How Does a Grandfather clock Work?
Look for the winding points. If your grandfather clock is wound by a crank or a key, it should have one to three small holes on the clock face. Most commonly, these are located near the 3 (III), the 9 (IX), the center, or anywhere in the lower half of the clock face. If you do not see a hole, and your clock did not come with a crank or key, see the instructions for chain-wound clocks instead.
- Note: When purchasing a crank, make sure the length of the shaft is sufficient to raise the crank above the level of the clock hands, so you can turn it 360º without damaging them.
- Some manufacturers sell keys in a numbered scale, rather than by shaft width. However, there is no single industry-wide scale, so referring to the exact millimeter size is recommended.
- If you cannot turn the key easily, or you do not see a weight moving, check to see if one of the weights is already at the top. If one or more of the chimes is turned off, the weight responsible for timing that chime will not fall, and does not need to be wound.
- The weights are typically located above the pendulum. You may or may not need to open the lowercase in order to see them.
Repeat the process for the other winding points. If your clock has more than one weight, it should also have more than one winding point in the clock face. Move the crank or key to the remaining winding points, turning it in each one until every weight is nearly touching the wooden board above it.If necessary, make adjustments carefully. Now is a good time to check whether the clock is still displaying the correct time. If not, you may physically move only the minute hand to the correct time, moving it clockwise only. Always stop at the 12 (XII) and allow the clock to strike the hour before continuing. Do the same for other points if the clock chimes at additional times (typically the quarter hours at the 3, 6, and 9).
- There are some clocks that can safely have their minute hand turned counterclockwise, but do not risk it unless you are certain. If the minute hand "resists" attempts to move it clockwise, and can move smoothly counterclockwise, you may have an unusual model that should be adjusted counterclockwise.
- If your clock is running too fast or too slow, find the knob or nut at the bottom of the swinging pendulum. Tighten it clockwise in order to slow the clock down, or loosen it counterclockwise to speed it up.
Wind weekly, or as necessary. Almost all grandfather clocks are made to run for seven or eight days without winding, so winding them on the same day each week will ensure that it never stops. If your clock stops before its regular winding time, however, you may need to wind it more frequently.
Method 2Winding a Chain-Wound Clock
- Look for chains hanging next to the weights. Open the door protecting the long, hanging weights in the clock case (not the pendulum). Most clocks have one, two, or three weights, but there may be more on unusual models. If you see a hanging chain next to each weight, your clock is probably chain-wound.
- If you cannot find either a chain or a winding hole in the clock face, ask someone to help you look, or consult a professional clockmaker or clock repair shop.
- Gently pull on one of the chains. Grasp a chain hanging next to a weight that is not at the top of the case. Slowly pull down on the chain and watch the weight rise. Continue until the weight is almost touching the board at the top of the weight case, or until you cannot move the weight by pulling at the same gentle rate.
- Pull on the chain next to a weight, never the chain the weight is attached to.
- It does not matter which weight you wind first.
- Repeat with the other weights. Each weight has its own chain. Gently pull on each of these until the weight associated with it has nearly touched the board above the weights. Your clock is fully wound once all the weights are in the top-most position.
- Typically, the center weight controls the clock's timekeeping. If other weights are present, they control the hour strike, or the quarter-hour chime.
- Make adjustments if necessary. Physically rotate the minute hand, not the hour hand, of the clock if you need to set the time. Rotate clockwise unless you feel resistance in that direction, and use your free hand to steady the clock face as you turn. Be gentle to avoid bending or breaking the clock hand, and stop and wait for the clock to strike or time before continuing to move the hand.
- A nut on the bottom of the pendulum can be tightened to slow the clock down, or loosened to speed it up. Adjust this if you find yourself adjusting the time every week or two.
- If you do not want quarter-hour or hourly chimes, do not wind the two weights that control those aspects. Alternatively, look for a lever on the dial or the side of the clock that allow you to turn off the chime completely or during night hours.
- If your clock has a moon dial set within the clock face, you may adjust it to the correct moon phase by gently applying pressure to this small dial, and moving it clockwise. This also applies to other small dials on your clock face.
- Do not force the key or crank into the winding points.
- If the key or crank is not turning smoothly or the chains will not pull downward, do not continue. Contact a professional.
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