Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

The Big Fix



"The kinds of clocks I work on, people have to be crazy to keep," observes clock repairer Sid Shapiro. "They're not museum pieces and they're probably not even great timekeepers, but they have sentimental or decorative value, and people love them." An aerospace engineer by training, the self-taught Shapiro has been repairing clocks for nearly 25 years and specializes in antiques dating "from the invention of the pendulum in 1656 to early-twentieth-century clocks." There is only one modern clock -- the classic, Swiss-made perpetual-motion Le Coultre Atmos -- that he is willing to repair. Why this exception? "It doesn't get wound, it doesn't have batteries; it just gets its energy from the air, from the temperature -- a miracle of engineering."

A "dead" antique German wall clock, worth less than $1,000, "wasn't worth repairing," he felt, but the owner insisted, and for $500 it was brought back to life. A Dutch musical long-case clock, which plays twelve tunes and is worth probably $25,000, cost about $2,500 to repair. Simple jobs start at about $150; house calls are $100. (914-359-4229 or 212-925-1994.)

British-born John Metcalfe calls himself -- and his shop -- the Antiquarian Horologist. He learned clock and watch repair at technical college in London. "After your initial schooling," he explains, "you have to branch out into one or the other, and I always knew I was a clock." He started collecting timepieces at age 10 and admits that they "were my obsession." He's been toiling on their mechanisms for nearly 30 years. He will work on any mechanical (not battery-operated) clock, although he doesn't much like the cuckoo variety: "They're not repairer-friendly, and they're so mind-bendingly annoying that they try the legendary patience of a clock repairer." He usually charges $95 for a house call in Manhattan, and all repairs are charged at a flat rate. For a striking clock, his starting fee ranges from $225 to $250. Complicated clocks will be more; long-case clocks are generally $600 and up. (1 Beekman Street, Room 507; 587-3715.)
(See also "Jewelry," below, for Murrey's.)


"We can do everything in rush or cane for anyone, from the Metropolitan Museum to Mrs. Smith in Forest Hills," Yorkville Caning owner David Feuer promises. This truly resplendent work can be very pricey when executed with natural rush (river grasses commonly called cattails) or with the natural cane of the rattan plant; both are worked by hand by Yorkville's masters, some of whom have been with the company 30 or 40 years. A fifteen-inch-square chair seat in natural rush or cane starts at $150; a more extensive job -- a 1912 chaise, totally hand-caned, for example -- cost $1,200. Work on single chairs is common here; 10 percent of the company's business is work on chairs people have picked up at yard sales.

But there are also less expensive alternatives. For rush, the less-costly paper derivative fiber rush is an option (and it takes one fifth the time it takes to work with natural cattails); for cane, there is prewoven, machine-made cane, which comes in huge sheets on a roll that is simply cut to shape and routed into a furrow around the seat (Yorkville stocks a huge selection of this material). The same fifteen-inch-square chair seat in the paper rush would run $65 and up; in the machine cane, just $40. The minimum job is $95. The shop will also do regluing, plugs, dowels, and other work. (31-04 60th Street, Woodside, Queens; 212-432-6464, 718-274-6464, or 201-569-2821.)


Although you'll have to cross the Manhattan moat to get there, Patsy Orlofsky, the director of the Textile Conservation Workshop, encourages clients to visit the two-story aerie in South Salem that is home to the 21-year-old studio. The new, state-of-the-art suction table -- a huge porous structure that literally draws the stains out of everything from a small sampler to a large wall hanging -- is worth the trip.

Twelve accomplished artist-scholars pamper and coddle fragile materials of all manner: archaeological and ethnographic textiles and tapestries; laces and screens; needlework samplers; domestic textiles like quilts and coverlets; clothing, vintage ball gowns, christening dresses, and costumes; flags, banners, and political memorabilia; ecclesiastical textiles and Judaica. They will view anything on-site at no cost and give a verbal estimate and advice. Likewise, Orlofsky says, the staff is extremely generous on the telephone with clients and will give instructions to the fearless who want to try, for example, to launder a vintage tablecloth themselves.

The staff makes house calls, ganging up a few for a day's trip into the city, to amortize the $60-per-hour location fee. (The regular fee for work is $50 per hour.) All items receive a proposed-treatment report ($75) and before and after photographs for documentation.

