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 –

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