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How to Set Up Your Antique Long Case Clock

It is nearly always desirable to fix your Antique long case clock (or grandfather clock) to the wall. If this is not done, apart from the risk of its being knocked over, when the weights are roughly half way down (nearly level with the pendulum bob), they will pick up its motion and rock from side to side and result in the pendulum stopping.

On a solid floor it is sometimes possible to avoid fixing the clock to the wall by just chocking up the front feet approximately three-eights of an inch off the floor. The weight of the clock will then be thrown back against the wall and make it relatively stable.

A longcase clock is usually best situated flat against the wall as opposed to across a corner. It can be fixed there by screwing a piece of timber approximately eight-by-two-by-one inches horizontally to the wall and then fixing the clock to this. 

Should your skirting board be thicker than one inch, the piece of timber will have to be increased in thickness correspondingly. The case may be conveniently fixed to the piece of wood, either behind the hood, or more simply, behind the trunk door. Frequently there are holes already in the back of the case. In such instances the batten can be fixed at the same height.

When a clock has to be set up across a corner, a bracket such as that shown in Figure 2 should be used.

Adopt the following procedure after getting the clock home

1. Decide where you want to place the clock and then fit a convenient batten.

2. Place the case in front of this, get it upright, and fix it to the piece of wood.

3. Place the movement in the clock case, preferably with the lines which hold the weights fully extended. Get a second person to hold the clock movement while one of the weights is put on to steady it.

4. Put the hood on. Then, by sliding your hand up inside the clock case, position the movement so that the dial is correctly positioned inside the hood with the latter fully seated.

5. Remove the hood, taking care not to disturb the clock movement, and put on the second weight (if applicable).

The pendulum may now be fitted by putting it inside the case through the trunk door and then feeding the strip of spring steel behind the movement through the steel loop or fork at the back of the movement (known as the crutch).

Then hook it onto the brass bracket above by sliding the steel through the slot and letting it down until the small brass block at the top of the spring rests on the bracket (Figure 3).

6. Carefully wind up the weights on your grandfather clock, making certain that the lines are not twisted and are winding evenly onto the barrels.

Figure 2 - Attach long case clock into a corner

Figure 2.

Figure3 - long case clock suspension bracket

Figure 3.

Figure 4 - long case clock bending the crutch

Figure 4.

7. Do not wind the weights up as far as possible. Always leave a gap of about two inches between the underneath of the clock and the pulleys.

8. Mark on the backboard of the clock the position where the tip of the pendulum hangs, then move the pendulum first to one side and note or mark the position when the dock "ticks" or the second hand just goes on one second and then repeat the procedure on the other side.

The "ticks" should occur evenly on either side of the original mark where the pendulum hangs. If it is too far to the left, then the whole clock must be tilted a little to the right until the "beat" is even on both sides.

However, for obvious reasons such as appearance and the pendulum hitting the side of the case when it swings, this can only be done to a very limited extent. The best method is to bend the crutch at the back of clock. This is the way in which a clockmaker would normally put a clock "in beat," but it does require care— otherwise the crutch or the escapement may be damaged.

The crutch is bent in the opposite direction to the side on which the pendulum has to move farthest before the clock ticks. This is a delicate operation and the crutch will usually require several adjustments before the beat is even. (Figure 4). Unfortunately, the strength of crutches varies greatly, some bending easily and others only with appreciable force.

Regulation—If the Clock Loses:

1. Stop the pendulum.

2. Raise the bob a little by turning the regulator nut below it (see Figure 5).

3. Move the hands forward to the correct time and start the clock by swinging the pendulum.

4. For precise regulation of the clock, let the pendulum swing until the seconds hand is at top dead center (on 60 or 12). Move the minute hand until it is exactly on a minute division. Start the clock by holding the pendulum to one side and releasing it when the time signal is heard on the telephone, radio, or television.

Figure 5 - Raise the bob a little by turning the regulator nut
Figure 5.

If the Clock Gains

1. Stop the pendulum.

2. Lower the bob a little by turning the regulation nut below it.

3. Wait until the clock reads correct time and then restart it. Alternatively it can be left until it reads slow and then the minute and hour hands advanced to correct time before restarting the clock.

NEVER MOVE THE HANDS BACKWARDS

NB: Regulators and all 30-hour clocks have a form of maintaining power which keeps them going whilst they are being wound, but the movement of nearly all others stops and loses this amount of time. Ideally, if it takes (for example) 20 seconds to wind the going side of a clock, then it should be adjusted to gain 20 seconds during the week to allow for this.

Striking

1. When moving the hands always let the clock strike each hour. Similarly, if it chimes at the quarter-hour, let it chime each quarter in full. It is essential with all clocks fitted with a count wheel (sometimes called a locking plate) strike to let them sound out each hour in full. Otherwise, the strike will go out of synchronization with the time and have to be corrected.

