Grandfather Clock Repair – Part I

grandfather clock mechanism, grandfather clock pendulumGrandfather clocks. Amazing pieces of machinery. Very few people understand how they work and even fewer know how to fix one, should something go wrong. Bringing to a repair shop is going to cost you an arm and a leg, so if you have a grandfather clock that’s not exactly running up to snuff and you don’t have the bucks to fix it, then you might want to try to tackle the job by yourself. In order to do that, aside from needing some mechanical expertise, you’re going to need some troubleshooting tips, since these marvels can get pretty complicated. This article is going to cover some of the things to do when trying to fix the old man.

Let’s start with the most common problem of a grandfather clock. The pendulum itself stops swinging.

The first thing you have to do is make sure the clock weights have been pulled up. Sometimes all that needs to be done is simply wind the weights. This can really save an unnecessary repair.

Next check the hands. Are they touching each other? If they are this will stop the pendulum from swinging. If they are touching and the time train is jammed all you need to do is push the hour hand slightly towards the dial in order to clear the minute hand. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the dial.

Next, check to see if the hands are touching the glass. If they are, all you have to do is bend the minute hand away from the glass.

If by some chance you’ve recently moved your grandfather clock (they are very temperamental and don’t like to be moved), the pendulum may have stopped swinging because the case is now leaning at a different angle. To fix this you simply have to start the pendulum swinging and balance your clock. Don’t use a level. Continue testing until the swinging sounds more balanced. This requires a good ear and a lot of patience. Balancing the clock itself may require you to do one of several things.

First you may have to actually place something under the clock on either the left or right side to get the pendulum swinging just right. A bracket or shim will probably do the trick for this.

Second, you may have to actually tip the clock itself towards the wall so that it is slightly leaning. You have to be very careful when performing these tricky manoeuvres. You don’t want to tip the clock too far in either direction or back. The clock may fall too far off balance and spill to the floor. Trying to catch one of these falling monsters is not easy so care is needed.

In the next article in this series we’re going to continue with troubleshooting techniques to figure out just what is wrong with the old man, including running too fast or slow, weights not falling, chimes out of sequence and others. By the time we’re done your grandfather clock should be as good as old.

Author: Michael Russell

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Grandfather Clocks

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Grandfather Clock Repair – Part II

In this second article of our "repair your grandfather clock on your own" series we’re going to go over some other things you can do on your own before taking your prized possession to a very expensive repair shop.

In our first article we went over what to do if the pendulum doesn’t swing. Next we’re going to go over what to do if the clock runs too fast or too slow.

If the clock is running to fast or too slow what you need to do is adjust your pendulum bob. That big round disk at the end of your pendulum is your pendulum bob. You adjust your pendulum bob with the nut located at the bottom of the bob. This is what adjusts the timing. If the bob is raised up this will make the clock run faster. If the bob is lowered this will make the clock run slower. You can expect to get this accurate to within one minute fast or slow per week. Better than that, consider yourself lucky.

Start by setting your grandfather clock to a standard electric or quartz clock or watch. Then check the time against the clock 24 hours later. If the clock is running fast, turn the nut to the left. If the clock is running slow, turn the nut to the right. Then reset the time on your clock and check it again in another 24 hours. Keep performing this process until the clock appears to be running on time. Expect to do this every week at least. Keep a record of the distance you turned the nut each time so you will have an idea of how much you’ll need to turn it in the future.

Eventually the timing will be accurate enough so that you’ll only have to check the clock once each week and it should never be off by more than a minute. Just a tip. Some grandfather clocks are made so that a full turn of the nut is actually equal to one minute. So if your clock is running 2 minutes fast then all you need to do is turn the nut two full turns to the left and this will set the timing correctly. Of course the only way to know if your clock is one of these is to test this theory out.

Some grandfather clocks actually have two nuts attached to the bottom of the pendulum. If your clock is one of these then most likely it is a very accurate clock. Many clock owners believe the bottom nut is a lock nut against the top nut. This is not true. Actually you must make sure that the bottom and top nuts do not touch. Let the top nut raise or lower the pendulum bob until you’ve gotten the timekeeping as accurate as possible. Then by either turning left or right use the weight of the top nut to make your final adjustments to your clock’s timing.

In our last article we’ll go over some more tips on getting your grandfather clock running up to speed.

Author: Michael Russell

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Grandfather Clocks

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building a grandfather clock, grandfather clock weights

Grandfather Clock Repair – Part III

In this last article of the series, repairing your grandfather clock on your own, we’re going to go over some more things you can do at home before taking your grandfather clock in for repair.

Another common problem with grandfather clocks is for the chimes to go out of sequence with the time that’s displayed. This usually happens on the quarter hour chimes. If this happens there may not necessarily be anything wrong with the chimes mechanism. Most grandfather clocks that have been manufactured in the last 50 years have a chime correction device that should recycle the chimes back in sync with the minute hand when it reaches the hour. If your particular grandfather clock doesn’t have an automatic chime correction device, the problem can be manually corrected by turning the minute hand back 15 minutes then forward past the quarter hour. Just keep doing this until the number of chimes match the quarter hour the hand is pointing to.

To give you an example, Westminster chimes play 4 notes on the first quarter hour, 8 notes on the half hour, 12 notes on the three quarter hour and 16 notes at the top of the hour. If the problem still continues it may mean that the minute hand has been installed on its arbor in the wrong direction. To fix this, remove the nut holding down the minute hand with a pair of pliers. Then, pull the minute hand off, rotate it to the quarter hour indicated by the number of chimes being played and then reinstall the nut. This should get the chimes back in sync with the timing mechanism.

One final problem is when the weights refuse to drop. Every quarter hour the time train causes the chimes to strike. That in turn causes the left strike weight to fall at the top of the hour. So if the time train center pendulum doesn’t drop then the chime and the strike weights won’t drop either. The first step in fixing this is to get the pendulum swinging again. We covered that in the first article.

If the right and left weights refuse to drop, meaning the pendulum is swinging and the clock hands are moving but the chime is not operating, then what will happen is the chime will not operate and in turn the strike will not operate either. What you do is check to see if the chime lever on the grandfather dial is properly centered over a chime and not in the off position. After doing that, you take the side panel off your grandfather clock and check to make sure that the steel chime retard bar has NOT been lowered onto the chime hammers causing the chimes not to operate.

If only the left weight will not drop that means only the hour strike is not operating. To fix this open the side panel and make sure that the steel retard bar has not been lowered onto the strike hammers causing them not to operate. Also make sure the hammers are operating freely. Finally, check and make sure that the trip lever from the chimes is releasing the strike train.

Author: Michael Russell

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Grandfather Clocks

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