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Antique American Clock Repair… Every Second Counts

On July 1, 2020, Jim Reynolds opened his new business, Antique American Clock Repairs, at the location of 1208 Greenwood Highway 221 in Laurens, SC. Upon visiting his store, one spies an array of clocks lining the walls with grandfather clocks standing guard here and there. In addition, there are clocks in various states of repair laid out on tables behind the counter. In the background, chimes sound every now and then. There are some delightfully beautiful timepieces to behold. For example, he has a clock dated around 1840 with a whimsical, colorful, bird reverse-painted on its glass door. Mr. Reynolds has a fascination with all these ticking clocks that stems from his unique and varied background and a determination to hone his skills.

Jim Reynolds in his shop in Laurens

Mr. Reynolds originally comes from Florence, South Carolina. His grandfather, a Southern Baptist minister, preached at an old country church there and owned a nearby farm, located 1.5 miles from the famed Mars Bluff. In 1958, a B-47 accidentally dropped an atomic bomb on the Mars Bluff site. Fortunately, the bomb lacked a trigger. It did, however, carry explosives, which, upon impact, produced a huge crater that can be viewed even today.

Because his father served in the United States Air Force during Mr. Reynolds’ youth, his family lived in several different states including Alaska, California, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

Following graduation from Sumter High School, Mr. Reynolds attended the Citadel. After college, he joined the army, becoming commissioned as a Reserve Officer in the Chemical Corps. For a time, Mr. Reynolds even studied respiratory therapy which he found to be a fascinating field. His interests include fossil collecting and he has worked with the paleontologist, Richard Casanova. Mr. Reynolds says that his one claim to fame is a fossil he once submitted to the Smithsonian Department of Natural History. The fossil consists of a tooth from the rare archaic whale Pappocetus.

Although Mr. Reynolds possesses a wide range of interests and skills, his true passion centers on the American antique clock. Thirty-five years ago, he and his wife visited this antique store where he purchased an antique OG (Ogee) 30- Hour clock that had a broken case. He became fascinated with how to make the clock movement properly function again. His interest in repairing clocks only increased with his retirement 15 years ago. Eventually, the beloved hobby grew into a business. Over the years, Mr. Reynolds taught himself how to repair clocks and he says that it is easier to learn things when you are interested in the subject. When he started to repair clocks, he read a lot, talked to others, and bought working movements like the broken ones so that he had a reference point.

It is obvious that Mr. Reynolds loves his craft. He says that before 1830, most clock parts including the gears were made from wood. Often, they used mahogany or quarter sawn oak to make the gears because these woods did not splinter nor wear down easily. In the 1830’s, when brass became readily available in the United States, manufacturers started using this metal for making clock parts, particularly the gears.

One thing that Mr. Reynolds cares deeply about is properly repairing the clock movement. He says that he doesn’t just want to make the clock run again—he wants to repair it right so that it will keep running. In his shop, Mr. Reynolds has several examples of improperly, hastily repaired clock movements recovered from antique pieces folks have purchased. These repairs were made with bobby pins and though the clock might work for a while, such repairs don’t last. Some clocks brought to him for repair once belonged to a beloved relative or friend. In these cases, he feels that it’s important to restore the clock to the extent the owner desires so that the sentimental value of such heirlooms is retained.

At first, Mr. Reynolds wanted to open his business in Simpsonville. He selected a convenient location next to an antique shop. However, Simpsonville zoning would not permit him to both sell and repair clocks at that site. So he opened his business in Laurens near his home, but he still desires to serve the greater Greenville area and is especially interested in expanding his business into Simpsonville and Fountain Inn.

Although his main interest lies in antique American clocks, Mr. Reynolds will repair any type of clock, including both brass and wooden movements. However, he does not repair watches. He also sells a variety of antique clocks at his establishment. His business hours are Tuesday-Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm or by appointment if needed. He prefers that folks drop by his business but will arrange to meet in a convenient location if necessary.

Mr. Reynolds expressed concern that not many young people seem interested in learning how to repair antique clocks. It may become a vanishing skill with the older generation of clock repairers passing on. He wonders how difficult it will be to find someone who can repair these priceless clocks in the future.

In the meantime, if you want to purchase an antique clock or have a special piece that needs repair, check out Antique American Clock Repair located in Laurens, South Carolina. This area is fortunate to have a person like Jim Reynolds who possesses the interest and the unique skills required to fix antique clocks.■

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