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. 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. This 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.
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Clock Gears – yorkshireclockrepairer.com
Bubbles – cheshirenilox.co.uk