“As a clock repairman, I hear many questions associated with clocks and their operation. It’s time to put some of the myths or old wives tales to rest.”
Here, then, are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Q. I’m afraid to wind my clock too tightly. Can I overwind it?
A. There is no way to overwind a clock. When the spring is wound tightly it can go no farther. If a clock is not wound tightly it won’t run for as long as it was designed to and will stop prematurely. If a clock is wound tightly and still will not run that indicates other problems.
Q. I’ve heard I shouldn’t hang my clock on an outside wall. Is that true?
A. Any wall is fine for hanging a clock. Years ago, homes with poor insulation, combined with natural clock lubricants, caused some clocks to stop during colder weather. Today’s synthetic lubricants and more tightly sealed and insulated homes have eliminated that problem.
Q. Should my clock be oiled every year?
A. No. Like your car, a clock needs its oil changed every so often, but too much oil collects dirt and dust actually causes the clock to wear and stop sooner. Generally, a clock will indicate it is ready for lubrication or cleaning by stopping or chiming sluggishly. A general rule of thumb is oiling every 2-3 years.
Q. Will I break my clock if I set it backwards?
A. Most modern clock movements can be set forward or backward. Antique clocks should be set with care, generally, not backward. At the Fall time change, if in doubt, stop the clock and restart it one hour later.
Q. How can I get my grandfather clock fixed when it’s too big to take to the shop?
A. I make house calls to service grandfather clocks and do the repairs.
Q. I have thick carpet in the room where I want to put my Grandfather clock. Should I look for another place to put it?
A. Grandfather clocks can be set up on thicker carpet and padding if done properly. The best place is to put your clock on a solid flooring so it will be stable and not rock back and forth.
Q. Why will my wall clock only run when hung crookedly?
A. Your clock is “out of beat” and needs to be adjusted. This is a simple adjustment and can usually be done while you wait.
Q. My clock strikes to a different hour than the hands point. How do I correct that?
A. Grasp the hour hand only (the little one) near the center and gently move it forward or backward to the correct hour on the dial as indicated by the number of times the movement strikes.
Q. How do I set the correct time?
A. Grasp the minute hand (large one) and move it only in a clockwise direction to the correct hour on the dial. Pause at each position on the dial to allow for the natural chime or strike that is usual to your clock. (May be each quarter hour, half hour or only the hour.)
Q. My pendulum clock is running too fast or too slow. Should I just keep resetting it when I wind it?
If your clock is running too fast, move the pendulum disk (bob) down lower. If your clock is running too slowly, move the pendulum disk (bob) up higher. This can be done by gradually turning the nut directly under the bob. Make only small or partial turns on the nut and try out the adjustment for a couple of days between each change. Remember; don’t complicate your life by making the initial adjustments too large. (Speed up, move up; Slow down, move down) Also remember to reset the time on your clock to a consistent source after any adjustments.
Q. What is the function of the moon dial?
Once a moon dial is set, it will keep track of the moon revolution. It takes 29 1/2 days (lunar month) for the moon to go around the earth. The full moon occurs on the 15th day. Set your moon dial on the full moon and watch the cycle.
Strike Synchronization using hands:
If the strike gets out of synchronization with the hands, wind up the strike spring (left winding square) then proceed as follows: Move the minute hand forward to two minutes before the hour. (The strike train makes a noise called the warning.) Move the minute hand backwards to 15 minutes before the hour. The clock will strike. Repeat until the number of hours struck is one less than the hour that the hour hand points to.
Strike Synchronization using wire:
If the strike gets out of synchronization with the hands, wind up the strike spring (left winding square) then proceed as follows: Turn the minute hand forward to the next hour. When striking stops, push up (or pull down on some clocks) the little wire hanging beneath the dial and let the clock strike. Each time you push (or pull) the wire, the clock will strike the next hour. Repeat until the correct hour is struck.
Strike Sound Adjustment:
The hammer which strikes the gong may have its shank bent slightly by hand to make the hammer head closer to or further from the gong to make it sound more pleasant.
