SWANTON, Ohio --
The historic clock at the Wood County Courthouse is able to start ticking again after an Airman assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing designed and built a gear to replace a broken part that left the clock out of service in November of 2019. After seeing an article about the clock, Staff Sgt. Alex Wynn, a machinist assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, reached out to offer his services.
“I read the article in December,” Wynn said. “The clock had been broken since November, so I figured they weren’t seeking out the right people. I have a mill. I can do something. I’m looking for work, so I’ll make some phone calls and get my name out there.”
As a machinist at the 180FW, Wynn repairs and builds different parts for aircraft and ground equipment.
“Making parts, welding parts together, we fix a lot of stuff,” Wynn said. “We remove stuck screws out of aircraft or support equipment. Normally, the big thing’s just welding cracks. A lot of the aluminum ladders and stands will crack, so we fix those. We just fix the specialty stuff when the other shops can’t fix it anymore, or they need something made. We make a part to keep them moving and keep the mission rolling.”
Wynn credits a lot of his skill to his time at the 180FW, where he enlisted in 2013.
“It’s ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made,” Wynn said.
Wynn used his military benefits to graduate from the Ohio State University with a degree in agricultural systems management, but he still values the hands-on training he has received at the 180FW.
“There are kids that go and put thousands of dollars into college debt, and they come out and they didn’t really learn anything,” Wynn said. “They just learned how to do the homework assignment and try to turn it in on time. At the 180FW, I learned a skill. So, now you have a skill and a college degree, so you’re just that much more marketable.”
Wynn even used some of his experience to equip a truck with all the tools he needs for jobs on the go.
“I got a wire welder for the generator, stick welders, spool gun, and a tungsten inert gas welder that runs off of it,” said Wynn. “So I was just going to farmers and truckers saying ‘I can fix whatever you got,’ and it’s all based on what I’ve learned here at the 180FW.”
After looking at the courthouse clock, Wynn, with his years of experience, decided to take on the job of building a new part.
“The motor has a steel worm gear driving a brass gear, and so the steel just wears the brass down over time,” said Wynn. “They had some spares to begin with, but they were all worn down. No one sells them, because the motor is from the fifties or sixties. They couldn’t find any parts, so they had to find someone to make a new one.”
Making a new part, however, came with some challenges.
“They didn’t have a blueprint. You have a stripped gear, so trying to take measurements off something that’s already worn down and trying to recreate it took some time, measuring and drawing.”
After Wynn figured out how to make the gear, it was time to program the machine, start cutting brass and testing out the gear.
“They gave me the gear box off the motor, and so that’s how we knew if it was going to work. We could put it in the gear box and could spin it by hand. The first one wouldn’t spin. It was too tight. So, the second one, we cut deeper and it all spun. It’s a 900-to-1 reduction, so you’d have to spin that input shaft 900 times for that gear to spin once. So, you spin it around 10 times. It moves in there, but it doesn’t look like it’s moving; but as long as it’s spinning, you know it’s working.”
After confirming the gears would work, he delivered six gears, ensuring the clock would have spares for the future. Wynn is hopeful that each gear will last around 10 years.
“Hopefully these last quite a while. If they get to that point and they run out, or if they strip out again, we can make more.”
“The hardest part was figuring out the process. Once we had it down, cutting it was easy. In all, it isn’t super complicated; you just have to have the tooling and the machines to do it.”
While the clock is still not operational, as it is waiting for a motor replacement, the newly machined gears will ensure the clock will tick for decades to come.