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My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part Three – Cuckoo Clocks

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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!

The History of the Cuckoo Clock

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It seems that disagreements about when an invention was invented and who did the inventing, tend to bubble up here and there, and so it is with the cuckoo clock.

Hundreds of years have passed  since the famous clock first appeared in the Black Forest,and today horologists are still in disagreement about its beginnings. Maybe it’s understandable, because the Black Forest has always been a place of myths and fairy tales.

 

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The popular and traditional belief, which has lasted through the centuries, is that the cuckoo clock History-Cuckoo-#2-Bellows-Clockworks.com-cu2was invented in 1740 by Franz Anton Ketterer, a master clock maker from the small village of Schoenwald (photo above) in the heart of the Black Forest of Germany. It is said that he was the one who devised a clever mechanical system using two small bellows and wooden whistles, much like the pipe organ, to reproduce the two-note call of the cuckoo. (photo on right).

 

Maybe the reason Ketterer chose the cuckoo for his clocks was because he knew that the familiar cooing sound of the cuckoo bird would perk people up, the bird being a welcome sign of the coming of spring and History-#2cuckoo-Sepia-Natural History- Birds by Philip Henry Gosse the end of winter. Before Ketterer added the cuckoo to his wall clocks, clockmakers had used a variety of winsome, animated figures such as dumpling eaters, laughing faces, beer drinkers, trumpeters and the like to bring mirth and appeal to their timepieces.

 

It wasn’t a surprise that before long the cuckoo clock gained popularity throughout Germany. Artisan clock makers of the Black Forest steadily developed their own styles and themes in the designs of their clocks, and clock peddlers traveled the countrysides and beyond, to far away places, selling the cuckoos.  Over time the wooden mechanisms of the clock were replaced by brass and other metals, and eventually History-#2-rombach-8222two main styles of cuckoo clocks emerged: the ornamented “railroad house” style known as the “Bahnhäusleuhr” (far left photo)History-RE-SIZED-Anton-schneider-8T-215-9 and the decorative “traditional style” known as the “Jagdstück”, (middle photo) which had  elaborate, hand carved hunting themes . Toward the end of the 19th century, modeled after typical Swiss and German chalets, guide-2--anton-schneider-cuckoo-clock-1686-91the “Chalet” style cuckoo clock emerged (photo above on right); some featuring music boxes and animated figurines and waterwheels to liven things up. Over time the cuckoo clock has become a worldwide symbol of the Black Forest.

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In the span of three centuries, the cuckoo clock has remained in a mostly unchanged state. But now, there are more style choices, including quartz models and the contemporary/decorative designs that are usually smooth, flat, minimalistic and geometrical in shape. But regardless of its style, the whimsical charm and kinetic experience of a cuckoo clock, and the relationship it engenders, is still very much the same.

 

Well, whether it was Ketterer or someone else who first invented the cuckoo clock, congratulations for a job well done, for we can now enjoy the mirth of these charming creations. As for our other animated friends, the dancing figurines, beer drinkers and other characters, they’re also found on many a cuckoo clock, spinning, dancing, moving about and making merry. Some things just don’t change.

Check our large online selection of heirloom quality cuckoo clocks.

 

Photo credits:

Photo # 1 – Clock maker in his clock shop – burtonlatimer.info

Photo # 2 – Village of Schoenwald, Germany – black-forest.org

Photo # 3 – Cuckoo clock bellows and pipes – clockworks.com

Photo # 4 – Cuckoo Bird drawing – from “Natural History: Birds” by Philip Henry Gosse

Photo # 5 – Rombach and Haas “Railroad house” style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider traditional style cuckoo clock

Photo # 6 – Anton Schneider chalet style cuckoo clock

Photo # 7 – Rombach and Haas modern style cuckoo clock

 

Can Knowledge Change Experience?

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Has this ever happened to you? You looked at something familiar, something you even knew a lot about, then you discovered something new about it. The next time you saw it, it was different. A new experience.

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That’s what happened to me with the Cuckoo Clock. Now, some of you reading this post will likely have a mechanical cuckoo clock in your home. You’re very familiar with the sound of your cuckoo bird, and at some time or another, you’ve probably explored its workings, opening the back panel for a look inside. If so, you would have seen those two miniature wooden pipes and bellows. And more likely than not, you would have known that the illustrious sound of the little bird comes from those.

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Maybe you were surprised to find those pipes in there. Surprised to find that someone had applied the technology of the grand pipe organ to the humble little cuckoo clock, or as I like to call it ‘the little pipe organ’ .

You never know what you’ll find when you look inside things. A German clock maker, Franz Ketterer, so the legend goes, added the charming cuckoo bird to the clock. Then he cleverly scaled down and fitted inside the clock two vital components of the pipe organ: the bellows and wooden pipes. He put the ‘big’ into the little, and thereby made the little ‘big’.

BLOG-homeschoolingthemiddleyears.blogspot.comNow doesn’t that make you delight in the cuckoo clock more? Not that it needs anything more. It stands on its own charm. The cuckoo clock is one of the most beloved of clocks. But, knowing that the workings are related to the grand pipe organ, a sort of cousin to it, enhances my experience of its musicality.

Take a look inside if you haven’t already. Look at the pipes and bellows. Listen anew to the music of the cuckoo. And then let us know if you noticed anything different.

Here is a survey question for our readers who own a cuckoo clock, but hadn’t known about its connection to the pipe organ: After reading this blog, did you enjoy your cuckoo a bit more, did you notice any change in your experience? And if so, how did it change?

Photo Credits:

Top: www.cousinsuk.com

Middle: John Vetterli  (St. Mary’s Cathedral/Kingston, Ontario)

Bottom: www.homeschoolingthemiddleyears.blogspot.com/