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My Clock Keeps Stopping: Part Two – Grandfather Clocks

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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

How to Move a Grandfather Clock

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Moving-grandfather-clockPlanning to move your grandfather clock to a new location? Consider hiring a professional for the job. Here’s a good reason why. Not only can your clock topple over during a move due to its height and weight distribution, but its precision parts and delicate workings can be easily damaged because of improper preparation and transport. Finding a professional clock maker who offers long distance moving is your best choice. If you can’t find one, then your next best option is to hire a professional moving company experienced in dismantling, packing, and transporting grandfather clocks. They can also reassemble the clock for you.

But, if you’re someone who prefers the do-it-yourself approach, and you have the means and muscle to tackle the job, here are basic guidelines to follow:

Moving-Grandfather-#2clermontdirect.com1. Use gloves when handling brass

The natural skin oil on our fingers can tarnish the brass finish on a clock’s weights, pendulum, and clock face. To prevent this, wear cotton or vinyl gloves whenever you’re handling the brass parts.

2. Wind the clock, stop the pendulum, and remove the weights.

There are two ways to do this depending on whether your clock is cable wound, or chain wound:

Cable Wound Clocks
If the clock weights are held by cables, roll up some newspaper into three loose cylinders about 2″ in diameter. Then wedge each cylinder above each pulley between the cables and wind up the weight so that as it reaches the pulley. The newspaper will be squeezed and held tightly. hermle-grandfather-clock-01171-N9116111This maintains the cable tension on the cables and keeps them from loosening or tangling during transport. Two-inch squares of Styrofoam blocks can also be used instead of newspaper. Hold the newspaper or blocks steadily as you wind. (Never wind a clock without the weights being installed.) Next, carefully stop the pendulum from swinging and gently remove each weight. As you do, use masking tape to label each one: right, left, and center. Weights might look the same, but they don’t all weigh the same, and later when you re-install them, you’ll need to know their proper order. Wrap each weight separately in soft, protective padding to protect the brass casings from denting.

Chain Wound Clocks
If the clock weights are held by chains, wind the weights halfway up. (Never wind a clock without the weights being installed.) Then, thread some thin wire through the chain links just where they protrude below the movement and secure the wire tightly. The chains need to be snug so that they won’t come off the sprockets. Carefully stop the swing of the pendulum and remove the weights, labeling each one as described in Cable Wound Clocks above. Secure the chains by bunching them up and wrapping them in newspaper. Use tape or a rubber band around the bundle so that they can’t come loose and possibly damage the finish. Wrap each weight separately in soft, protective padding to protect the brass casings from denting.

3. The Pendulum

Delicately remove the pendulum by moving it up slightly to unhook it. Be careful not to use force. The pendulum leader must not move around during transport and would need to be secured without putting a lot of pressure on it. A good way to do this is to loosely gather a few sheets of newspaper around it so the leader is loose but not able to move.

4. Secure the chime rods

Chime rods could break off if they shake during transportation. So, secure them with tape, foam, or another suitable cushioning material so the rods can’t move in any direction.

5. Secure other fragile parts

If your clock has glass shelves or a decorative finial on the crown, remove these parts and pack them securely.

6. The Movement

Before your clock is transported, make sure the movement is securely situated inside the case. If your clock has a movement that’s simply set on two sideboards inside the case, remove the movement, and pack it separately. If you have a tubular movement, remove the tubes and pack them separately.

Moving-grandfather-chatfieldtime.comjpg7. Wrap the clock

Once your clock is prepped (steps 1 to 9) secure the doors by tying string around the case. Then, wrap the clock in a heavy blanket and tape it around securely so that it won’t shift. As an added precaution, tape cardboard panels directly onto the areas of the blanket that cover the glass surfaces of the clock case.

8. Transport the clock in an upright position

During transport, make sure the clock stands upright and is secured by straps. Laying it on its side or face down can cause the movement and dial to break away from the seat board.

9. What to know before setting it up

a. If the clock is being moved during cold weather, allow it to reach room temperature at its destination before setting it up. Freezing temperatures cannot only cause oil in the pivot points to gum up, but the delicate metal components in the movement can contract and restrict its operation.
b. Use the original manufacturer instructions to setup your clock. Ensure that the pulleys are properly engaging the cables and the chains are properly engaging the sprockets.

Last of all, now that you’ve done all the work, sit back and relax and enjoy your clock.

How The Grandfather Clock Got Its Name

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It’s been said that the popularity of a song can turn folklore into “fact”. Maybe that’s true about the old song “My Grandfather’s Clock”. Or maybe the song does tell a true story? Who can be sure. Either way, that old tune was how the grandfather clock got its name.

A-GFC#3-color-corrected_Name-hotels.uk.comThe “myth”began in 1875 at the George Hotel in the Piercebridge area of North Yorkshire, England. The hotel was a 16th century riverside inn, charming place where weary travelers stopped for rest and a steaming bowl of pea soup and mutton pie. The hotel had been previously owned and managed by the Jenkins brothers, both bachelors, who had both passed away. One day, an American songwriter, Henry Clay Work was visiting England and stayed at the hotel. A-GFC-#2Name-HenryClayWork-traditionalmusic.co.ukNoticing in a corner of the lobby a large floor clock, or long case clock, as they were called back then, with a pendulum that wasn’t swinging, he became curious. His artistic sensibilities must have been at work and so he asked the proprietor about the clock’s history.

Work listened closely as the story unfolded. It went like this: The clock had always kept accurate time until one of the Jenkins brothers passed away. It wasn’t long before the clock started losing time, first by a minute or so every few days, then by a minute every day, then by several minutes every day. Local clock smiths labored in vain; no matter what they tried the clock refused to keep accurate time.

Then, one day when the surviving Jenkins brother passed away in his ninetieth year, the fully wound clock abruptly stopped. As the story goes, the moment the clock stopped was 11:05, the exact same time the older brother died. The new owner of the George Hotel tried having the clock repaired but all attempts failed. A-GFC#2-Name-creativecommons.orgAnd so to this day, the clock stands in the corner of the lobby, having become a landmark of its own, dusted and polished, but still without a tick or a tock.

That unusual story inspired Work to write a song based on it. He dedicated the song to his sister, Lizzie and named the piece “My Grandfather’s Clock”. The lyrics told of a clock that was “taller by half than the old man himself” and that “stopped short – never to go again when the grandfather died.”

 

The song was published in America in 1876 and what a big hit it was, selling over a million copies in sheet music. It’s melody and lyrics penetrated the hearts and minds of people everywhere and eventually the term “grandfather clock” became synonymous with this style of clock that inspired the song. It was Work’s best-known song, and has been recorded by such diverse artists such as Johnny Cash, Gene Krupa, Lawrence Welk, folk singer Burl Ives and R&B vocal group Boyz II Men.

Henry Clay Work’s song just keeps on ticking.

We found this excellent video with the song performed by Tom Rouch from his new album. Historic photos and graphics as well as the actual sheet music follow the song from from beginning to end.  Have a look!

I’m guessing that this article may have kindled your interest in grandfather clocks. If so, check our fine selection of Hermle Grandfather Clocks.

Photo Credits:

Photo #1 – hotels.uk.com

Photo #2 – traditionalmusic.co.uk

Photo #3 – creativecommons.org

Video Credit:

musicoftomroush.com