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Have you taken the BHI Technician DLC? Tell me your experience!


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Hi all,

I am on the cusp of making a significant investment in the BHI DLC, Technician Grade. I live in Toronto, and while there is still a watchmaking school in Canada, dropping everything I'm doing and moving to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, is not really possible at the moment.

I am interested from people who have taken the correspondence course. I want to hear all details, but I'm particularly interested in:

a) Was the tutor option worthwhile, if you bought it?

b) How much did you miss in-person instruction?

c) Did you do the exams? If so, has doing so benefited you?

d) How did you cope with workshop / space issues for the practical exercises?

e) Overall, is the course good value for money?

f) Did you learn much that you did not learn from Mark's course? How much material is going to be redundant?

Again, I would reiterate that I'm simply not in a position to move to a town with a watchmaking school at the moment. So while I appreciate that in-person instruction is undoubtedly best, the question is, given that it's not feasible immediately, am I making a worthwhile investment by taking the DLC?

Thanks, looking forward to hearing from you.

John

P.S. If you also live in Toronto and the surrounding area and are interested in forming a BHI "class," message me!

Edited by JohnC
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I think that the course is excellent in that it sets a high benchmark on how work should be done properly and also goes into a decent amount of depth in the theory. I did mine largely at home, but did do some of it at an accredited school. I think two years is a reasonable amount of time to cover it if you also have a full-time job. I think it's fair to say that it is fairly challenging. Many people who I started out with dropped out - especailly those who were not interested in learning the theory.

A. For practical work, it was useful to be shown in person how to do things. Even something simple like someone saying that your vice is at the wrong height for filing flat.

B. For the theory, not really.

C. Yes. The exams force you to read get clued-up on the material.

D. No problem. You'll just need a small lathe, decent vice, quality files, scriber, centre-punch, Sharpie pen, piercing saw and a full set of drill bits.

E. I believe so. You could purchase older revisions of the material to learn and just sit the exams, but it's not easy to get a hold of.

F. I can't really comment as I have not done Mark's course. Remember that the BHI course also includes clockmaking material which does cross over to watchmaking when it comes to making/adapting parts and making tools. It covers topics like metallurgy in good depth which a lot of people seem to be lacking in.

 

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@rodabod thanks for a really detailed response. Two follow-ups. You said you did part of the course at an accredited school. Does that mean you just contacted a school and asked them to teach you some practical skills, like using a lathe? 

A second question, about the lathe. Were you able to get by with just a standard small lathe, or did you also have to get a watchmaker’s lathe? I’ve seen pretty cheap microlathes new, but even used 8mm watchmaker’s lattes are topping $1000 Canadian, and I know nothing about the condition of, e.g. bearings. 

 

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Hi,

I attend a horology school which runs various classes every day, and they decided that they would run a weekly class to cover the BHI material which was covered by two tutors over two years. I don't think it would be easily possible to ask a similar institution to do something similar, if you could find such a thing. 

I just used an 8mm watchmakers lathe. If I were you, given your geographic location, I'd try to get an American WW-pattern lathe. They are usually built like tanks. An ER collet set from China which fits a standard 8mm drawbar expands what sizes of material you can mount if you are short on conventional collets. I reckon you could probably get a decent lathe for maybe around $300 US if you look around.

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Hey John,

I completed the technician's grade a few years back and worked my way through year 2 and 3. I've done final exams last year and only have the record of repairs left (not needed for year 1). I'm taking much longer with that since I have periods of being busy, and periods where I seem to lose all interest in watchmaking, until it flares up again. Self discipline has never been my strong suit -- even though I was pretty good at getting myself through the rest of the DLC. I'm in Singapore btw, where my hobby is seen as crazy/outlandish.

a) I used a tutor, and would recommend it. It was the only way to getting any kind of feedback on practical parts and theory for me, since I know nobody IRL who's into technical horology.

b) Very much, but no choice.

c) Yep. Benefited only as a personal accomplishment.

d) I'm lucky enough to have a spare room for a workshop, with equipment for horology, metalworking and electronics. All tools were painstakingly gathered over more than a decade.

e) Hard to say, it depends on what you want or expect, and on your personal situation. Prices have increased sharply since I started things. This is not a cheap hobby to begin with, if I look at my tooling 🙂

Take classes at Upton Hall for example. They sometimes have a class that I'd love to join, even though it costs like 400+ pounds for 3 days, etc. All moot anyway, since I can't just drop by..

f) I haven't done Mark's course, but I love watching his videos. The two courses are very different, with the DLC being more thorough and academic, and Mark being more hands-on. The DLC teaches basic metalworking skills in order to start making parts, but none of the tutor-related communication involves feedback on actual watch work that you may be doing. The first feedback you'll get is when you service a quartz watch for the exam, which is kind of crazy.

Many people complain that the DLC includes quartz watches and clocks. I found that high-end quartz watches are actually not bad to work on, and I like clocks anyway.

I've picked up several tips and tricks over the years from watching Mark's videos.


If Mark's course was available 10 years ago, I probably would have started with that, if it wasn't too expensive (no idea about pricing). One thing I value is that if I would ever start taking in repairs for customers, being recognized by the BHI would be a good thing. 

Back in the days I was looking into doing a WOSTEP course, but I was not in a position to just drop everything and be off for two years, just like yourself. I also had and have zero interest in working for some big watch manufacturer doing part swaps on the same model all day.

Cheers,

     Rob

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7 hours ago, rodabod said:

E. I believe so. You could purchase older revisions of the material to learn and just sit the exams, but it's not easy to get a hold of.

A while ago there was a statement in the HJ that they would start discouraging this by steeply jacking up the exam prices for people who didn't purchase the course material.

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@rodabod thanks, I’ll keep my eye out for a WW style 8mm lathe. If I’m patient enough I suppose something will come along. Good to know about the school. I guess that’s not really an option for me right now, but I have a few watchmaker friends who might give me some pointers. 

@teegee thanks! Another great response. I have thought about moving for the college program, but like you I have no interest in working for someone else. If I ever manage to make money off this hobby, it will be as an independent repair person. So this is right now a personal passion / occasional side hustle.

I have been told that I can purchase the tutor option later if I feel it necessary. To be honest I don’t think it’s necessary for the theory, just the practical bits. I may try to wrangle some watchmaker friends into reviewing my practical exercises as a way of getting around the hefty fee for tutor feedback. 

About the quartz and clocks. I am indifferent about the quartz, but actually quite excited to learn about clock servicing! 

 

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Well, you are welcome to post questions here, or post photos of work you have completed. My practical tutors were absolutely brutal with me and told me when they thought my work was crap. That’s an old-fashioned way of teaching but I personally find it works.  

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