Frequently asks questions about caring for clocks
- • My clock is overwound. What should I do?
- • My clock just needs a simple cleaning. Can you do that?
- • Is it OK to move the minute hand counter-clockwise on my clock?
- • My pendulum clock runs fast/slow. Can I fix this?
- • Clocks need oil right? What kind should I use?
- • All machines like WD-40, right? Can I spray it on my clock?
- • I heard a big BANG when winding my spring-driven clock. Now the key just spins when I try to wind it.
- • My pendulum on my wall clock says "RA". Is that the brand of clock?
- • Is it a good idea to "help" the weights up on my grandfather clock by lifting the bottom of the weight one hand?
My clock is overwound. What should I do?
It isn't typically possible to "overwind" a clock. In fact, clocks are designed to have the weight fully raised or the spring fully wound. This allows them to run the full duration for which they were designed. If your clock is fully wound, but still won't run, the problem isn't overwinding. Something else is wrong. The most likely cause is accumulated dirt and wear, which cause friction within the mechanism and keep it from running.
My clock just needs a simple cleaning. Can you do that?
There is no such thing as a "simple cleaning" of a clock. Over time dirt works its way into the space between the pivots (the ends of the axles to which the gears are mounted) and the holes in which they spin. Getting the old oil, dirt, and sometimes rust out of that space requires that the clock be taken apart. Furthermore, those spots are almost always worn to some degree. They need to mended and polished to reduce friction within the gear train. Once the front and back plates of the clock have been separated to get at these places, nothing is "simple" anymore.
Is it OK to move the minute hand counter-clockwise on my clock?
It depends! Some clocks have mechanisms designed to allow this, but many older clocks do not. Unless you have had an expert tell you specifically that the minute hand on your clock may be moved counter-clockwise it is always safest to assume that you should not. You can do damage to the clock.
My pendulum clock runs fast/slow. Can I fix this?
Yes. The speed at which a pendulum clock runs is dependent on the length of the pendulum. To change the effective length of the pendulum, you adjust the pendulum disc up or down. The rule of thumb to remember which way to go is: lower is slower. On most pendulum clocks, there is a nut that can be turned to raise or lower pendulum disc. On other clocks, a small winding arbor somewhere in the center of the dial can be turned with the small end of a double-ended clock key. Turning this arbor one direction (usually labeled "F") will make the clock run faster. The other direction (usually labeled "S") will make it run slower.
Clocks need oil, right? What kind should I use?
Is it certainly true that clocks require oil. However they need a very particular type of oil placed in very specific locations in very small quantities. Unless you have the proper oil and instruction on how to oil a clock, it's best not to try it. It is not wise to oil a clock that has not been properly cleaned. You are likely to increase the rate at which the clock wears. NEVER spray it with WD-40. This will cause a lot of problems for you, the clock, and the repairer who will eventually need to clean every bit of the WD-40 out of the clock.
All machines like WD-40, right? Can I spray it on my clock?
NEVER spray your clock with WD-40. This will cause a lot of problems for you, the clock, and the repairer who will eventually need to clean every bit of the WD-40 out of the clock. WD-40 was formulated to displace water. It isn't really a proper long-term lubricant. Though they are machines, clocks have very different mechanical properties than many of the machines with which most of us are familiar. While the gears in your transmission must be immersed in oil, clock gears never get oiled. If you spray a clock with WD-40, you will be getting sticky residue on all the parts of the clock, including parts that should be as clean and dry as possible. Not convinced yet? How about this: if I receive a clock for repairs that has been sprayed with WD-40, I have to charge extra for the time it will take to clean it and the cleaning solution that will be ruined once it is full of the WD-40 it has removed.
My clock made a big BANG, now the key just spins when I try to wind it.
One of several things has happened -- all related to the mainspring. Possibly the mainspring has broken or one of its two ends has detached from the mechanism. It is also possible the small ratchet that keeps the spring in a wound state has failed. The clock needs to be inspected, disassembled, and repaired.
The pendulum on my wall clock says "RA". Is the brand of clock?
The RA isn't the brand of clock. The "R" stand for the French word "retard" which means "delay" or “run slower”. The "A" stand for the French word "avance" or “run faster”. The letters are instructions showing how to make the clock run slower or faster. Turn the rating nut below the pendulum disc toward the "R" to make the clock run slower. Turn the rating nut toward the "A" to make the clock run faster.
Is it a good idea to "help" weights up on my grandfather clock by pull on the chain with one hand and lifting the bottom of the weight with the other?
No, this is not a good thing to do. You should simply pull the appropriate chain straight down to raise the weight. If you lift the weight, you can accidentally cause it to unhook from the chain. A falling grandfather clock weight can cause a lot of damage.