My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part Three – Cuckoo Clocks


Did you know that most of the time you, as the clock owner, can correct the problems that cause your mechanical cuckoo clock to stop? That’s why we’ve posted these troubleshooting tips. However, if your clock stopped because the chains slipped off the gears or there’s a buildup of dirt and oil, you’ll need professional help to get your clock running again.

Here are six easy things to check:

1. Is the clock hanging straight on the wall?

If your clock looks like it’s not hanging perpendicular on the wall, plum it up, then give the pendulum a gentle push to get it swinging again. Then listen for a steady, even beat. The silent space between the tick and the tock should be the same. If it isn’t, carefully tilt the clock slightly to the left or to the right until the ticktock rhythm sounds even.

2. Is the door latch blocking the cuckoo door?

A small wire latch (door lock) can get in the way of the cuckoo door. Make sure it’s not preventing the door from opening.

3. Is the bird’s lifting wire out of place?

Check inside of the clock case to make sure the lifting wire (attached to the top of the bellow) is below the bird’s tail and not on top of it or on the side of it. If needed, gently move the wire under the bird’s tail.

4. What’s the position the shut-off switch?

Check the shut-off switch to make sure it’s not in the “on” position. Even if it appears to be “on”, move it in both directions. Sometimes the switch can be somewhere in the middle of “on” and “off” and if it is, then the clock may not work.

5. Is the clock wound?

Forgetting to wind any clock is the most common reason it stops working. All mechanical cuckoo clocks are powered by the gravitational force of its weights, which drop slightly with each swing of the pendulum. When you wind your clock, the weights are lifted back up so they can begin their drop again and keep your clock going. As you wind, don’t lift the weight with your other hand in order to help it along. Instead, let the chain support the full load of the weight and keep winding until the weights are at the very top.

6. Are the hands touching each other?

Have a close look at the hour and minute hands to see if they’re contacting each other. If they are, gently press the hour hand slightly back toward the clock dial, making sure it doesn’t touch the dial. If the hands still touch each other, slightly bend the minute hand toward you. This should create the needed clearance space.

So, if you’ve found any of the above problems and have fixed them yourself, congratulations!


My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part Two – Grandfather Clocks


If your grandfather clock stops working, here are a few things you can check before calling a clock repairman.

1. Is the clock wound?
Forgetting to wind a grandfather clock is the most common reason it stops working. All grandfather clocks are powered by the gravitational force of its two or three weights, which drop slightly with each swing of the pendulum. When you wind the clock about every 8 days, the weights are lifted back up so they can begin their drop again and keep your clock going.

2. Are the hands touching each other?
Have a close look at the hour and minute hands to see if they’re contacting each other. If they are, gently press the hour hand slightly back toward the clock dial, making sure it doesn’t touch the dial. If the hands still touch, slightly bend the minute hand toward you. This should create the needed clearance space.

3. Are the hands touching the glass?
Check the minute hand to make sure it’s not touching the front glass. If it is, gently push it toward the dial a slight amount so that it no longer rubs against the glass. Be sure it doesn’t touch the hour hand or the dial. Check the second hand as well to make sure it’s not contacting the glass. Even a small amount of friction against the glass will stop the clock.

4. Has the clock has been moved?
If you have recently moved your grandfather clock, it may be leaning at a slightly different angle than it was before. This can change the gravitational force on the weights and bring the pendulum to a halt. To remedy this, first start your pendulum swinging and listen for a steady, even rhythm. The silent space between the tick and the tock should be even, and last the same duration of time. If it’s not, carefully tilt the clock a little to the left, then listen to the tick tock beat. If it’s still uneven, tilt the clock to the right and listen again. You may also have to tilt your clock backwards and forwards until the beat sounds even. Make sure that the pendulum isn’t touching the chime rods toward the back of the clock or touching the weights toward the front. The best way to check this is by viewing the pendulum through the lower side window of the case.

When the tick tock sounds even, adjust the levelers at the bottom of the clock or use a bracket to secure the clock at that angle to the wall. There is no need to use a level tool to make sure your clock is absolutely perpendicular to the floor. Just let your ears decide by listening for a steady, even tick tock, even if the clock appears to be slightly uneven.

