorrow is promised to no one. Yesterday is History…Tomorrow is a Mystery…and Today is a gift that’s why it’s called the Present!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hello Friends, my name is John “Papa” Barnette II the Cuckoo Clock Doctor.  My Father Papa Sr. you all knew and loved passed away from heart failure at age 59 on May 19th of 2012.   October 2nd would have been his 60th Birthday.  This is a sad day for me in many respects but also a happy one as my Mother and I celebrate the short life of such a fine man we were blessed to know and share life with.  My Dad apprenticed me well in the Clockmaker’s trade and for many years I have been his assistant in the shop.  He loved his Trade, his business, his customers and friends and cuckoo clocks so very much and did not want CCD to die with him.  I now carry on where my Papa Sr. left off as he requested when his “Time” ran out and his “Clock of Life” stopped as all of our clocks will one day.  We have great Faith in the fact that only Christ is the Great Clocksmith that will fix us and keep us ticking long after the movements in our frail human bodies wear out and can no longer be repaired and our hearts can no longer keep it’s beat and our pendulums slowly come to rest.  I could think of no better tribute to Papa than to get his blog going again today and introduce myself to you all.  Keeping our business going without my Dad’s smiling face and his bright shining happy eyes has been most difficult but the Clockshop is where I feel the closest to him and things look brighter everyday as the work progresses and the cuckoo clocks keep flying in and flying home again to their loving owners.  I have made many new friends and met many of my Dad’s friends and this has been a big help to me and I am forever grateful to them, to my Mom Kathy for all of her support and love.  I am here to answer questions and give advice as my Dad loved to do and possibly even bring your cuckoo or other type of mechanical clock back to life again.  Blogging is new to me but I will do my best to keep up!

From: Susan P
TO:  papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com
Re:  Sick Cuckoo
Thank you so much for your help. Well a little bit of oil can work wonders!  The clock is now ticking away!  Thanks so much for your assistance.

Susan P

On Sep 6, 2009, Cuckoo Clock Doctor <papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com> wrote:

Dear Susan,

You are very welcome. Enjoy the Labor Day Holiday.


John “Papa” Barnette
From: Susan P
To: papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com
Sent: Saturday, September 5, 2009 11:46:33 AM
Subject: Re: Re: sick cuckoo

Mr. Barnette:
Thank you so much for your quick reply to my question.  My husband and I are in the process now of trying your suggestions.  Again, thank you.

Susan P

On Sep 5, 2009, Cuckoo Clock Doctor <papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com> wrote:

Dear Susan,

I was sitting here answering questions from yesterday when your’s came in.  Yes, there are a couple of things you can do.  First is make sure the clock is level and hang the pendulum.  If it doesn’t run move the base very slightly left and check again.  If it won’t run move it a little further left.  If it still won’t run then go back to dead level and start the process to the right.  Second, is oil the clock and I will cut and paste my instructions on how to do that below.  Third, if after oiling the pendulum still doesn’t run in any position then I would take a small plastic bag and put some change in it.  Tie this from a string attached to the time weight.  The pendulum should be on the clock and add more change to see if you can get it to run.  If you do then just weigh the change and the weight at the post office and convert that to grams.  Cuckoo weights are very cheap and you can just buy a weight close to what you need.

Dear John

Many thanks for your helpful reply; very much appreciated.


Peter B

From: Cuckoo Clock Doctor
Sent: 02 September 2009 15:06
To: Peter B

Subject: Re: repair cuckoo clock

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your question.  I’ve got instructions for that problem that I will cut and paste below.  In most cases this is one you can fix yourself.

Here is how to put a chain back on that is off the gear.

