Eudora machinist Wayne Neis wasted no time when it came to fixing the historic Douglas County courthouse clock.
A busted gear had left the 117-year-old clock defunct since August. And it wasn’t as if someone could order the broken part — the part no longer existed.
Word traveled to Jason Grems, of Eudora, who owns a welding shop as a side gig from his work as a captain at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Grems sought out Neis, knowing the project had more moving parts than he could take on alone.
“I knew (Neis) could do it,” Grems said. “I’ve seen him do amazing things with broken stuff, and he’s been a machinist for a long time, and he’s incredibly particular.”
Neis eyed the project and flinched.
“I’ve made some things before, but I don’t think I’ve made anything like that,” he said.
Thinking of the historic courthouse clock, Neis said, “I’ll figure it out.”
The problem was the original gear’s teeth had been sheared off, so Neis lacked a model or template to emulate. He had to create the gear from scratch.
“There was a lot of guesswork that went into it, and a lot of math,” Grems said.
Neis crafted a plastic template and aligned it with the gear that it would turn alongside. Once he got that right, he made two gears out of bronze.
“We were worried that the tool wasn’t going to last long enough to make one gear, let alone two,” Grems said. “So we’re hoping that the gear that’s in there now will last 100 years, and then there’s a spare one up there. Hopefully it’ll last a hundred after that.”
The next time around, the machinist who works on the gear will have a template to copy, thanks to Neis.
The clock was up and running again on Nov. 28, and Neis enjoyed a tour of the clocktower on Wednesday.
“He was just really excited that he was able to kind of put his stamp on it,” Grems said. “He’s a very talented guy.”
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Chansi Long (she/her), Lawrence life reporter, can be reached at clong (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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