KAYSVILLE -- As the popularity of mechanical clocks dwindles amid the proliferation of electronic and quartz devices, the ability to repair such antiques is becoming a lost art.
Blake Petersen, 53, of Kaysville, is a second-generation clock repairman, learning from his father, who was a master watch repairman. In the basement workshop of his home, with a background cacophony of tick-tocks and chimes, Petersen works his magic, bringing hundreds of antique clocks back to life every year.
Over time, people have lost interest in buying mechanical clocks. However, Petersen is seeing a growing number of individuals inheriting mechanical timepieces, such as their grandfather's pocket watch, an heirloom grandfather clock or a grandmother's cuckoo clock.
"They become important to them, not to tell what time it is, but because they acquired it from someone important," said Petersen. He spends his time working on older clocks of all varieties.
"There is a lot of satisfaction in bringing an old clock to life, especially when you've got a clock sitting on your bench that is over 200 years old, and it moves you to another time and space," said Petersen, who recently worked on a clock from 1770.
"That clock was set in motion before America declared independence, so I tried to transport myself into that environment and realized it was once sitting on a workshop with no electricity with the only light coming through the window," Petersen said.
He also repairs several of the community clocks in Utah that are more than 100 years old, including the community clock in Brigham City and the main campus clock at Weber State University.
Petersen began repairing clocks when he was 10. He took a wall clock apart and it exploded in his hands. "It was a fascinating piece of machinery, which intrigued me, and I quickly discovered that if you take apart a clock that is wound with springs without retaining the springs, it's like a bomb going off," Petersen said.
In his teens, he helped with his dad's clock-repair business, and later did some apprentice work studying watch making, eventually starting his own clock-repair business.
After only a few years, he reluctantly left the profession when quartz timepieces began dominating the industry in the early 1980s.
Mechanical watches were diminishing rapidly, so he got his degree and worked for 20 years as a safety engineer. When his father retired 10 years ago, Petersen purchased his business.
Learning how to fix clocks isn't easy. Petersen has spent countless hours researching different techniques and developing just the right skills.
Cuckoo clocks and music boxes are particularly difficult, he said, with many clockmakers refusing to touch them because of the numerous wires and other parts that all have to work together.
"It can really twist your mind trying to find out what's wrong," said Petersen. "There's a good reason why they call it a cuckoo clock."
Petersen can fabricate new parts to replace deteriorating components, weld in different pieces, cut gears or create new spokes, using his collection of miniature-sized tools and over a dozen small lathes.
Ultimately, Petersen thinks of himself as a steward for the clocks he works on. "Working with clocks from a different period of time that will still be here in the future after I'm gone warns me to be cautious, knowing I am just a steward for these pieces."
Contact information for Petersen can be found on his website, http://www.clockmkr.com.