5. Does the clock need to be secured to the wall?
Check to see if the clock case shifts position when it’s touched, or when there are floor vibrations from foot traffic or a nearby road. If so, the clock needs to be fastened securely to the wall behind it.

6. Is the moon dial stuck?
If your clock has a moon dial or calendar disc, try moving it slightly to see if it is free or frozen. If it’s frozen, move the minute hand back about five minutes and check the moon dial again. If it’s still frozen, move the minute hand back a few hours and check again. When you’re done, reset the clock time.

7. Are the cables or chains free?
Check the cables where they wind around the barrels to be sure they’re not looped over themselves. If your clock is chain driven, make sure the chains aren’t tangled or caught on anything.

So, if you’ve found any of the above problems and have fixed them yourself, congratulations!


Photo Credits:

Feature photo – www.ovguide.com


My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part One – Mantel Clocks


Did you know that most of the time you, as the clock owner, can correct the problems that cause mechanical pendulum clocks to stop? That’s why we’ve posted these tips on how to get your timepiece ticking again. The focus of part one in this four-part series is mantel clocks. Future articles will focus on cuckoo, wall and grandfather clocks.

Before reading on, here’s an important point: if your clock has been running for a long time, then suddenly stops, and you haven’t touched it, it may be an indication that you need professional help.

Four common reasons why a mechanical mantel clock stops:

1. Has your clock been moved recently?

(Note: not all mechanical mantel clocks have pendulums. The below instructions do not apply if your clock has no pendulum.)

Moving a mechanical mantel clock from one place to another is one of the most common reasons why it stops running and can result in one of the following:

a. Pendulum Over Swing--If the bob on the pendulum hasn’t first been immobilized or removed from the pendulum arm before the clock is moved, the pendulum can over swing (go past its normal arc) and throw the clock “out of beat.” Then, eventually, the clock will stop.

b. Change of Angle–If you’ve moved your clock to a new location and the new surface is at a slightly different angle than the previous one, the even swing of the pendulum can alter and cause the clock to go out of beat and stop.

There’s a quick and easy way to get your clock working again if you have a good ear and patience. First, get your timepiece ticking by gently pulling the pendulum to one side and letting go. Then, listen carefully to the tick tock rhythm. A clock that’s in beat will have an equal amount of silent space between the tick and the tock. It will sound like this: tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . tock . . . tick . . . tock. But, if the beat sounds uneven, like this: tick tock . . . . . . . . tick tock . . . . . . . . tick tock, then your clock needs to be put back in beat.

pile of U.S. coinsThe easiest way to do this is by using the shim method: Place two coins under two feet of the clock, either on the right or left side. The beat will then become either more even or less even. If it’s less even, remove the coins and place them under the two feet on the other side of the clock. If the beat sounds better, but it’s still not perfect, add more coins until the beat sounds even. If after doing that, your clock runs for a short time and then stops, start the pendulum moving again and add two more coins to raise the clock a little higher, again listening carefully for an even beat.

It could take some time to get it right, but if you stick with it, you’ll again have an in-beat timepiece. However, if your clock is so far out of beat that you have to raise it up 2 or 3 inches to get it back in beat, then the time has come for a visit to the repair shop.

When an uneven surface is the cause of an out of beat clock or stopped clock, the shim method is more effective than using a carpenter’s level and will produce more accurate results. However, the method isn’t as good as correcting the beat by adjusting the crutch which allows the clock to run properly on a truly straight and level surface. We don’t recommend trying to adjust the crutch yourself unless you are confident in your mechanical abilities, and you have the proper instruction from qualified sources.

2. Is the clock wound?
Your clock might just need to be wound. If so, give it a wind, re-set the time, and your problem is solved.

3. Are the hands touching the glass?
Check the minute hand to make sure that it’s not touching the front glass. If it is, gently push the hand toward the dial just enough so that it clears the glass. Be sure not to push it back too much; otherwise, it will catch on the hour hand or dial. Then do the same for the second hand. Even a small amount of friction from a clock hand against the glass will stop a clock.

4. Are the hands touching each other?
Have a close look at the hour and minute hands to be sure that they’re not in contact with each other. If they are, gently press the hour hand back slightly toward the clock dial, making sure the hand doesn’t touch the dial. If the hands still touch, slightly bend the minute hand toward you; this should create the necessary clearance space.