If your clock does not run:
1) Make sure clock is fully wound. 2) Make sure clock is ticking evenly. Make sure clock is on a stable surface and does not rock. If necessary shim one or two corners with cardboard (for a shelf or mantel clock) or move bottom of clock to left or right (for a wall clock). 3) Make sure minute hand is not caught on hour hand.
Always remove the pendulum before transporting the clock to prevent damage.
Three Year Oiling and Inspection:
Your clock, being a precision mechanism, needs periodic maintenance to keep it running reliably and to give it long life. We recommend the following: After using it for three years, bring the clock in for oiling and inspection. We will check the condition of the movement and check that the mainspring ratchets are secure. We will tell you if the clock needs an overhaul or will be okay for several more years.
Windup clocks need overhauling about every 10 – 12 years. The environment in which the clock is used plays a major role in how long it will run between overhauls.
Why your clock won’t run forever:
As dust gets in the mechanism the oil becomes an abrasive paste, which causes wear. The longer the clock runs in this condition the more repair it will need. Many American clocks have very strong mainsprings which will run the clock for years after the oil has gone bad, causing severe wear to pivots and pivot holes. If your clock stops and you spray it with oil to make it go again, it will continue to wear badly because it is still dirty.
Mantel Clock Setup:
Place the clock on a table with the back facing you. Open the back door; hang the pendulum on the hook; close the door; carefully place the clock where it is to be used, on a stable, level surface; lift one side of the clock gently two inches then put it down to start the pendulum swinging.
Shelf Clock Setup:
Place the clock where it is to be used, on a stable, level surface; open the front door; hang the pendulum on the hook (on many clocks the hook is behind the dial); give the pendulum a swing and the clock will start ticking.
Wall Clock Setup:
Choose the proper size wood screw (typically a #8, 10 or 12) to fit the hanger at the top back of the clock, and long enough to go securely through the wall into a stud; secure the screw into the wall, angled upward at a 45 degree angle; hang the clock; open the front door and hang the pendulum on the hook (on many clocks the hook is behind the dial); give the pendulum a swing and the clock will start ticking; move the bottom of the case to the left or right until ticking is even (or if there is a beat scale beneath the pendulum, move the case so the pendulum points to zero when at rest); secure bottom of case to wall so clock is stable.
Setting the Hands:
When setting the clock to time, move the minute hand, pausing at each hour (and half-hour for some clocks) for the clock to strike. Never move the hands counterclockwise past 6 or 12.
Winding – Eight Day clock:
Wind the clock once per week, preferably on the same day each week. If the clock begins to run slow or chimes slow before the week is complete, you can wind it up twice a week, for example, every Sunday morning and then Wednesday night. Turn the key with a smooth motion, stopping when the spring is tight (approximately 7 turns after one week of running). Never let the key snap back in your hand, always release it gently after each half turn.
Winding – One Day clock:
Wind the clock once each day, preferably at about the same time each day. Turn the key with a smooth motion stopping when the spring is tight. Never let the key snap back in your hand; always release it gently after each half turn. The left square winds the strike mainspring and the right side winds the time mainspring.
This type of clock will be able to keep time within 4 minutes per week. You will need to do the final regulation once the clock is in its permanent location to achieve this accuracy. To check the clock’s accuracy, set the hands to the correct time and then let the clock run at least 3 or 4 days. The main factors causing variations in rate are temperature changes and the lessening tension of the mainspring as it runs down. Once the clock is regulated to keep good time you will need to set the hands whenever the time is off by more than a few minutes – perhaps every week or two.
Regulating the clock – Regulating Square:
Many clocks can be made to go faster or slower by means of the small square on the dial. Turning it toward F speeds up the clock; turning it toward S slows it down. Turn the square only a small amount each time. The regulating square is turned with the small end of the winding key.
Regulating the clock – Pendulum Nut:
The clock can be made to go faster or slower by means of the nut at the bottom of the pendulum. Turning the front of the nut to the right speeds up the clock; turning it to the left slows it down (in other words move the nut up to speed up or down to slow down). Turn the nut only a small amount each time.