You might think the most common mistake made with antique clocks is winding them too tight — but that’s not it, says Rick Elster, owner of Magpie Clockworks in Bishop.
What seems like an overwound clock is really just the mechanism wearing out, said Elster, who opened up his shop on U.S. Highway 441 last summer.
“One thing I have to repeatedly tell people is not to use WD-40 on clocks,” Elster said.
The popular lubricant is great for many uses, but not in clocks, he explained.
“It gums them up. It almost turns to wax in there,” he said. “It pretty much ruins the clock.”
Elster’s shop is only a year old, but his business is older. He’s been working his trade as a home business for about 10 years, and last summer he finally conceded the business had grown too big for the house.
“It started out as a hobby. People heard about me and started bringing clocks to me,” he said. And as more people heard, they brought more clocks.
Elster’s small store in the small Oconee County town of Bishop also allow him to display clocks he has for sale. In addition to fixing clocks, Elster also buys, sells and trades timepieces.
Having a public location is bringing in even more business.
“I’ve got more business than I can handle,” he said.
Elster cleans, restores, and repairs clocks at Magpie Clockworks. He also knows how to track down hard-to-find parts for clocks.
The shop is open Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
He sets aside Mondays and Tuesdays for house calls to fix big clocks on the spot or carefully take them back to the shop for repairs. Many of the repair jobs that come into the store are actually things that go wrong when clocks are inexpertly moved, he said.
As March drew to an end last week, Elster’s house calls were booked up through the end of August.
Before transitioning into clock repair, Elster spent his work time as a computer programmer, though he didn’t formally study programming in college. He learned programming as he researched and wrote a master’s thesis at the University of Georgia in 1990, on the prospects of using a programmed camera to detect cracked eggs in commercial poultry production.
Being swept out of computer jobs twice during layoffs helped persuade him to think about making his hobby into a business, and now he’s glad he did.
“It’s a lot less stressful,” he said.