Stay tuned to our blog site for the next article in our series: My clock keeps stopping: Part Two–Cuckoo Clocks.

Photo Credit:

Top photo – Hermle Oak Amelia Mantel Clock

How to Set Up a Cuckoo Clock


Are they all the same? Well…yes and no. Mechanical cuckoo clocks come in a variety of brands, designs, features and price ranges. But what it takes to set one up is basically the same for all; so these instructions should work well for whatever brand you may have. Also, detailed manufacturer setup and maintenance instructions are included with every cuckoo clock  we ship. You can also download them from our website  – just click the “Instructions” tab at the bottom of the product’s detail page.

Below is a diagram showing the parts of the mechanical cuckoo clock that we’ll be talking about in this article.















Now let’s  get started:

1. Unpack the box

Gently hold the clock by the frame to remove it from the carton. Be sure not to pull on any of the decorative parts or figurines. Then remove all of the other parts such as the weights, pendulum, crest and assorted smaller pieces (if your clock has these). Sometimes within a box, at the bottom, is another box with the weights and/or pendulum.

You’ll notice a small packet of chains wrapped in paper at the bottom of the clock; for now leave them wrapped. Unwrap all the other pieces. It’s a good idea to save the original box and all packing material for future use.

2. Attach the Headboard and/or Other Ornaments

setup-#2-crestIf the model you’ve purchased has a headboard and/or other small pieces, now is a good time to attach them. They mount by various means of pins, clips, pegs and screws, depending on your  model. Mounting them is simple, but if you need help, details are included in the manufacturer’s printed instructions that come with the clock. You can also download printable versions of their instructions from any cuckoo clock product detail page on our website – just click the “Instructions” tab at the bottom of the page.

3. Open the Back Panel

Lay the clock face down on a flat surface. setup-#2-clips-bellowsOpen the latches on the back panel and remove the panel. The inside mechanism with all of its wires will now be exposed so be careful not to bend any of them as you proceed.



4. Remove Safety Material Inside the Clock

Cuckoo clocks are packed and prepped very carefully before they’re shipped. Some parts are secured with extra safety materials to ensure that the clock arrives undamaged, setup-#2-papergongand these need to be removed before setting up your clock. On the back of the panel, you’ll see a gong coil with a strip of paper under it (photo on right). Remove the paper (some clocks have cardboard). On each one of the two bellows you’ll see a wire clip–remove both of them (photo above on left, 3a & 3b). Some cuckoo clock models have rubber bands and Styrofoam which also must be removed.

Also, make sure that the wire with the looped or U-shaped end goes through the slot on the bottom of the clock case. Later you’ll hang the pendulum on that wire. Next, put the panel back by fitting its bottom edge into the groove at the bottom of the clock case, then close the top edge and latch.

5. Hang the Clock

setup-#2-nail-wallIf there is no stud in the wall where you plan to drive the nail, install a wallboard anchor (molly bolt) or a heavy duty fastener of the correct type for your wall. It should be set at an angle of about 45 degrees. When you install the screw, make sure it protrudes far enough from the wall to engage the clock securely. For maximum running time hang your clock about 6 feet high. Running time for your clock will be one full day or eight full days, depending on its mechanism. If the clock isn’t mounted high enough, the weights will touch the floor and shorten the expected run time. It won’t damage the clock but will require that you to wind it more often.

Make sure the clock is flush with the wall and not leaning forward and that it’s 100% horizontal. Never hang a cuckoo clock over a heater or above a fire place or in drafty areas. Also, areas with excessive humidity and dust, and temperatures below 40 degrees may damage your cuckoo clock.

6. Unpack the Chains

setup-#2-chains-pouchUnwrap the small packet of chains at the bottom of the clock and remove the retaining wire. Smooth out knots in the chains and let them fall freely to the floor. If at any time the clock is taken off the wall, be sure to keep it in an upright position to prevent the chains from sliding off the inside sprocket wheels.



7. Hang the Weights and Pendulum

Next, hang the weights on the brass hooks (left photo: see 7b) and attach the pendulum on to the wire loop (see 7a) that’s hanging through the slot at the bottom of the clock.