First we want to avoid the other chains coming off while you are fixing this one. Take a twist tie or a piece of string and pin the other chains together right at the base of the clock on the outside.. Put the twist tie or string inside the links and tie it.  If you put it around it they sometimes slip down the chain. This will keep those chains from coming off.  Now take the back off the clock and turn the clock upside down and give the loose chain a little slack. What you are trying to do is allowing enough slack to make a loop that you can hook around the gear sprocket.  It may take a few tries, but if you can see it there is a good chance you can do it.  Use plenty of light.  On occasion one link will catch between the gears further up in the clock.  That makes it harder and then it is just up to luck whether or not this gets done. Like I said, this is a very common question and I would say that about 50% of the time it works.  Some clocks have more room in them than others.  If you succeed hold onto the chain while you upright the clock.  Hang it on the wall and then remove the ties on the other chains. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you succeed.

Installing chain that is out of the clock.

If your chain is completely out of the clock you will have to remove both the hook and ring from the chain,  YES Both.  You are going to have to determine which way the sprocket of the gear turns so you will know which case hole to feed the chain through.  Take a bamboo skewer, piece of coat hanger or any long thin object and go through the case hole and push on those pins that the chain rides on.  When you push on them from one hole it shouldn’t move at all.  On the other hole the gear sprocket should go click-click and start to move.  That is the hole where you will need to start putting the chain through.  Let it catch on a couple of the pins and with your long pointed object just start pushing it one click at a time and the chain will start to go around the gear.  As it moves you will need to gradually start turning the clock upright so gravity will keep the chain snug onto the gear.  When you can see it appear on the other side just pull straight down on the piece showing and you will have accomplished it.  Be sure to pull straight down because they come off the gear very easily when the chains aren’t in the case holes.  Good luck Peter and I hope this works for you.  Have a nice day.


John “Papa” Barnette

— On Fri, 8/28/09, Peter B

From: Peter B

Subject: repair cuckoo clock
To: papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com
Date: Friday, August 28, 2009, 11:26 AM

Hello Mr Cuckoo Doctor,

The chain that operates the cuckoo has come of the cog wheel and has fallen out altogether how can I put it back on.

I would be greatfull for any tip you could give me.

Monday, August 17, 2009
Re: help!!!

This lady hands didn’t agree with the hours and it was cuckooing at the wrong times.
Dear Papa, I read your instructions on how to take off the minute hand. It worked great. I was able to fix it very quickly. Thank you so much. My clock now tells the correct time, Kathy

In a message dated 8/16/2009 10:00:46 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com writes:

Dear Kathy,
Thank you for your question. I don’t normally work on battery operated clocks, but I suspect that your problem is that your minute hand has gotten out of sync with the hour chiming. All clocks are subject to that. I get that question everyday on mechanical cuckoos and the clocks are aways right it is just the hand that is wrong and I tell people how to straighten that out. There are 2 possibilities in your case. One I can help you with and one I can’t. If your quartz cuckoo clock has a minute hand with a slot in it then the hand adjustment won’t be your problem. I’ve seen them both ways. So, I’m going to give you a link to my frequent questions web page and you can read about setting your hands correctly on mechanical clocks. When you remove the nut and look at your hand if it as I describe on the web page you will be able to adjust it. If the hand itself has the slot in it instead of a circle or a square then you won’t be able to. I wish I could be of more help. If you get it off and are unsure just send me a close up photo of the hands and I will tell you more. Here is the link to my FAQ’s web page.
http://www.cuckooclockdoctor.com/faqs.html Best wishes and I hope this helps.


John “Papa” Barnette

— On Sun, 8/16/09, Kathy> wrote:
From: Kathy. Subject: help!!!
To: papa@cuckooclockdoctor.com
Date: Sunday, August 16, 2009, 4:58 PM

Hi, My cuckoo clock is chiming at quarter till the hour instead of on the hour. It doesn’t normally chime except on the hour. I noticed it because I thought it needed new batteries and I tried that and it is still doing it. Can you help? Kathy

My good friend “Papa”,    
     Thanks for your kind answer and indicating Lew and Margene as a source of parts.  You sound like the Biblical second miler Jesus talked about in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5:40-48. There Jesus talks about all kinds of healthy personal relationships.  Thanks again for your kindness!

Karl , ret. missionary to Brazil