MINDEN - For more than two decades, Stephen Mariolo's hobby has been to delve inside some of the most intricate machines invented to measure the passage of time.
"I started repairing clocks as a hobby years ago," Mariolo said. "I got hooked. I enjoy being able to make an old clock function again."
Mariolo, 48, who grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., said his introduction to the mesmerizing world of antique clocks began serendipitously.
"Around 1972 I was back home after being in the military (Marine Corps) and traded my cousin a boa constrictor skin for a broken antique clock," he said. "I had to repair it, found it fascinating and I've been collecting them ever since."
Mariolo said it is the mechanics of a clock that hold his interest - the delicate gears, springs, weights, pendulums, escapements and wheels - and the interaction between all these parts, resulting in a machine that can mark the passage of time.
It's always a surprise. As he carefully opens a broken clock, Mariolo never knows what he'll find. A few years ago, someone mentioned they knew where there were two grandfather clocks that might be worth fixing up - sitting in a barn in Wellington.
"I went to look at them, and they turned out to be very old Scottish wide-body grandfather clocks from the late 1700s," he said. "I bought both of them - it was one of those situations where someone had them and said, 'One of these days I'm going to get around to fixing these.' I get a lot of clocks that way."
One of the 200-year-old Scottish clocks needed some repair, including a new main gear, and the other one was almost perfect and now sits in Mariolo's Johnson Lane home. After having a gear made by one of the many specialists he is in contact with through the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, and doing a few other repairs, the charming hand-painted wood-inlaid clock with an English bell is now for sale in his shop priced at $4,885.
Mariolo said for the hundreds of clocks he's repaired and sent ticking, he has only found one clock that vexed him.
"This particular clock would only chime once every hour, so they wanted it fixed to count the hours like it should," he said. "I took the works out and got it to chime right, and when I put it back in the case, it would only chime once again. I did that over and over - in the case and out of the case - and still it would chime once in the case and then perfectly outside of it."
Was it like the old song, "My Grandfather's Clock," where the clock stops working after the old man dies?
"Well, there was nothing in the case that was hanging it up, so I took it to the customer and showed them what it would do," he said. "I told them, 'Maybe there's a ghost or something in this case, but I'm stumped.' So they kept it with just the one chime per hour. I didn't charge them, because I didn't fix it."
Mariolo and his wife of 28 years Marilyn, who works in the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, have been Carson Valley residents since 1986. Their only child, Kyle, 27, manages Carson Valley Gear Works.
Their house is anything but quiet. Stephen's collection of 50 or so clocks tick off the seconds and mark the hours with various gongs, songs and tones, and Marilyn's music box collection can add to the melody whenever a lid is lifted.
Mariolo said repairing an antique clock should usually run between $45 and $125. Many of his to-be-repaired clocks come from do-it-yourselfers who fail to release the springs properly before dissembling the clock.
"Then it can just explode in your hand with parts going everywhere," he said. "I get a lot of clock parts in a box from customers when that happens."
Mariolo will repair cuckoo, grandfather, grandmother, mantle, anniversary and kitchen clocks - anything that ticks - and gives a one-year guarantee on repairs. He can also advise customers on the proper way to move a delicate antique clock.
Mariolo's shop, It's About Time Clock Works, formerly in his house, is now in the basement of Dawn Rae's Antiques at 1616 Highway 395, Minden.
"I love the basement," he said. "I saw this basement at Dawn Rae's and asked if I could put the shop down here. My wife and I always make a point to go to the basement when we're in an antique or second-hand store."
Dawn Rae's Antiques is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Mariolo's for-sale clocks are on display there and broken clocks can be dropped off for repair any time during store hours. Mariolo is in the store on Fridays and Saturdays. For information, call 783-9007.