NOTE: Before you wind your clock (step #11) we recommend first completing steps 8, 9 and 10.





8. Unlock the Cuckoo Door

On the front of the clock there is a small wire latch at the edge of the cuckoo door–turn it to the left to unlocksetup-#2-cuckoo-open-door the door (photo below on left). Then put the pendulum in motion by gently setup-#2-cuckoo-doorpushing it to one side.





9. Level the Clock With Your Ears

Yes, it’s your ears and not your eyes that will tell you if the clock is horizontally perfect. Just listen to the rhythm of the tick tock. It should be even and sound like this: “tick….tock….tick….tock….tick….tock”, and not like this: “tick-tock….tick-tock….tick-tock….tick-tock.” If the rhythm is uneven, carefully adjust the horizontal position of the clock by pivoting it to the left or right until the rhythm becomes even. When you’ve found this “sweet spot” you may want to place a light pencil mark on the wall along the edge of the clock for reference in case the clock is accidentally moved.

10. Set the Time

To set the time, move the minute hand (long hand) counter clock-wise. Do not move the hour hand (short hand). If you prefer to move the minute hand clock-wise instead, you can, but you’ll have to wait for the bird to cuckoo and/or the music to finish playing at every hour and/or half hour until the hands reach the correct time. Be sure that the “silent” switch or lever is in the correct “on” position. You’ll be able to tell if it’s on if you hear a “click” before each hour.

11. Wind the Clock

To wind your clock, pull down on the free ends (ring ends) of the chains that don’t have weights on them. This will raise the weights to the base of the clock. Don’t be tempted to help lift the weights up with your hands. Always pull the chains slowly and evenly and avoid roughness. Be sure to never pull the weights themselves, as this could damage the chains or ratchet mechanism. Once the weight reaches the top, your cuckoo clock is fully wound.

12. Regulate the Time

The pendulum is what regulates the time. If your clock runs fast, gently slide the pendulum leaf or disc downwards. If the clock runs slow, slide the pendulum-disc upwards. setup-#2-pendulum-bobSome clocks have a threaded adjuster at the bottom of the pendulum. Turn the adjuster to the right if the clock is too slow or to the left if it’s too fast. Moving the pendulum leaf or disc about 1/16″ results in a change of about 2 minutes per day. After each pendulum adjustment set your clock using an accurate time source.


And Finally…

Here’s where instructions are no longer needed. That’s because the next step comes so naturally…and that’s simply to enjoy your new cuckoo clock! Thanks so much for reading our article. If you’ve enjoyed it or have any questions, please post your comment.


Image Credits: River City Clocks – rivercityclocks.com

Why Doesn’t My Cuckoo Bird Cuckoo?


If you’ve just unpacked your new cuckoo clock and your cuckoo bird isn’t singing…

you can be sure it’s not due to a sore throat or shyness. More likely it’s because he can’t get his little door to open, or that there’s something jamming the works down the line in the chains, or bellows or in a wire or two. Or maybe its from things that should be hanging from the clock, but are still sitting in the box.

Yes, your cuckoo is a little fellow, but small as he is, he still needs his array of mechanical backup gear to perform his simple concert. So if your cuckoo bird isn’t cuckooing, watch this short video; it will help you diagnose and fix the problem easily and quickly.

Do you have troubleshooting questions about clocks? Check our FAQ page for answers.

How to Spot Clean and Oil Your Clock


Some Background

In this article you’ll get the basics on how to correctly spot clean and oil your own clock. If you haven’t already read our other article ‘What You Need to Know About Oiling and Cleaning Your Clock’ give it a whirl. It goes into detail about the frequency of cleaning and oiling a clock and is  good primer for what you’re going to read in his article.

Most clock owners are familiar with what a clock movement looks like but in case you’re not, the image on the right will give you a pretty good idea. BLOG-movement-clockworks-website-uw32319sEach gear in a movement is mounted to an axle and each axle is mounted between two brass plates. The place in the plates where the axle goes into is called a pivot hole. On the outside wall of each plate around each pivot hole is a small bowl-shaped depression called an ‘oil sink’. Each one holds a small reservoir of oil and releases it slowly over time to keep the pivot hole lubricated. (photo on the right). The pivot holes are where a lot of friction takes place; they’re the focus of your mission, the spots where you’ll be cleaning and oiling. For a more detailed explanation on lubrication and friction see ‘Why A Clock Needs To Be Cleaned And Oiled’.

