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Repairing Grandfather Clocks – Some Basic Steps You Can DIY – (and save money)

1. The pendulum has stopped swinging

1.1. Have the clock weights been pulled up? This may seem like a dumb question, but many clock owners has suffered an expensive house call, when all that was necessary was to pull up the weights.

1.2. Are the clock hands touching? Touching hands are guaranteed to stop your clock! Look at the hour and minute hands closely. If they are touching, the movement is jammed and the pendulum would not swing. Try moving the hour hand slightly back and forth while pushing it towards the dial in order to clear the minute hand (but make sure it doesn’t touch the dial. If they still touch, you can bend the minute hand slightly towards you, allowing clearance.

1.3. Have you recently moved your grandfather? Grandfather clocks don’t like to be moved. They get very temperamental when moved and show their displeasure by refusing to tick! The reason a clock pendulum stops swinging after being moved is because the clock case now leans at a slightly different angle then at its former location. Don’t pay any attention to whether your clock is absolutely perpendicular to the floor. And don’t use a level. Simply start your pendulum swinging, and then listen carefully to the “tick-tock” sound. Play by your ears. Push the top of the clock slightly to the right. Does the tick-tock sound seem more balanced? If not, push the top slightly to the left. When you hear an even, balanced ticking, secure the clock at that angle to your wall with a bracket, or shim your grandfather’s feet. Your grandfather is now in perfect “beat”.

2. Inaccurate Timekeeping

2.1. How to Adjust the Pendulum Bob: The round brass disc on the bottom of your pendulum rod is called the pendulum bob. The nut located on the bottom of the bob is used to adjust your grandfather’s time keeping ability. If the bob is pushed up, your grandfather will run faster, if let down, your grandfather will run slower. You can remember this principle; with the phrase A SHORT DOG’S TAIL WAGS FASTER expect an accuracy of at least 1 minute, fast or slow per week. Start by setting your grandfather’s time to an accurate electric or quartz clock or watch. Check the time 24 hours later. If the clock runs fast, turn the nut to the left (as you face the clock) and the bob will be lowered, slowing the clock. If the clock runs slow, turn the nut to the right, which will push the bob up, speeding up the clock. Then reset your grandfather to the correct time again. Keep a written record of the distance you turn the nut each day and the resulting minutes off. Do this every day until you have zeroed in within 1 minute of the correct time. Then, switch to checking your grandfather every 7 days, using the same process until your grandfather keeps time within l minute per week. Many grandfather clocks are designed so that one full turn of the pendulum nut equals l minute per day. So, for example, if your grandfather is 2 minutes fast in a 24-hour period, turn the pendulum nut 2 full turns to the left. Keep in mind that this rule of thumb is not true with all grandfathers. And remember, mechanical clocks are not as accurate as modern day electric or quartz clocks! When you regulate the pendulum of your grandfather, you are attempting to achieve the best timekeeping possible from a mechanical clock between weekly windings. You will need to push the minute hand of your grandfather forward or backward to the correct time once or twice a month.

2.2. Does your grandfather have two nuts attached to the pendulum rod? Some grandfather clocks have not one but two nuts on the bottom of the pendulum rod. If your grandfather has two nuts, then you probably have a real accurate grandfather clock! Many owners believe that the bottom nut is used as a “lock” nut against the top nut. Not so! If you have two nuts, you probably have a real accurate grandfather clock! Make sure the bottom nut doesn’t touch the top nut. Let the top nut raise or lower the pendulum bob until the most accurate timekeeping has been obtained. Then, by turning left or right, use the weight of this nut as the final delicate time adjustment to your grandfather clock.

3. Weights Not Falling Evenly

3.1. How the weights power your grandfather. The weight on the right powers the chimes, the weight on the left powers the hour strike and the center weight powers the pendulum (which regulates the time shown by the hour and minute hands.) On each swing of the pendulum, the pendulum weight drops. When the minute hand reaches the quarter hour, the clock chimes, and the right weight drops. And finally, on the top of the hour, the chimes trip a lever, the clock strikes the correct hour and left weight drops.

3.2. No weights drop. As stated above, the center pendulum weight causes the left chime weight to fall, and the chime weight causes the right strike weight to fall. So, if the pendulum weight does not drop, then the chime and strike weights won’t drop either. The first thing you need to do is get the pendulum swinging again. For help read the section 1 above titled “The Pendulum has stopped.”

3.3. The right and left weights refuse to drop. Here, the pendulum is swinging and the clock hands are moving, but the chime is not operating. And as shown above, if the chime is not operating, the strike will not operate either! First thing to check is whether the chime lever on the grandfather dial is properly centered over a chime and not in the “off” position. If your clock is a “grandmother,” take off the side panel of the clock and check to make certain that the steel chime retard bar has not been lowered onto the chime hammers, causing the chimes not to operate.

3.4. The left weight will not drop. Here, both the time and quarter hour chimes are operating, but the hour strike is not. On the grandmother clock, open the side panel and check to make certain that the steel retard bar has not been lowered onto the strike hammers causing them not to operate. On the grandfather clocks, the problem is that the trip lever from the chimes is not causing the strike train to be released or the strike train “bushings” are worn from a lack of oiling, that the wheels in the strike train are out of alignment. Unless you are professional enough, we suggest you call a repairer to do this so as not to damage the mechanism. ?

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