2015 Ward Francillon Time Symposium – Mechanical Music & Marvels


This year’s Ward Francillon Time Symposium will be held on October 22-24 in Houston, Texas. The event will cover the history and development of clockwork-operated devices. Topics will include historical information, musical clocks, automatons, disc and cylinder music boxes, bird boxes and whistlers, Black Forest clocks, musical clock movements played on bells, early spring operated phonographs and gramophones, and music composed for these devices.

Additionally, a panel discussion concerning what to look for and avoid when purchasing a musical mechanism will be held.

As a bonus, the Symposium will include tours of two large private collections.

Registration is open to the public.For more information go to http://www.nawcc.org/symposium/index.html


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 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

Time Management: An Easy Way to Stay on Track


How often have you been relaxing at home and lost track of time, then … oops, you’re off schedule or late for a meeting? You could have looked at your wristwatch, computer screen or any clock in your house that is, if you had remembered to check. You could also have set your alarm clock or timer, but maybe you didn’t want to bother or don’t like buzzers and beepers.

Is there a simple solution to keeping track of time at home? Here’s something to think about: have your eyes ever fallen effortlessly on an object in your environment and its image reminded you of something that you needed to do? That object could have been anything: a shoe, a notebook, a box of cookies, etc. . If an image can stir your memory, then what might happen if the image is a clock? It’s an easy guess, you’d know what time it is without exerting any effort or interrupting what you’re doing.

In the field of cognitive psychology there’s a term for this passive information-gathering, it’s called pre-attentive processing. There’s also a term for the kind of clock that our eyes happen to stumble upon, and it’s called ambient, ambient because it’s in our immediate or close surroundings.

You might ask: I already have a cuckoo clock and mantel clock in my house, so what’s the difference between those and an ambient clock? The answer is: there is no difference. Your clocks are ambient; it’s only a matter of where they’re placed that makes them more or less effective as ambient clocks. Here are a few simple guidelines to apply for this simple strategy of passive time management at home.

Choose the right place

First, step into a room in which you spend a lot of your time. Take two minutes to look around. Then pick a prominent location where your line of vision naturally falls. That place could be a table top in front of your favorite chair, or on a bookshelf; it could even be on a wall directly facing the entryway of that room. Any of these locations could be a good choice for an ambient clock. If a room has no eye-catching spots, you can create one using the right kind of clock.

Choose the right clock

Any analog clock with a large enough dial that’s easy to read can work well as an ambient clock. Digital clocks can also be used, but they’re generally not as eye-catching and are less aesthetic than the analog type. You can also choose a clock with a moving pendulum, since motion works well as an attention-getter. Another approach is to select a timepiece based on size, color or style, which would make it the focal point of the room and an ambient timepiece. For details on using clocks as focal points see our article: Decorating with Clocks.

So, if you’re looking for a quiet way to keep track of time at home without buzzing alarms or beeping timers, try the ambient clock method. Is it foolproof?  No, but with one or more of these timepieces strategically located in your home, loosing track of time is likely to occur less often, and you’ll have enhanced your decor at the same time.

Photo Credits:

1. String on a finger as a reminder -imgkid.com

2. Pre-attentive processing – medium.com

3. Wall clock as focal point – placesinthehome.com

How to Move a Grandfather Clock


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.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Clocks – Clock Facts Part Two


A question opened Clock Facts Part One of this series : “If you don’t know what you don’t know, then how can you know that you don’t know it?” Well, if you’ve read part one and now know what you didn’t know before, here’s part two to start all over.



1. Henry Ford offered one million dollars for this clock
In 1928, the automaker Henry Ford, offered an astounding one million dollars to the Bily brothers for the eight foot, five hundred pound American Pioneer History Clock that they carved. But, the brothers turned Mr. Ford’s offer down. They didn’t want to part with it and kept it stored in their barn with the rest of their handmade collection. They never sold any of their clocks–not even one. (see: Bily Clocks Museum and Farmer Clock Makers.)




2. Great discoveries would have never happened without the clock

The invention of the clock has had a tremendous impact on history. For one thing, countless scientific experiments and breakthroughs that depended on the use of a stopwatch would never have happened if time measurement hadn’t advanced past the sundial. And what about keeping our schedules in business, travel, finance, medicine, government, recreation, schools, computers, and so on? Our lives would be radically impacted if not for the invention of the clock.