Before you do anything: If you have a newer clock that’s still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, be sure to check with them first beforehand, since servicing your own clock could void the warranty.

Are All Clocks Candidates?

BLOG-#2Hermle-Grandfather-01208_N91152_289x433Floor Clocks: According to our clock repair answer man Jim Fischer, 85% of all floor clocks have access panels, either on the side if it’s a grandfather clock, or on the top if it’s a grandmother clock, and you can do your own maintenance on them.  “But if access to the movement including all of the hard to reach spots, is not available, then various other techniques and equipment are needed. In that case a professional clock repairman should be hired to ensure that the clock stays in good working order.” Jim said.

As for modern wall clocks and pendulum style mantel clocks, he said “These rarely have side or top access, but if you’re vigilant and mechanically inclined you could do the work yourself. The movement would have to be carefully taken out through the back of the clock, or through the front by removing the dial, cleaned and oiled, then carefully put back in” (more on this in a future article).

“But there are some timepieces that the average clock owner should not try to service himself. and cuckoo clocks are one of them. BLOG-#2Schneider-cuckooBecause of their complex mechanisms that operate the bird, bellows, chimes and figurines, a routine cleaning and oiling of a cuckoo is a big undertaking. It can take a professional three times longer to service than other kinds of clocks. And that gets very expensive. It’s why a cuckoo clock owner doesn’t typically have regular professional maintenance done, but instead has a new movement put in after about 25-30 years. If you know that a replacement movement is no longer available then regular professional maintenance makes good sense.”

“Then there are a myriad of other types of clocks – French, English, old German, Vienna, etc.,  These generally are ‘fussy’ and usually present some difficult tasks in getting them apart and back together properly. There are just so many things to watch out for on the antiques/vintage/non-American clocks that they should be left to the pro.”

You may be surprised to know (unless you own one) that there are some mechanical clocks that can go for longer periods of time without lubrication. “American antique clocks such as Seth Thomas, Gilbert, New Haven, Kroeber, Waterbury, Ansonia, etc., are designed with thick brass plates and because of that they continue to run without regular oiling for a long time, even with excessive pivot hole wear.  Therefore, with these kind of clocks, a preventive oiling program is not as important as it is with clocks that have a modern German movement, which are built more for precision. ”  Jim said.

The Basics: Cleaning and Oiling Your Clock

Ready to start? Here are simple guidelines:

Light: Make sure you have plenty of light so you can easily see how much dirt has accumulated and where it is, and to make sure you’re applying the right amount of oil.

Spot cleaning: A routine spot cleaning of the pivot points should be done before applying fresh oil. The process takes an attentive eye. First, wipe off any large deposits with a soft cloth. Then using a very sharp, thin pivot cleaning stick (barbecue sticks can also be used) scrape out any dried oil and dirt that has collected in and around the pivot points.BLOG-oilsonk-axle-#2 If it’s packed into the pivots you may need a soft nylon toothbrush and cleaning fluid to remove it. If the movement is still inside the clock be careful that particles of loose dirt don’t drop onto any of the gear teeth. Q-Tips are not recommended for removing the oil and dirt because they can leave strands of fiber in the movement.

Keep in mind that spot cleaning does not take the place of a professional ultrasonic cleaning .

How to Oil:

Before you read further, have a look at this short video clip.

This video deals with oiling only and it’s assumed that any needed cleaning has already been done. Although the demonstration uses a movement that has already been removed from a clock, it also shows you where some of the oil should be applied when the movement is still inside a grandfather clock. In that case you won’t be able to apply oil to the oil sinks since you won’t have access to the outside walls of the plates where the sinks are located. In this situation, you’ll apply the oil to the pivot points on the inside walls of the plates. What does that do? Well, through Mother Nature’s process called ‘capillary action’ some of that oil travels across the axle from the inside of the plate to the outside of the plate and partially fills the oil sink. But know that when you oil pivot points on the inside, those points will need to be lubricated more frequently because the oil sinks aren’t able to fill up completely.

