notes for the winding and care of clocks
Few people nowadays now how to care for their clocks, in fact some don’t
even know how to wind them properly, so here are a few tips. Every
clock is unique so these tips can only be generalisations that may
not actually apply to your clock; however if you follow them you will
certainly do no harm, and that is what is most important to me –
the preservation of artefacts from a bygone part of our heritage.
spring driven clocks, turn the key steadily until you feel it come
to a positive stop, but don’t force it if you feel abnormal
weight driven clocks, turn the key steadily until the weight is
close to, but not at, the top, but don’t force it if you feel
the correct size of clock key. Too large a key will damage the
square stem. I can supply a new key if yours is wrong.
Setting to time
turn the hands backwards. Doing so will usually damage the striking
each strike and chime to complete before turning the hands forwards
- Turn only the minute hand.
Strike and chime synchronisation
types of strike mechanisms will strike the wrong number if the clock
is allowed to stop. You can try turning the hands forwards but if
this does not solve the problem call a horologist for help.
Moving your pendulum clock
pendulum is attached by a fragile spring that is easily damaged by
moving the clock unless it is first detached. Most pendulum springs
are simply hooked over a part called the back cock, a bracket
projecting from the back plate of the movement. Support the weight
of the pendulum while gently easing the spring off the back cock, at
the same time ensuring that the crutch, the rod that pushes the
pendulum from side to side, is gently disengaged from the pendulum.
If you can not see how to do it call a horologist.
long case clock movements are not secured into their cases, relying
instead on the heavy drive weights and heavy pendulum to prevent
them moving. Taking off the weights and pendulum without supporting
the movement frequently allows the movement to fall forwards with
obvious consequences to its integrity, not to mention the injuries
to your head! (This is one of the reasons I always do the
dismantling and re-assembly for you.)
put it briefly – don’t do it. Only specific parts of the
clock need lubrication, parts which the layman can not get to. Other
parts are intended to run dry. Oil here will absorb dust, which will
form a highly effective grinding paste and slowly destroy your
be tempted to use sprays such as WD40. You may find that it will
initially get a faulty clock running again, but as it dries it will
form a sort of gummy varnish that will seize all the pivots and
corrode the brass. Because this is difficult for me to remove it
will cost you more than if you had brought the clock to me in the
Adjustment of pendulum clock rates
clocks of the type found in black “marble” or “bronze”
cases will have a square section rod about one mm across poking
through the dial at the numeral 12. Generally, turning the rod
clockwise will increase the rate; and vice versa. Use only the
correct size of key, but don’t force it if it will not turn.
case (wrongly called grandfather) clocks will have a knurled nut
called the rating nut below the bob; (the bob is the weight at the
lower end of the pendulum.) Hold the pendulum so that it does not
twist while screwing the nut up to increase the rate or vice versa.
English mantel clocks will have similar adjustment as long case
Adjustment of balance wheel clock rates
is done by moving the lever attached to the balance spring, thus
altering the effective length of the spring. In older clocks the
back of the clock must be opened to gain access to this lever; in
newer clocks this lever will extend through a bow shaped hole in the
The location of your clock
clocks need particular care in setting up; while balance wheel clocks
are far more tolerant and need no special precautions.
clock needs to be on a level surface. If the ticking sounds uneven
or the clock only runs if it is tilted, then it needs adjusting.
clock needs to be on a firm surface or it will tilt and spoil its
reliability. This particularly applies to long case clocks that
stand on wooden floors or carpets. The solution here is to secure
the case to the wall.
the clock should be located somewhere with a constant temperature.
This is rarely possible so it must be accepted that it will run slow
at high temperatures and fast at low temperatures.
your clock should be cleaned and oiled every five years to maintain
the best performance and to minimise wear, however they will commonly
run for much longer, albeit with the risk of a higher repair bill if
left too long. I recommend you leave it no longer than 10 years
depending on the type of clock and the environment in which it