From concrete work to clock repair

Published 9:00 am Monday, February 26, 2024

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By Joel Erickson for the Tribune

When you walk into the Cowboy Clock Workshop, all kinds of clock faces greet you in bodies with no legs and no arms.

Some are named grandfather clocks, others grandmother clocks, and most are 6 feet or taller. There are 30 of them in the front of the workshop.

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Then a smiling warm face greets you. This would be Jeff Johnson. His clock and caning business is at 150 N. Broadway in Alden next to the fire station.

Of course there are a myriad of other clocks. Naming all the different styles and shapes would create a very long list. Johnson also repairs cane chairs — a process referred to as caning.

Whenever repairs are mentioned, whether it is for a clock or a cane chair, one of the first things Jeff says is,”I am months behind.” Johnson goes through quite a process in repairing the clocks.

With all clocks, the inner workings need cleaning plus the pivots and bushings need checking. Then once that is done, he lets the clock run separate from its case for a good two weeks to make sure everything is working properly. Then, he puts it in the case and runs it for another two weeks. No such thing as a quick fix when it comes to repairing clocks.

Once Johnson retired from the concrete business he and his father ran in Albert Lea, he was inadvertently drawn into clock repair in attempting to help his dad who was unsuccessful getting their grandfather clock repaired. Johnson managed to repair it.

Later, he joined the Minnesota Clock Maker’s Guild, did some reading and over time developed effective clock repair skills. Ron Widenhoefer was his mentor, and they would drive up together to the guild meetings.

Cowboy Clock had its beginning in 2015.

He enjoyed working with horses, so according to Johnson it wasn’t much of a leap to name the shop Cowboy Clock.

Johnson said he is impressed with the workmanship of the older clocks, especially the wind-up clocks. Many of the clocks are handmade, including the intricate workings.

While he bemoans the fact that he is 10 months behind, eventually the clocks are repaired well.

For store hours, it is best to call ahead at 507-318-0707.