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Aug. 12, 2022

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Working in Clark County: Steve Ford, horological machinist

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Clocks line the hall of Steve Ford's workshop in northwest Vancouver. Ford, and his wife, Susan, opened Remembering Time, a horological machine repair shop, in 2009.
Clocks line the hall of Steve Ford's workshop in northwest Vancouver. Ford, and his wife, Susan, opened Remembering Time, a horological machine repair shop, in 2009. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

With the twist of two fingers, a tiny mechanism can transport you back to a time when grandfather clocks had to be maintained to tell time accurately, or when music boxes and phonographs were wound so families could enjoy an evening of classical music. Steve Ford is a steward of such mechanisms, a rare craftsman who cleans and repairs antique pieces, as well as fabricates missing pieces of loved heirlooms, at his west Hazel Dell shop, Remembering Time, one of the few horological — time-measuring — machine shops in the country. “We cut gears, make mainsprings for anything from rare clocks to old arcade games, and springs for automatons. Anything that’s mainspring-driven, I can fix,” Ford says.

Name: Steve Ford

Residence neighborhood: West Hazel Dell

Business name: Remembering Time, 7600 N.W. 15th Ave., 360-699-7173, www.remembering-time.com

Age: 59

Educational/professional background: I received an associate in science in automotive and diesels from a trade school in Los Angeles. My good grades earned me a 3.5-year German automobile apprenticeship under BMW Sport and BMW Experimental and from there I had a 35-year career in the automotive industry.

Meanwhile, my son suggested I needed a hobby. His suggestion, building a car, would take up too much space and cost too much money. So, I bought a clock and fixed it. I picked up a watch and fixed it, and then I picked up another one and fixed it. I got hooked.

Eventually, I got tired of work-related travel and was hired at Kenworth in Portland, but I was one of many thousands of people who were laid off in early 2009.

How you got started in your business: I had, as a side job, been using my technical background to repair clocks, musical boxes and mechanical phonographs. I had most of the tooling required to perform repairs and manufacture parts that are no longer available. So in April of 2009, my wife, Susan, and I decided to open Remembering Time. Now, we often work with pieces sent to us from national and international firms such as the Christie’s and Tiffany auction houses.

Personal/business philosophy: We strive to treat each client’s item with the utmost respect and care. We are dealing, in most cases, with our clients’ memories of family members who are no longer with them.

Most rewarding part of job: Returning the repaired item back to the client. I can see in their eyes the happiness and fond memories associated with the item.

Most challenging part of job: Reversing the poor or damaging repairs performed by previous repairmen. There are a number of skill sets required to correctly bring a mechanism back to life. And the amount of wear and dirt that accumulates in the life cycle operation of the clock, musical box or mechanical phonograph is surprising to customers. I advise people to really be careful in choosing who to send your pieces to for repair. Talk to them and find out exactly what they will do with them.

Best feature of my Clark County community: In one word: people. I have traveled within and outside of the United States. The people here care about their community and neighbors.

What would make your community a better place: The addition of fine dining restaurants on the west side of Vancouver. They all seem to be located on the east side of town. My wife feels we badly need a Trader Joe’s in west Vancouver.

Hobbies: Working in the garden and around the house, listening to classical music, reading history and technical articles.

Your favorite travel destination and type: Visiting our grandchildren in central and southern California, giving them lots of candy and caffeine, then going home, leaving them with their parents.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: DeNicola’s Restaurant in southeast Portland serves great Italian food. Powell’s Books and the Japanese Gardens are other favorites.

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: Books, “Churchill’s War, Volume 1 & 2” by David Irving. The classic movie, “The Best Years of our Lives.”

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Susan and I would like to visit the Turks and Caicos Islands and travel to Switzerland.

One word to describe yourself: Caring.

Person you’d most like to meet: George C. Marshall, general of the army during World War II and creator of the Marshall Plan for Europe after the war.

Columbian staff writer

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