They receive between 300 and 400 items a year to work on, many by mail. An elementary job, like washing and preparing a christening gown for storage (with acid-free materials) might run $150; washing a quilt, perhaps $300; cleaning and reframing a sampler, $200 to $400. On the other hand, there are tapestries requiring exhaustive repairs that can remain on the premises for a year or more ($25,000 to $45,000). (3 Main Street, South Salem, New York; 914-763-5805.)

"We will work on anything that has quality of provenance or design," says Gina Bianco, a textile and costume conservator. "And if it is important within a family's history, and they cherish it, we might take on something like a beautiful christening gown." Bianco has been working with textiles for seventeen years, and her workroom will expertly and lovingly tackle textile conservation and cleaning, upholstery-fabric conservation, textile mounting, and specialty design and construction of art textiles, whether a pre-Columbian Nazca poncho, a set of Duncan Phyfe bed dressing, or a contemporary Duane Hanson. She will fashion special textiles into custom-made pillows, "built like a suit," she proudly declares. And indeed, they are perfectly fitted and constructed. (924-1685.)

A hole in one of your favorite cashmeres got your goat? French American Reweaving can repair any moth hole, cigarette burn, tear, rip, or wayward seam. Owner Ron Moore can also wave his magic wand to mend, patch, or remodel torn pockets, worn crotches, slashes, and the like. The minimum job is $45. (119 West 57th Street, Suite 1406; 765-4670.)

"Termites turned a 1,000 year-ol wooden Buddha's roly-poly tummy into a cavern."

Carpet Cleaning and Repairing

Perhaps only half a dozen cleaners maintain their own rug-cleaning plants anymore. This type of operation requires an enormous amount of space; rugs pass through elaborate sets of rollers or brushes, caressed by warm water and detergent, and then are hoisted into an enormous drying room, where the moisture is removed and where they sort of saunter unhurriedly along a conveyor belt. When dry, they are checked, wrapped, and rolled up for delivery. You would be wise to send your rugs to one of the companies that owns and operates its own plant (as the two mentioned below do). Both, by the way, do wall-to-wall broadloom and can also do area rugs in your home.

In business in the Bronx nearly 80 years, Majestic Rug Cleaning can usually guarantee a turnaround of about a week. The fee scale has three tiers: The least costly is for remnants and other types of bound carpets; the second category is for things like braided and Rya rugs and machine-made Orientals; and the third is for handmade carpets such as fine Orientals, kilims, and needlepoint and Navajo carpets. A six-by-nine-foot handmade rug would cost $75 for cleaning; a nine-by-twelve, $130 (including pickup and delivery). Majestic rebinds carpet edges by machine, charging $1.25 per linear foot; hand-binding and -overcasting are generally $10 per foot. Refringing with cotton is $12 per yard. Repairing areas that are spoiled and "decayed" (heavy plants can cause tremendous water, mildew, and rot deterioration on carpets) starts at $25. Majestic can usually find a carpet piece in the right colors, weight, and texture to patch into a worn area, which must be excised first. (644 Whittier Street, Bronx; 718-542-7474 or 212-922-0909.)

Long Island Carpet Cleaners is a family-owned fourth-generation operation that cleans and repairs everything from the finest Orientals to hooked rugs to synthetic broadloom. Average prices (pickup and delivery included) for cleaning a rug sans backing (like an Oriental, Persian, or kilim) are $254.25 for a twelve-by-fifteen, $151 for a nine-by-twelve, $113.50 for a six-by-nine, and $65.25 for a four-by-six. Those with a backing, like a linen-lined Chinese carpet, will cost more (as the rug cannot go through the heavy machinery and must be done by hand): A nine-by-twelve is $177.50. Silk rugs run $5 per square foot. The company can remove badly stained areas and insert replacement sections (all types of discards are kept on hand for precisely this purpose), stitch tears or open seams, realign the fibers of pulled loops, bind edges, replace old fringe, and so on. The minimum repair fees for rugs not being cleaned are $30 (under six-by-nine) and $50 (larger than six-by-nine). (301 Norman Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-383-7000.)

Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift