Grandfather Clock Maintenance

Grandfather Clock Maintenance image #1

Your grandfather clock weights powers your grandfather clock.

The weight on the right powers the chimes, the weight on the left powers the hour strike and the centre weight powers the time and pendulum (which regulates the time shown by the hour and minute hands.) On each swing of the pendulum, the pendulum weight drops slightly. When the minute hand reaches the quarter hour, the clock chimes, and the right hand weight drops. And finally, on the top of the hour, the chimes play, the right hand weight drops slightly, then a lever is tripped, the clock strikes the correct hour, resulting in the left weight dropping.

No weights drop.

Every quarter hour, the time train causes the chimes to strike, which in turn triggers the left strike weight to fall at the top of the hour. So it follows that if the time train centre pendulum weight will 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 in this type of grandfather clock repair read the Pendulum stops swinging.

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. Next, take off the side panel of your grandfather 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.

The left weight will not drop.

Here, both the time and quarter hour chimes are operating, but the hour strike is not. On this type of grandfather clock repair, 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, and that the hammers are operating freely. Next, check and make sure that the trip lever from the chimes is operating properly and releasing the strike train.

Grandfather clock moon dial.

The grandfather clock moon dial began appearing on English tall clocks during the early part of the 18th century.

Tall clocks during this period were made by hand, and many a wealthy squire delighted in displaying a beautiful tall clock in their manor capable not only of telling time, but also the phase of the moon, at a glance!

The grandfather clock moon dial is actually a highly accurate lunar calendar displaying the different phases of the moon during the lunar month.

A lunar month consists of one repetition of the complete lunar phase cycle, which is equal to 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. You will see 29.5 engraved above the rotating moon dial on most grandfather clocks.

The primary phases are the new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter. You can find their dates and times published on calendars, in almanacs and newspapers.

Modern grandfather clock moon dials consist of a round disk displaying two pictures of the moon. A one half rotation of the disk occurs every 29.5 days, comprising one lunation.

To set-up your moon dial correctly, first determine what phase the moon is currently in. Then press lightly against the moon dial with your fingers and at the same time rotate the dial to the right to the correct position. You can check by looking out the window at night.

  1. First, determine what kind of grandfather clock you have. In order to figure out the proper placement of your grandfather clock weights, you'll need to determine the type of grandfather clock you have. Generally speaking, grandfather clocks can be classified as either modern or antique. For example, all grandfather clocks manufactured by Howard Miller, Sligh, or Ridgeway are considered "modern" because they were all manufactured within the last 50 years or so, and were fitted with modern German movements made by the Hermle, Urgos, or Kieninger companies. Be aware that the following weight placement rules are for "modern" grandfather clocks, and may not be the same for antique American, English, or Continental grandfather (tall or long case) clocks!
  2. Each weight provides the motive power necessary to operate the time, chime and strike trains of your grandfather clock. The weights simply store the energy that you exert when you either pull the chain or wind the crank that raise up the weights. You are truly the power behind your grandfather!
  3. My grandfather clock weights look the same, so how can they be different? While the brass weight shells of your grandfather clock are equal in length and diameter, and may look the same, they all contain a lead or steel insert which may be of different heights. The resulting difference in weight means that you must be carefull when hanging your grandfather clock weights.
  4. Will improper weight placement adversely effect my grandfather clock? Yes, because the time, chime, and strike trains of your grandfather clock were designed by the manufacturer to be powered by a weight of an exact number of lbs. For example, if you hang a weight that is too light on the chime train, the chimes will run slow, or perhaps won't run at all! On the other hand, if you hang a weight that is too heavy on the strike train, the strike will run too fast, and result in movement damage and eventual failure!
  5. Help! I have no idea which weight goes where on my grandfather clock! Don't feel alone, because many grandfather clock repair persons don't know for sure themselves! Grandfather clock repair tip: Look on the bottom of each weight. If you luck out, you will find a letter of the alphabet printed, or stamped on the weight. The letter "R" means the weight belongs on the right side. The letter " L" means the weight belongs on the left side. And the letter "C" means the weight belongs in the centre. Remember, it's right or left as you look at your grandfather clock, not right or left from your grandfather's view. You can now hang your grandfather clock weights correctly, but be sceptical if you find hand written letters on the bottom of your weights. They may or may not be correct, so I would suggest that you read on just to make sure you get it right!
  6. The "general rule" to use when hanging unmarked grandfather clock weights. If your grandfather clock is equipped with a wood stick pendulum, hang the heaviest weight on the right side chime train as it needs more power to run all of the independent chime hammers. The other two equal and lighter weights should be placed in any order on the left side strike train and centre time train. It seems there is always an exception to the rule, and here it is: If your grandfather clock has a lyre pendulum with a pendulum bob of 6.5 inches in diameter or more, then place the lightest weight on the left side strike train, and the other two equal heavier weights on the centre time train and the right side chime train in any order. Remember, it's right or left from your view towards the grandfather. 

Quarter hour chimes are out of sequence with the time displayed.

If your grandfather clock chimes play in the correct order every 15 minutes, but are not in sync with the time shown, there may be nothing wrong with the chime mechanism! First, be aware that the majority of grandfather clocks manufactured within the last 50 years have a chime correction device that should automatically recycle the chimes back in sync with the minute hand when it reaches the top of the hour. If your clock doesn't have an automatic chime correction device, or if it is not operating correctly, you can manually correct the problem by turning the minute hand back fifteen minutes, then forward past a quarter hour. Continue to do this until the number of chimes match the quarter hour the minute hand is pointing to. For example, Westminster chimes should play 4 notes on the first quarter, 8 notes at half past, 12 notes at three quarters, and 16 notes at the top of the hour. If the problem still persists, the problem may be that the minute hand has been installed on its arbor in the wrong direction. Remove the nut holding down the minute hand with a pair of pliers, pull the minute hand off, rotate it to the quarter hour indicated by the number of chimes played, then reinstall the nut.


City Clocks Maintenance

At City Clocks we will be happy to advise you on your Grandfather Clock maintenance.

Contact City Clocks here or call us on 0800 78 345 87.

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