MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You could say an Ironton man has a lot of time on his hands — from great, big cathedrals to cuckoo clocks.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Crow Wing County to show us how 89-year-old Bill Bongs makes time for his unique hobby.
“I had some spare time and I thought — what the heck am I going to do?”
Inside Bill Bongs’ home near Ironton, knick-knacks are permanent residents. They line the walls and fill the curio cabinets. But there’s another household relic that towers over them all.
“It takes patience and fortitude I guess is what it is,” said Bill.
During his working days, Bill ran a greenhouse and painted houses. He got the idea to start building clocks when he and his wife attended a craft show. He made his first in 2001. Now, like clockwork, he’ll build a half-dozen or so every year.
“An hour here and 5 hours there. I spend a lot of time studying prints and stuff before I even start them,” said Bill. “Once I got finished with the first one I thought, what the heck, I’ll try another one.”
He uses oak, maple, and cherry — much of which he can find 100 feet from his kitchen window in the woods behind his house.
Then, armed with wood glue, a scroll saw, and no shortage of blades.
“You can’t see the teeth on some of them they are so fine,” said Bill.
Bill goes to work, cutting and constructing. What comes out in the end are masterpieces in their own right. Towers and Cathedrals, some nearly 5 feet tall with pin-point designs and decorations.
“JOHN- What kind of reactions do you get? BILL- Oh wow, that’s what I get. I like to show people what I did. I suppose that would be showing off, wouldn’t it?”
Right now there are about 30 timekeepers in his home. Many are replicas of historic buildings.
There is no excuse for Bill to be late for an appointment.
The hands of time are everywhere and so are the puns.
“JOHN- Time is on your side, just not when you make a mistake. BILL- Right. There would be a few, choice words I’m sure.”
That hasn’t happened much. When you spend this many man hours on something, you grow attached to it. Which is why Bill doesn’t sell his clocks. He gives them to family.
“Kids will have to fight over them you see. In fact, I think they have their names in some of them already,” said Bill.
So in the meantime he’ll keep building clocks and building memories. And he really doesn’t mind if people chime in.
“It’s a good hobby to have. I’ll tell you,” said Bill. “Head for the basement, sit by the saw. Turn on the radio and enjoy.”
Bill and his wife Vonda are both veterans.
And he says she’s also a gifted artist and painter, who helps inspire his projects.