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The clock is ticking - thanks to Hamborg

Mark Hamborg enjoys the detail work of fixing an old timepiece, bringing the past alive.

Time passes soothingly at Mark Hamborg's home - for about 30 seconds.

Then the house comes alive with chimes, bonks, cuckoos and ticks.

It has an amazing rhythm to it.

Hamborg, a Nevis school custodian, started tinkering with a wind-up kitchen clock that his dad had in the attic more than 40 years ago.

He was dissuaded early on from the family trade, farm equipment repair.

"Oh Mark, don't do that. There's no money in it," Hamborg recalls being told at an early age.

But he had 'tinkerer' engraved into his genetic code so the clock and its parts in that attic were irresistible.

He attended clock repair school in St. Paul, what he called his form of "mechanic school" and he was off and running, so to speak. The repair school just closed down this year, he said.

"There aren't too many of us around," he said.

He worked in Albert Lea, in the school district there, and did clock repair in his off-hours.

But he'd been coming up to the region for years and liked it, so the call of the north eventually lured him to Hubbard County. He's been at the Nevis School District 16 years, working 3 to 11 p.m.

He spends about 30 hours a week fixing clocks.

The fascination of making the past come alive still hooks him.

"It makes me feel good," he said.

He says he keeps repaired timepieces a day or so just to make sure they're running well.

They add to the cacophony that surrounds him.

"We have clocks that strike this hour and that hour," he grins. He times them all a bit differently so he can hear them sound off. That way he knows if one of his large collection of clocks is ailing.

If a customer within a 100-mile radius of Park Rapids has a grandfather clock, a cuckoo or larger clock, he will pick up, repair and deliver it.

Most of his clientele, the clocks, not the owners, are antiques. They have bellows, whistles, linkage ad miles and miles of chain.

Some clocks are chain driven; others cable driven, he explained.

Dirt and dust are a clock's biggest foe.

"The swinging of a pendulum should be constant," he maintains. "Dirt and wear slows them down."

He thinks "weight-driven clocks are better timekeepers than a mainspring."

It must be a clock thing.

But weight-driven clocks can go haywire if they're not regulated precisely, he said.

In the beginning of the week, they tend to run faster. By the end of the week, like humans, they've slowed down.

Pendulums can be wood or wire. "Metal ones are better timekeepers," he said. "Wood swells and contracts."

He fixes grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, cuckoo clocks, battery-operated clocks and music boxes.

He's happy to be one of the "not many of them left" club, bringing the past alive.

He and wife Diane have three dogs and three cats that can be rambunctious occasionally. But all six pets have an amazing sense of where not to tread.

They step around clocks to be repaired and even keep wagging tails in check in Mark's workroom off the kitchen. The cats don't jump up on counters holding a customer's precious heirloom. It seems to be instinctive.

Besides the first clock he repaired, which sits on the kitchen wall, Mark's pride and joy is a backwards clock.

But it unfortunately can't turn back the hands of time in real life.

"There's a fascination of getting them going," he acknowledged. "I enjoy the ticking of the clocks. It's company."

Hamborg can be reached at 732-0488. He lives in Dorset.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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