BLOG#2_oil dropNot Too Much, Not Too Little: Using the right amount of oil is important. If you use too much it will drip down the plate and the remaining oil in the oil sink will follow the drippings due to gravity. Then it won’t be long before most of your oil in the oil sink is gone.  Also, if  after applying the oil you see that it’s bulging out of the sink, that bulge at some future point could break and the oil would then leak down on to the clock plate. So apply the oil in small amounts and if you see any bulging, carefully wick up the excess with the tip of a tissue. At the same time, use enough oil. If there’s too little, you’ll have to re-oil in a few months or worse, your movement will wear prematurely due to lack of lubrication. So it’s good to be careful when applying oil.

Ultimately, if you don’t feel up to the oiling, or your clock is irreplaceable or of great value to you, it may be better to leave it to a professional.

What About Gear Teeth?

BLOG-yorkshireclockrepair.com3Oiling gear teeth is a point upon which clock experts disagree. In the above video oiling the teeth of an escape wheel is recommended. But here is what Jim had to say about it “That might take care of a short term problem, but some repairmen feel oiling gear teeth can accelerate future problems. I don’t recommend it.  If you keep oiling the teeth, then old oil builds up and gets tacky, and fills the spaces where the teeth meet – thus increasing friction over time.”

The Right Kind of Oil

Before we talk about the right oil to use for clock lubrication, there is one type that is so damaging to a clock, we have to mention it first. Under no circumstances ever use WD-40, even as a temporary fix. Yes, it’s an effective lubricant for general household use, but it’s one of a clock’s worst enemies. It gums up the movement and can add enough friction to stop the clock in a just few months. It can also run into dials and stain them and can contaminate the clock cleaning solution when the inevitable time comes for an ultrasonic cleaning. Other oils commonly found in a home are sewing machine oil and 3 in 1 oil. These might work for a while but are more viscous and will run out faster. They could even stain dials and are not recommended.

As for the right kind of oil, there are a number of excellent brand name synthetic clock oils available on the market today. They protect your clock from wear and tear and tend to stay where put. So it’s best to use them and keep your clock happy.

Tools of the Trade

Here is a short list of things you’ll need for cleaning and oiling your clock:


  • pivot cleaning sticks or barbeque stickstooth brush
  • clock oilerBLOG#2-OILERs_F69596795
  • soft cloth to remove oil drips


If you want to go deeper into the world of clock maintenance, Hermle Clocks publishes a professional service manual and has agreed to make it available to our readers in early 2014. Check with us for an update on this.

Did you enjoy this article? Find it helpful, or have any comments? Please let us know.

Ask The Expert:  Do you have a specific maintenance or repair question about a clock you own? Post it on our Facebook page and we’ll have Jim’s Mobile Clock Repair provide the answer.

 Photo and Video Credits:

Hermle clock movement – clockworks.com

Grandfather Clock – Hermle Floor Clocks

Cuckoo Clock –  Anton Schneider Chalet Style Cuckoo Clock

Oil Sink Pivot – timezone.com

Video – norkro.com

Oil Drop – scaleswmulrica.blogspot.com

Gears –  yorkshireclockrepair.com

Barbeque Sticks – alibaba.com

8TMT 3414-9
8TMT 3414-9

Tooth Brush –freeimageslive.com

3 Oiling Pens – timesavers.com





Why A Clock Needs To Be Oiled And Cleaned


A Clock Never Rests

Did you know that every hour the pendulum of a clock beats (oscillates) between about 4,000 to 12,000 times? And a mantle clock balance wheel does about 9,000 per hour? This movement goes on without a stop 24 hours a day, seven days a week for years. That’s a lot of rubbing and rolling going on inside of a clock.BLOG-yorkshireclockrepair.com3 It’s why all new clocks come oiled from the manufacturer to minimize metal-to-metal resistance called friction that is ever present in any machine. A clock is no exception. Over time that oil not only attracts and holds dirt but it also gets dryer and dryer. That is why a clock needs ongoing maintenance.