Blenheim Palace clock tower3. Why clock dials with Roman numerals use “IIII” instead of “IV”

For centuries, clock makers have inscribed within the ring of numbers on their clock dials the Roman numeral “four” written as “IIII” instead of “IV.” Why? It’s for symmetry: the “IIII” presents a better visual balance for the number “eight” written on the other side of the dial as “VIIl.”


Ten-Things-#2-Tower_aip.orgclock4. This tower clock helped Albert Einstein

While riding in a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Albert Einstein saw the city’s 13th century clock tower passing behind him (photo on right). He knew that since he was traveling away from the clock, the light of the clock’s image would have to catch up to him. But since light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so much faster than the 20 milers per hour of the streetcar, he of course knew there could be no perceivable delay in the clock’s image reaching him.

Some thoughts entered his mind: How would the clock’s image appear if the streetcar moved faster and faster? If that were to happen, the clock hands would continue to move more slowly. And if the streetcar traveled at the speed of light, the clock’s image would follow him at the same speed but wouldn’t be able to catch up to him. The result? The clock’s image would freeze, and time would “stand still.”  It was a streetcar ride on that day that gave Einstein a clue to the flexibility of time. Eventually, it led to his theory of relativity: E=MC ².

5. Why a clock repair person is called a “clock maker”

Many years ago, if you wanted to buy a clock you would have to see your local clock maker. He made clocks one at a time, commissioned by each individual customer. You would also have to see him if your clock needed adjustment or repair. Today, even though clocks aren’t made old-world style in a local clock maker’s shop, the tradition of calling a clock repair person a “clock maker” continues.

6. The Westminster melody has words to go with it

Almost everyone has heard the Westminster melody chiming away on one clock or another. But did you know that there are lyrics that accompany the melody?TEN-#2-wikepedia-westminster-chimes

O Lord our God
Be Thou our guide
That by thy help
No foot may slide.

 Ten-#2-ebay.com-rubies7. Why precious stones are put inside of watch movements?

What do you think happens inside of a watch when oil breaks down and metal rubs against metal? You have rapid wear on pivots and bearings, and the next stop is the repair shop.

To reduce wear and friction, watch makers of today use synthetic jewels such as rubies at the heaviest friction points because precious stones are much harder and longer lasting than metal.


8. What do the Latin words “Tempus Fugit” mean on a clock dial?

These words are often mistaken for the brand name of the clock,  but they are a Latin phrase that’s usually translated into English as “time flies”.


Ten-#2Grandfather-OceansBridge.com9. What does the grandfather clock have to do with grandfathers?

In 1836, American songwriter Henry Clay Work, wrote a song based on a folk story about a floor clock that stopped when its owner, a grandfather, passed away. He named the song “My Grandfather’s Clock.” Selling over 1 million copies of 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.




10. Selling time was their family business

In the early part of the 20th century, domestic clocks were still not very reliable and regular resetting was usually needed. So in 1836 John Belville, an assistant at the Greenwich Observatory, set his pocket watch and began delivering the precise time to offices around London as part of a government program.  After he passed away, his wife Maria continued the service as a private venture. She retired in 1892, handing over control of the business to their daughter, Ruth who carried the same pocket chronometer around London each week until she retired in 1940.

Well… after we finished writing this blog, one more clock fact came to mind.  We couldn’t resist adding it to the list, so here’s clock fact #11:

11. The origin of the term “o’clock”

The term “o’clock” came into use during the early part of the 18th century. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it was a shortened version of the phrase “of the clock” which referred to the time on a clock face.

We hope you’ve enjoyed part two of our series. Please let us know!

Photo Credits:

Photo #1 – The American Pioneer History Clock – constanceore.com  

Photo # 2 – Blenheim Palace clock tower – www.timeassured.com  

Photo # 3 – Tower clock in Bern, Switzerland – aip.org    

Photo # 4 – Westminster chimes music – Wikipedia   

Photo # 5 – Group of rough uncut rubies – ebay.com  

Photo # 6 – Grandfather – OceansBridge.com  

Photo # 7 – Antique pocket chronometer – christies.com