Frisian clockmaker

Freerk Pasveer

From apprentice to master clockmaker

Freerk shows you how a Frisian clock works and what is so special about it

Either you have one yourself or you know someone who has one: a Frisian tail clock. Inextricably linked with Joure and with the craftsmen in Museum Joure who keep the tradition alive. One of the craftsmen is Freerk Pasveer who periodically tells visitors in the clock workshop of Museum Joure how a Frisian clock works and what is so special about it.

Clockmaker Freerk in the studio of Museum Joure

How did you become the museum's clockmaker?

'I was asked to give explanations to visitors in the museum's clockmaking shop, such as during the Demo Days. Then I'm working at the workbench and visitors like to know how I approach a repair. They listen and ask pointed questions; nice work for me.'

What is your favorite museum piece?

''In the clock collection there is a Frisian tail clock with a playground on the dial. That is a unique piece and especially children like to look at it. I like to see it, also because I admire the technology behind it.''

Watched the art as a little kid

'I was born in Joure, in the Boterstraat. In those days there were several stores and workshops in Joure where the doors were always open. As a little boy I could walk in anywhere and that's how my interest in the technique of making came about. Near our house was Jacob ten Hoeve's clockmaking shop and a yellow-casting company where the caster made all kinds of objects from brass or brass, mostly parts for Frisian tail and chair clocks. For me, after school, those were places I liked to go and look.'

'After high school, I went to secondary school for vocational training, particularly in machining techniques such as turning and milling. I got a job at a factory making hydraulic cylinders and then I worked for a while at a factory making fittings for the food industry.'

"For such a craftsman, I have a place."

'One time I was trying to get a broken clock working again. One of the gears was broken and I asked Jacob ten Hoeve how best to fix it. He explained to me how to go about it and when it was finished I went to him to show it. He was impressed. "You come work for me," he said, "I have a place in my clockmaking shop for such a craftsman."
That's how I got into the trade. He was my teacher and over the years he taught me everything I needed to know, as well as taking courses such as furniture restoration.

Making your own parts

'One of the techniques I master well is making parts for the clocks myself. Yes, we do have parts for all kinds of old clocks, but you can never actually find one that fits. So then I start milling and filing. It really is handwork, and it takes some time. The result is worth it: a well-functioning clock that will last for years to come.

Customers come from all over the Netherlands - and beyond

'Because repair and restoration suit me best, Jacob and I have a workshop together. He makes new clocks and I do all the repair work that comes in. Especially at this time, a lot of work comes in. Everyone is cleaning up and wants to hear the clock ticking again. The customers come from all over the Netherlands (and beyond); everyone knows that for a good repair you have to be with the craftsmen in Joure. I really enjoy the diversity of the work; so many different clocks come in that I never have to do the same thing ten times. And the reward is wonderful: people are so happy when everything works again!'

Grandpa's old clock

'Very often customers come into the store with the intention of selling their old clock. We then explain to them that they will never get the dreamed-of top price for it, after all, that market of Frisian tail clocks has completely collapsed. We always tell them, "Keep the clock. Put it in the attic, or under your bed. Don't get rid of it. Your grandchildren will thank you and at some point that trade will pick up." Fortunately, most accept that good advice.

clockmaking museum joure

Did you know: Joure was the center of the Frisian clock industry?

In the 18th century the clock industry grew enormously in Friesland. This continued in the 19th century whereby around 1857 4000 Frisian clocks per year were made in Joure alone. Joure was therefore an important production center for Frisian clocks at that time. The best known clocks are the Frisian bracket clock and Frisian tail clock. More about Frisian clocks?

Something many people don't know...

'People know how to find us for all kinds of repairs, well not just for their clock. For example, we recently restored the sword of a boat, fixed a side mirror and made parts for a barrel organ. We tackle it all, because we are interested in discovering the technology of objects. For example, I recently made the large key to the church in Goingarijp. That was not an easy job, because I had to saw and file it by hand from one piece of sheet iron. That takes me quite a while, so I do it in lost hours. Each time a little bit, just until it fits.


'Because I want to take my mind off things once in a while I take the course in Ceramics here in Joure. I have already made several objects, very fun to do.'

Interview and text: Willeke ten Noever Bakker

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