About Oiling: The mechanism inside a clock is like an interactive “community” of metal parts with lots of moving gears that connect with other gears. Each gear is mounted on a steel axle and each axle is mounted between two lacquer coated brass plates. The lacquer protects against tarnish buildup. The place in the plates where the axle goes into is called a pivot hole. Pivot holes are not lacquered. And because they’re not they need lubrication, otherwise tarnish will build up there and break off into abrasive particles that act like sandpaper. And we all know what the rub of sandpaper can do. The friction of those oxidized particles causes the steel axles and the brass holes to wear out and become egg shaped. And when that happens the gears no longer mesh properly and you end up with premature wear. This is a sure way to ruin a clock movement. This why keeping your clock oiled is crucial for its well-being.

About Cleaning: Over time dirt and dust from outside sources get into the pivot areas and cause the oil to dry out and thicken. Eventually, the oil turns into an abrasive, pasty varnish. Not simple or easy to remove. Two types of  methods are used to deal with the pasty dirt: spot cleaning and ultrasonic cleaning. Spot cleaning*, which can be done on some clocks, but not on all clocks, is effective to an extent, but the time will come when a deep cleanse is needed. BLOG#2-bubbles-square--cheshirenilox.co.uk-bubbles 1This is where ultrasonic cleaning* comes in. A qualified professional first removes the movement from the clock case, then “bathes” it in a machine filled with a de-greasing chemical where millions of bubbles “scrub” all the metal pieces clean. Afterwards fresh oil is applied. This process is far more intense and thorough than any spot cleaning you can do at home. So, both spot cleaning and professional ultrasonic cleaning are necessary for optimal upkeep of your clock.  (*more on cleaning in our upcoming article: ‘How to Clean and Oil Your Clock’)

Before You Go…

Now you have the reasons why clocks need to be cleaned and oiled. A clock is a faithful friend, always ready to tell us the correct time. All it needs to keep on going is winding (unless it’s battery operated) and regular maintenance. A happy arrangement for you and your clock.

And last of all, if you haven’t yet read the other articles in our Clock Maintenance Series, have a look at ‘What You Need to Know About Oiling and Cleaning Your Clock’. It’s packed with practical and important tips for clock owners. Also see ‘How to Spot Clean and Oil Your Clock’ for step by step pointers on how to do your own clock maintenance.

Did you enjoy this article? Find it helpful, or have any comments? Please let us know.

Ask The Expert:  Do you have a specific maintenance or repair question about a clock you own? Post it on our Facebook page and we’ll have Jim’s Mobile Clock Repair provide the answer.

Photo Credits:

Clock Gears – yorkshireclockrepairer.com

Bubbles – cheshirenilox.co.uk

What You Need to Know About Oiling and Cleaning Your Clock


The Unexpected

I was surprised by what I found. Some experts said there’s no need to clean and oil a clock. Just leave it alone. When it has a problem, go and have it professionally serviced. That was their advice. Others praised preventative maintenance as the way to go. They told me that a clock should be oiled every 3-5 years and cleaned professionally 7-10 years. Yes, the experts disagreed.

Finding The Truth

I kept on digging. I soon discovered that there was no absolute, one-for-all answer and that the differing opinions were based mostly on a repairman’s philosophy of cost effectiveness and the kind of clocks he or she serviced.

BLOG-NAWCC-clock-repairshopSomewhere along the way, I was lucky enough to find Jim’s Mobile Clock Repair. Jim was well qualified to give solid advice. I was impressed with the scope of his knowledge and perspective especially when I found out that he has a background in metallurgical and materials engineering.  After telling him about the different opinions I ran into, I asked Jim for his. First off, he said, “If you ever want to have a lively discussion get five different clock repairmen in a room and ask them ‘should I or shouldn’t I oil my clock and what kind of oil I should use’ and you’ll never come out of that room.” So, I pictured myself there in that room, trying to follow the tech-talk…and had to laugh.

“To answer your question,” he said, “today’s manufacturers of new clocks recommend oiling, either by the clock owner or a professional, every 2 to 3 years. If that schedule is kept up then a professional ultrasonic cleaning can be done every 10-12 years, or about after the 3rd oiling. If the clock is not oiled every 2-3 years, ultrasonic cleaning should be done every 5-7 years. To get the most out of your clock’s movement, follow that advice. But if you wait until your clock stops working before you have it serviced, accumulations of dirt and dust can cause unwanted wear. It could even ruin the movement. Keep in mind now that we’re talking about new clocks, not antiques, and that 2-3 and 5-7 years are general time frames only that don’t apply to all clocks.” He went on to explain seven points to consider in clock maintenance.

