Pronunciation: kr&-'näm-&t-&r
Function: noun
: an instrument for measuring time; especially : one designed to keep time with great accuracy


"So many clocks, so little time..."

Time Keepers by Len Bayles

Other Projects

So why does one build clocks? For me it comes down to the following two reasons.

First, I enjoy the challenge of building something totally unique. I thrive on the process of creation. I truly enjoy watching an idea begin as pure imagination and then be transformed into a tangible item. More than the results, I enjoy the steps of the journey. I developed this trait from a very early age. Whether it was dragging home an old television to dissect, or a nasty smelling chemistry experiment, my parents were always supportive of my natural curiosity. During the early stages of this inquisitive period I mostly destroyed and observed. But there came a time when I coupled my observations and the knowledge gleaned from books and began to actually create things that were useful.

Through the years I was mentored by relatives, friends, and neighbors. My uncles Ray and Charles taught me many things about working on houses, wiring, plumbing, and carpentry. I still have the red metal tool box given to me by my Uncle Ray. In my shop I continue to use the step stool Uncle Charles built. Terry Williams, a neighbor and close family friend, gave me numerous electrical gadgets to explore that had been discarded by his employer. I learned much from his kindness and generosity. As I reflect back, of among all of my mentors one stands out, Russ Michaelson. I met Russ at the University of Utah’s surplus store. At the time we met I was fourteen. While at surplus, I asked one of the store’s employees a question, he couldn’t answer. He pointed to another customer who was rummaging through a bin of parts. This turned out to be Russ, of whom I quickly became acquainted. Russ was really interesting; he was a DJ, an Amateur Radio operator, a big time electronic hobbyist, and many other things! Most of all he has a wickedly funny sense of humor, as does his wife Ruth. Because of his influence I also became an Amateur Radio operator. But more than that, I found a life long friend. To this day Russ and I still talk weekly, if not daily. We debate politics, religion, quantum mechanics, and nearly every other possible topic. Without Russ and these other mentors I probably wouldn’t be building clocks and many other interesting things.

Some of my clocks have proved to be more challenging than others. My meter clock was extremely simple to design and build. Even so, it has become one of my favorites. The clean simplicity gives it purity that the more complex designs do not offer. The display using meters makes it more real in a sense. Just like a sweeping hand ticking away the seconds, or a swinging pendulum, it represents effort. It is easier to relate to mechanical motion than the nebulosity of electrons lighting a display.

My WWVB driven nixie clock was just plain fun to design and build. The glowing Nixie tubes come from a bygone era of wood and glass, one where turning on a radio or a television involved time and heat. The glow of heated tubes that appeared inside of wonderfully crafted wood cabinets. I bought many of my Nixies through eBay. They came from countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. I LOVE writing assembly code, as sick as that sounds. Writing the decoder in assembly for the WWVB signal was an interesting challenge, and incredibly satisfying. It was my first project using switching power supplies. I gained great respect for "noise", something that switchers emit, and low frequency WWVB radios hate.

Constructing the Intel 8008 clock took me back to my childhood. I reminisced about designing and building my first computer. I’m stunned at the marvelous changes that occurred over the last thirty years. Today much of my design work was done completely on my Dell laptop. As a teen I could have hardly imagined the computing power that would someday sit on my desk. Let alone the vast library of information I would be connected too, the Internet. I still have the prototype of the 8008 clock running on my office desk. It's like losing a good friend to disassemble each prototype.

Even though it wasn't my design, building David Forbes scope clock proved to be very satisfying. I'm envious of his engineering skills. He put together a really great kit. It made me remember the near suicidal way I felt upon hearing that Heathkit was no longer producing kits. That day was a sad day for current and future generations who will never know the joy of creating through kit building. Now children simply sit in front of the television watching mindless drivel, or playing video games.

Secondly, my other reason for building clocks; is that I'm simply fascinated by time. It’s something so incredibly intangible, but yet is always in your face. Watching a clock "tick", continually tells me of the passage of time, and reminds me of my brief mortality. As one ponders each tick, you can imagine the immense change that occurs on a Global or Universal scale. With each tick, the energy of the Universe dissipates taking us one step closer to a new beginning, another singularity, and a new creation.

For me, the ticking of a clock is like an ever present messenger saying, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here. It is akin to the beating hearts within each of us. With each design I create a different way of delivering the same message. By publishing my designs I create a type of immortality. Even though some day I will leave this existence, something that I created will continue to tick somehow, somewhere, and someplace. I hope my passion of clocks sparks an interest within you to stop and ponder the magic of life and its tick.

Copyright © 2004-2020, Len Bayles
Wed May 6 01:06:39 UTC 2020