Kalamazoo clocksmith is one of the last in the world

Posted at 5:34 PM, Mar 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-25 17:58:33-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Whether it’s a watch, a phone, or on a wall, clocks are needed to get through each day on time.

They’re usually made of brass or steel, but a clocksmith in Kalamazoo is taking a different approach.

Inside a shared space in Kalamazoo, Rick Hale spends every day working on custom wooden clocks.

"I’ve found ways to use wood in almost every important aspect, including the bearings,” Hale said. “People are usually surprised when I tell them I use wooden bearings where the things rotate."

Hale's business name is Clockwright, and his art is one that can only be found at a handful of places in the world.

"Yeah it’s pretty rare, getting rarer potentially," Hale said.

Crafting wooden clocks is a practice from the 1700s.

Hale says most clocks today are made from brass or steel, so he loves to create something different.

"So, I can kinda try to honor people who worked in wood back in the 1700s, 1800s, but also try to push it forward and put my own spin on things,” he said.

Hale spends an average of 800 to 1,000 hours on each of his clocks. Every piece is made with different woods and specific techniques.

"There’s a wood called lignum vitae, it's a very rare dense wood, it’s one of the hardest and heaviest woods in the world, and it's very oily, it’s kinda self-lubricating. So, I found I can use that wherever there is sliding in the clock,” Hale said.

This type of ingenuity has generated much curiosity about Hale’s work.

After working with customers across the country, he’s now working on multiple orders to be shipped across the world.

"It’s kinda crazy, it doesn’t really feel real yet, I think once I’ve completed a few clocks and delivered them that far abroad it will feel a little more like this is actually happening," says Hale.

He says he is very grateful to live off his passion with enough work to keep him busy for the next two years.

As one of the only wooden clockmakers left in the world, Hale's only wish is to grow in his craft and encourage others.