BLOG-#3movement-hands-ebaySeven Factors to Consider In Clock Maintenance

1. personal economic viewpoint
2. personal maintenance approach
3. materials a clock is made of
4. age and era of the clock
5. service and environmental history of the clock
6. availability of a replacement movement
7. present and future availability of a qualified repairman to overhaul the clock

Let’s talk about the first 3 points on the list: economics, maintenance approach and materials (we’ll cover points 4 -7 in future posts).

1. The Economics

As I had found out on my own, some repairmen say not to clean and oil your clock until a problem arises. Jim filled in the details “They say this because of the economics. It costs less to let your clock go without service than to have a professional do regular maintenance. But taking care of your clock assures its longevity. A clock’s life expectancy with regular maintenance is usually about 35-40 years. But If you don’t keep up with regular oiling and professional cleaning, you can expect the life span of the movement to be shortened by 10 years. The cost to replace a movement, including installation, is about $500. Professional maintenance would cost about three times as much.” Hmm, something to consider.


Here’s some dollar and cents good news on how to take the “ouch” out of that professional maintenance bill. You can learn how to oil and spot clean some clocks yourself. (Note:  not all clocks can or should be self-serviced due to their complexity–more on this in a future post). Doing your own maintenance will definitely cut down on your bill by eliminating the cost of regular professional care. However, a professional ultra-sonic cleaning would still be needed at some point (details on that in a minute). If you own a grandfather clock, you should know that to do a proper oiling job yourself, the clock would need to have side door panels for accessing deeper parts of the movement.

BLOG#2-Charlie Chaplain-moma.orgModern-TimesHere’s something else you’ll want to know: some manufacturers will void the warranty if anyone but a qualified service person does any of the maintenance work before the warranty period expires. So, read your warranty carefully before you oil and spot clean your clock.



2. Maintenance Approach: Preventative vs. Waiting

BLOG-#2Mini_Silver_Pump_Jack_Clock So is the preventative approach or the wait as long as possible approach to clock maintenance best? Your personal style of maintaining your mechanical goods could have a lot to do with the answer. Some people like to have their mechanical gear in tip top shape, even if it costs more to do it. Others don’t consider maineinance a priority, and/or they like to save the money.

Now that you know the cost factors and  reasoning behind choosing an approach, you’re in a better position to evaluate the pros and the cons and decide what might work best for you.

3. The Materials Of A Clock

Knowing about the materials a clock is made of is key to making the right decisions on how to care for it. “That’s one of the biggest reason why there are so many diverse opinions among both clock owners and repair professionals on how often to clean and oil and what type of oil to use.” Jim said. “Things like the thickness of brass plates, upgraded movements with bronze bushings and type of steel used for components are just some of the variables that determine the maintenance approach for a particular timepiece.” And the age/era of a clock has a lot to do with that. In future posts we’ll talk about this in detail.

The Type Of Oil To Use

BLO-Oiler-cu26Before we said good-bye, Jim and I chatted  about a few more things including what kind of oil to use. “It’s subjective,” he said, “some repairmen prefer one brand over another. Yes, some work better than others, but any high quality brand name clock oil will work fine. They all basically do the same thing. They cling to the metal and lubricate it. ”  (For details on what oils not to use see “How to Spot Clean and Oil Your Clock”.

By the end of the conversation I was satisfied that I had found the answers I was looking for. So there you have it. The reasons why the experts disagree. The varying approaches. It’s something to think about.

Did you enjoy this article? Find it helpful, or have any comments? Please let us know.

Ask The Expert:  Do you have a specific maintenance or repair question about a clock you own? Post it on our Facebook page and we’ll have Jim Fischer provide the answer.



1. Man in Repair Shop – www.nawcc.org

2. Hands and Gears of a Wall Clock

3. Ingolf Haas/Artist  & Designer – www.black-forest-clock.de

4. “Modern Times” Movie Clip – Charlie Chaplin (1936)

5.  Oil Pump Desk Clock

6. Needle Nose Oiler – www.clockworks.com