Please note: In this article we use the word "chime" to refer to the melody a clock plays as it marks the quarter hours and "strike" to refer to the bonging sound a clock makes when it counts the hours.
When properly chiming, the traditional Westminster chimes plays four descending notes on the first quarter-hour, eight notes on the second quarter-hour, twelve notes on the third quarter hour and 16 notes on the hour. After the clock chimes on the hour, it should then strike the number of hours. To troubleshoot:
First let’s talk about what can go wrong in a move. The number one problem that I observe is broken chime rods, followed by pendulum problems (broken suspension springs or dislocated pendulum leaders), and weight problems (weight chains that are off their sprockets, or tangled weight cables).
Here are the steps I use when packing a clock to ship for moving:
Once you have immobilized the pendulum, tape it securely to that backboard of your clock case, using painter’s tape. After your move, be sure to remove the tape as soon as possible to prevent damaging the wood finish.
3. Secure the pendulum leader: For grandfather clocks, use painter’s tape to tape the pendulum leader to the seat board or to the case.
4. Secure any chains or cables: If the weights hang from chains such as with cuckoo clocks and some grandfather clocks, you need to keep the chains from jumping off the sprockets during the move. To do this, insert a thin piece of wire or a twist tie through the links of each chain
Yes, you can. However, the process is somewhat complicated, and involves removing the clock movement from the case, as well as using specially formulated oil. Because of this, many people prefer to have their clock oiled professionally.
Here are some tips for oiling your clock yourself:
The American Watchmakers–Clockmakers Institute recommends that clocks be oiled every three to four years and cleaned every ten. Cleaning involves taking the clock apart, cleaning the parts individually, and re-assembling them, then oiling the clock with special clock oil. Clocks that are regularly cleaned and oiled need to be overhauled (repaired) much less frequently. Regular cleaning and oiling will keep a clock in better shape for a longer time, just as regular tune-ups provide preventive maintenance for a car.
Oil every 3 years; Clean every 10
These clocks keep time by counting the number of swings of the pendulum. Shorter pendulums swing faster than longer ones do. To speed up a clock you must make the effective length of the pendulum shorter; to slow down the clock, the pendulum length must be longer. There are two main ways to do this....
Clocks made after World War II
The time on post-World War II clocks can usually be set by moving the minute hand either clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you move the minute hand counter-clockwise, the clock will take up to an hour to re-sequence its chimes. While it is re-sequencing itself, the clock will not strike the quarter hours. Once the minute hand passes the top of the hour ("12") it should chime correctly again.
Over-winding will not cause a clock to stop. If a clock stops when it is fully wound, it is an indicator that there are other serious problems. Having said that, don’t try to wind a clock past where you feel it stop winding. You can stress the mainspring, and eventually it may break.
Clocks with Weights and Chains:
If the clock has weights that hang from chains, pull down on the loose chain ends, one at a time. A chain must have tension on it to keep it on its sprocket, so if you “help” the weight up with your other hand, don’t take all of the pressure off. I recommend wearing gloves any time you touch brass parts to prevent corrosion. Stop at least a half inch from the maximum height that the weight can go. Do this gently, as banging the weights on the clock case will cause the links in the chain to stretch and eventually break.
Clocks with Winding Arbors:
If the weights hang from cables, or if the clock has springs instead of weights, there will usually be winding arbors on the clock face. Winding arbors are square metal shafts that are visible...
Anniversary clocks have a pendulum that rotates back and forth. Hang the pendulum (it may have four balls, a disk, or figurines) on the bottom block of the suspension wire. The pendulums on some anniversary clocks cannot be removed easily. These clocks usually have some kind of lock that keeps the pendulum in place during transport. Usually there is a thick, stubby, brass lever between the base of the movement and the top of the pendulum. Hold the pendulum and turn the lever until the pendulum is released. Some clocks have a lever in the front, under the base of the clock. Move the lever to one side to release the pendulum.
Once the pendulum is hung or unlocked, you must level the clock. If your clock has a small ring or cup under the pendulum, level the clock until the point of the pendulum is centered in the cup. Level the clock by rotating the leveling feet (you will see three knurled disks at the base of the clock) until the pendulum is centered, or by putting shims under the clock if it doesn’t have leveling feet. Once the clock is level, rotate the pendulum (1/2 circle) and release.
Note: Never move an anniversary clock without first locking or removing the pendulum.
I am passionate about restoring and repairing antique clocks. In this blog I answer commonly asked questions about how to care for your clock.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Wise Owl Clock Repair is located in the Pine Square Courtyard between First and Second Streets, and across from Pine Street. (A map of street parking can be located here. ) There is also parking along the Skagit River Walk Park on the revetment. We are across from Shambala Bakery and around the corner from the Lunch Box, the Lincoln Theatre and Forte Chocolates.