Tips for Clock Owners

I have experienced numerous repeat issues and questions from customers over the last 40 years that I would like to present to you with the hopes that some of your questions will be answered.

  1. Clock Maintenance: Most of the clock movement manufacturers state that their products should be oiled every three-years and cleaned and oiled every six-years. This is just a guideline that clock repairers are supposed to pass on to their customers. Clocks located in high humidity, dusty and in locations with pets may have to reduce these timelines. Unfortunately most people wait for their clocks to stop or the chiming becomes slow to have maintenance completed. This process is subjecting their clocks to unnecessary wear and damage.
  2. Oiling A Clock: High quality clock oil is very expensive. The oil will not absorb moisture (humidity) for at least 3-4 years. After that time, it will absorb moisture and more significantly, dust and dander. A lot of grandfather clocks come with a tube of oil for their customers. This can be both good and bad. Missing an axle pivot or even worst, putting fresh oil on a dirty movement can cause substantial wear and clock movement failure.
  3. Do Not Store Clocks With The Springs Wound Tight: Clocks are designed to run. This spreads the oil and prevents all of the mechanical pressure from the springs or weights from remaining in one spot. In particular, spring operated clocks can have the spring “set” if left wound up and not running. A set spring reduces the length of time the clock will run.
  4. Moving A Clock: Do not ever move a clock with the pendulum or weights attached. You are almost guaranteed that the pendulum spring will be bent or broken, weights and case damage.
  5. Setting A Clock In Beat: It is imperative that clocks are in beat. What does that mean? The tick and tock sounds are even…Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, etc. An out of beat clock will sound…TickTock, TickTock, etc. Out of beat clocks will not run and are one of the largest customer complaints.Most pendulum clocks made since the mid 1970’s have an automatic mechanism that can put the clock back in beat very easily. This does not apply to the cuckoo clock. The customer gently pushes the pendulum to the left side and let it swing. If it is still out of beat, push the pendulum to the right side and let it swing. Continue this process until the clock is in beat. Older grandfather, grandmother, mantle and table clocks can be put back into beat by the repair technician adjusting the verge crutch. This is not a customer recommended repair/adjustment. Customers may lift one side of the clock or the other until the clock sounds in beat. Most people will put some coins or a wedge under the clock legs to take up the slack. Older wall and cuckoo clocks can be put back in beat by slightly moving the bottom of the case to the left or right until in beat.
  6. Troubleshooting A Non-running Clock: Here’s a couple more items to check if your clock still will not continue to run after ensuring it is beat. It is fairly common for the hands to get loose and touch each other or the glass over the dial. The simple fix is to just slightly bend the outer hand so that they no longer tough each other. Pay close attention to the second hand if equipped. These are notoriously capable of touching the dial or hour hand.
  7. Regulating A Clock: Temperature, humidity and barometric pressure affect the regulation of time. My shop is kept at a constant 77 degrees and 50% humidity. These are the ideal parameters for a clock. Unfortunately there is nothing that I can do about the barometric pressure or the conditions the clock will be placed in after a repair. Manufacturers understood this and all clocks (except battery and electrically operated) will have a method to regulate/adjust the timekeeping. Most pendulum clocks will have a small nut at the bottom that is adjusted by rotating the nut to the right to make the clock run faster and rotating it to the left to go slower. Only turn the nut ½ turn at a time and wait 8 hours to check your adjustment. Solid pendulums with no nut will have an adjustment wheel or small opening on the face with F and S listed. Again, only make small adjustments. Clocks with a floating balance wheel, 400-day (Anniversary) and the ATMOS will have a lever or disk that is turned toward the F or S.
  8. Setting The Hands: One of the most controversial discussions is how to set the hands to the correct time. MOST clocks manufactured since the mid 1970’s have a mechanism where the hands can be turned backwards. I DO NOT RECOMMEND this process. I have repaired numerous clocks with broken chime locking pins. This is because the clock started to chime when the hands were adjusted backwards jamming and breaking the pin. The clock will then not stop chiming. The easiest way to adjust these newer movements is to turn the chime and strike levers OFF (if equipped). Set the time by turning the hands clockwise until the correct time is displayed. Turn the chime and strike back on (if equipped) and the clock will reset itself automatically within one hour. NEVER turn the hands backwards on an older clock. Some clocks require stopping at each strike point and letting the clock complete the strike before moving the hands forward.
  9. Other Remote Issues Affecting Clock: Most houses in my area are built on pilings as the support for floor. What this means is that a lot of houses have floors that can flex when a human or animal walks or runs on it. If your grandfather or grandmother clock keeps stopping, pay particular attention to the weights and pendulum. Do they move at all when you walk by or stamp your foot down? Did you put in new carpet recently? If so, you’ve found the problem, not saying that is the only issue. A couple of solutions that have worked with several customers has been to get a piece of granite slightly larger than the clock base and set the clock on the granite. The second solution has been to attach the clock to the wall with screws and/or straps.