Anyone who knows me know I live a pretty minimalistic life. I’m not much of one for material possessions. They just don’t bring me any pleasure or satisfaction. Sure, I have a few nice things (a custom set of bagpipes, a Martin guitar) but other than that I don’t have much. I drive a plain, stripped down car and live in a humble abode. I don’t own any fancy jewelry, clothes, nor do I have the latest and greatest TV/computer/phone/etc. even. It’s just not what I take pride in.
That said, there are a handful of material possessions that I absolutely adore. Aforementioned musical instruments as an example, but even those aren’t valuable intrinsically. They are tools which I employ to engage in a passion. However, there is one material possession I do not have that would have intrinsic value all its own that I really desire.
What is that thing? Well, I’ll give you a few hints. First off, this thing creates its own power, taking advantage of natural gravitational force, technology dating back thousands of years. Second, this thing takes its common nickname from a song written by Henry Clay Work in the 1800s, in which it was described as “too large for the shelf so it stood 90 years on the floor” and in which we are told that it did its job “90 years without slumbering” until it “stopped short never to go again when the old man died.” I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now.
If you haven’t, here’s the answer: a grandfather clock. I’ve loved grandfather clocks since I was a kid. There’s just something so majestic and captivating about them – they command a huge presence wherever they are, employ millennia old technology that is still incredibly accurate at timekeeping, and when they chime they have a way of making even the humblest of abodes feel like a bit of a mansion.
That said, go to any furniture or clock shop that carries them and you’ll see the major hang up: the price tag. Grandfather clocks are NOT cheap, and especially with my own personal requirements for specs. I could “settle” for a lesser model but why would I? Why wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) I get exactly what I want in one? It’s a lifetime purchase after all.
As for my requirements, here they are:
- German cable driven, triple chime mechanical movement with auto night chime silencer.
- Traditional chime rod gong (not tubular bells – regular rods have a softer, mellower and deeper tone).
- Decorative Roman numeral dial.
- Weight shells with decorative bands and a matching lyre pendulum.
- Backlit case with a split/finial top.
Yeah, all those “upgrades” from a base model just add to the price of the clock fast. You can see why it is so cost prohibitive to just go out and buy one.
So what’s this person to do? Well seeing as how I have some woodworking experience as well as some clockmaking experience, why wouldn’t I set out to procure the raw materials and pour some sweat equity into it? I can get exactly the features I want for a fraction of the price of buying a pre-made clock off the shelf.
I’ve found various places online and locally I can source materials from (pre-cut unfinished wood, dial/pendulum/weights, chime rods, clock movement, glass panels, hardware, tools). After figuring it up, my approximate total cost comes out to about $2,700.
Could I buy a clock from Howard Miller or some other similar company for that price and with those features? In the words of a New Yorker, “Fuhgeddaboudit!” That kind of money might buy me a single chime clock with very plain weights, pendulum and dial. Nah, those features would easily run me double or more in a pre-made clock.
In addition to the price, by making it DIY I have much more control over the options. I’m not limited to a manufacturer’s models. I have the flexibility to mix and match wood types, stain colors, and hardware components as I please. It gives me the power to make it a unique, one-off sort of thing totally personalized to me. Why wouldn’t I go my own way?
Well, time mainly. Every time I’ve been in a situation to look at pulling the trigger life gets in the way. Last year it was my impending relocation. Obviously I don’t have that to deal with this because I’m back home and in a job that I can be home. For me, all I need is a workspace and time to do it.
Of course, I don’t have any set timeline I have to complete the project in; I can chip away gradually as needed. If it takes me several months then so be it, the end result will be worth the wait and the blood, sweat and tears I put into it. If anything, that would just make it more special in the end.
Do you own a grandfather clock? Is it special to you? Do you have any other thing you feel similarly about? Sound off in the comments!