West Jeff shop dialed in on tower clock project

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Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick
Steven Robinson (right), owner of Adept Products in West Jefferson, and employee Mike Giehl hold up one of four dials the welding and fabrication shop made for installation in the Madison County courthouse clock tower.

(Posted May 21, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Steven Robinson describes his welding and fabrication business as a “job shop.”

“We will do stuff for anybody who comes in off the street,” he said.

Some of it is fix-it stuff, like reinforcing a tailgate on a township vehicle or repairing a broken sprayer arm for a local farmer. Some of its parts stuff, like the work his crew does for Stanley Electric, the car parts maker in London, and Battelle, the research and development lab in West Jefferson.

Some of it is downright unique stuff, like the 6.5-foot tall grocery cart the shop made for a Kroger store’s grand opening in Cincinnati. Or the work they did for a display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. that features a replica of the nose cone from an Apollo spacecraft.

All of this, from the practical to the artful, comes out of Adept Products Inc., in West Jefferson. Robinson has worked at the shop since 2001. He and his wife, Angela, have owned it since 2015. If a project involves steel or aluminum, they’re on the job.

When you crank out work across such a broad spectrum and do it well, word gets around. It was word-of-mouth that brought Phil Wright, an expert in tower clock preservation, restoration and repair, to Adept Products years ago. Several clock collaborations later, from the courthouse clocks in Union and Harrison counties to clocks at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., Wright and Robinson have teamed up again for restoration of Madison County’s courthouse clock.

Mike Giehl, an Adept Products employee, works on a section of one of the new dials for the Madison County courthouse clock tower. The West Jefferson resident said the project involved lots of cutting, rolling, bending and welding of pieces of aluminum. “It’s been like putting together a puzzle,” he said.

Last week, Adept Products finished fabrication of four new dials for the four faces of the clock tower, which sits atop the courthouse at the corner of Main and High streets in London. The dials are exact replicas of the originals from 1892.

“Thankfully, the (Madison County) Historical Society had a couple of the numerals from the original. We could go from those to make copies that are as close as possible to being exactly what was on the building originally,” said Wright, who owns The Tower Clock Co. in South Charleston.

The county commissioners hired Wright to head up a full restoration of the clock, from overhauling the original 1892 mechanism that will sit inside the tower to making replicas of the hands and dials.

Robinson used a computer aided design (CAD) program to create a dial template which he downloaded to his fabrication machines.

“There was some trial and error. We did one first using scrap metal. We changed a few things until we got it where we wanted it,” he said.

Each dial stands nearly a story high and is comprised of six sections, each with two numerals. Wright opted for sections for two main reasons: 1) They will be easier to carry up the 132 steps into the tower for installation; 2) They make for stronger dials. Multiple flanges will fuse the sections together, a better bet for longevity than a single piece more prone to warping.

While the new dials will look like what came with the clock back in the day, there is one major difference. They are made of aluminum instead of cast iron.

“They’re only about 70 to 80 pounds each,” Robinson said as he and Mike Giehl, a staffer who worked on the project, easily lifted and carried one of the assembled dials across the shop floor.

The dials are off to Columbus for a coat of black paint. Wright said the wooden hands are finished, and he is making good progress on the mechanism.

“I promised the commissioners the clock would be up and running by Christmas,” he said of the timeline.

While Robinson doesn’t make it to Washington D.C. or Dearborn, Mich., often to point out his shop’s handiwork, he said it’s fun to point out the Union County tower clock to his daughter any time they are in Marysville. He said he looks forward to doing the same whenever they drive through downtown London.

“Oh yeah, it’s going to be really cool seeing that. I’ve lived in Madison County all my life,” he said.

Angela said she likes that the commissioners are keeping much of the business of working on the clock local.

“It’s a community thing, putting it back together,” Robinson said.

In addition to commissioned work like the clock dials, the Adept Products crew uses their talents to give back to the community. They make parts for demolition derby cars, and Robinson, who used to compete in the sport, helps to find sponsors for prize money at the county fair derby. Last year, the crew made and donated a fire ring for West Jefferson’s Christmas in the Park. This year, they are making a memorial to be placed at the site in southeastern Ohio where a pilot and two flight nurses lost their lives in a helicopter crash. Bradley Haynes, a London resident and Jefferson Township firefighter, was among those who died.

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