It is extremely important in clocks fitted with rack striking to let them strike 12 in full as this allows the clock to reset itself for a further series of 1 2-hour strikes.

2. When turning the hands always move them slowly for a few minutes before you come to the hour. When a "click" is heard pause for a few seconds to allow the clock to prepare itself to strike the hour and then gradually move the hand up to the hour. Allow the hour to be struck in full before moving the hands further.

Rack Strike

With eight-day longcase clocks made in London after circa 1700 and in the country at a somewhat later date, a system of striking known as "Rack Strike" was employed in which the striking side of the clock was permanently synchronized to the going (timekeeping) side. Thus, even if the hands are turned round inadvertently, without allowing the clock to strike certain hours, on the next hour it will still strike correctly. However, it must not be taken beyond 12 o'clock without letting it strike, otherwise permanent damage may ensue.

Because it is essential that a clock with rack strike must always strike 12, both weights of the clock should be wound up together so that there is always sufficient power for it to strike.

It is not possible to have a clock with rack strike going with no strike because of potential damage to the striking mechanism. The only exception to this is if there is strike/silent regulation on the clock or the movement is modified.

Count Wheel (or Locking Plate) Strike

"Count Wheel" is probably the more correct term for this form of strike. It is the earliest way of controlling the strike on longcase and indeed all clocks and was employed on most London clocks made before circa 1700, most country clocks prior to 1720, and virtually all 30-hour clocks.

Figure 6 - Correction of the Count Wheel

Figure 6.

With eight-day clocks it gives the advantage that if you do not want it to strike all you have to do is not wind the weight on the striking side (normally the one on the left as you look at the clock). No harm will come to the striking mechanism— as would be the case with rack strike. However, the strike will have to be resynchronized with the hands when the striking mechanism is put back into operation.

Correction of the Count Wheel

To adjust the strike, the hooked bar (detent) which engages the locking plate is lifted and then released when the clock will strike the next hour (Figure 6). This process will have to be repeated until the strike is correct (for example, if the clock strikes two when the clock reads 5:00, then the bar will have to be lifted three times to set the strike correctly).

Position of the Count Wheel

On all 30-hour clocks long case clocks and most eight-day clocks made before 1690, the Count Wheel is mounted on the back of the movement. (Figure 7).

With eight-day clocks after 1690, it is usually mounted inside the movement either in front of or behind the great wheel on the striking side of the clock (the left side as you look at it).

Figure 7

Figure 7.

Figure 8 - lift the weight

Figure 8.

Winding: Thirty-Hour Clocks

The term "30-hour clock" does not necessarily mean that it will go for 30 hours, but merely more than 24. Some may go for 36 hours, whereas others will stop if you do not wind them within 26 hours.

Occasionally, an early singlehanded longcase clock will be encountered which requires winding twice a day, as did the first of the lantern clocks.

The chain or rope which has to be pulled down to raise the weight is usually that on the right of the clock. However, to ease the strain on the movement, the left hand should be used to partially lift the weight, either by holding the weight itself or by raising the left-hand rope (Figure 8).

Eight-Day Clocks

It is essential that the trunk door is opened before winding so that one can see that the gut lines are not twisted, that the lines are on the pulley, and that the weight rises smoothly and is not wound up too far. If it is then the pulley will hit the seatboard on which the movement rests, resulting in either 1) the pulley tilting and the gut line coming off; 2) the line breaking and the weight crashing to the bottom of the case; or 3) teeth being bent or broken on the great wheel.

On all eight-day longcase clocks with rack strike, which probably comprises 95 percent of all those made, both the striking (left side) when looking at the clock and going weight (right side) must always be fully wound, otherwise the striking mechanism may be damaged. Ideally, the striking weight should always be wound a little higher than the going weight.

Calendar Work

If the clock has either a hand or an aperture with a revolving disc or ring behind it which indicates the day of the month, this will need to be set correctly when the clock is installed. It will also require advancing by one day on the four months of the year when there are only 30 days in the month and by three days every February (except on leap years, when it will be only two).

Some date indicators, usually the disc type, are driven from a part of the clock connected to the hour hand. These change every 12 hours, whereas others, usually the rings, are moved on by a pin on a separate wheel geared to turn it every 24 hours. The pin or lever which changes the date is usually only engaged for three-to-four hours a day so that only one number stays in the center of the aperture for practically the whole day. The date should be corrected when the mechanism is not engaged.

The clock should have been set up by the clockmaker so that the date starts changing at or a little before midnight. By 4 o'clock the mechanism is disengaged and from then until 8 or 9 o'clock it is safe to move it.

With a clock with a ring which moves only once every 24 hours, it may be necessary to turn the hand round 12 hours so as to get the date to change at 12 midnight instead of 12 noon. Once this is set correctly, the date can be altered at any time between 5 A.M. and 8 P.M.

To actually correct the date, all that needs to be done (if it is indicated by the hand) is to open the hood door and move the hand to the correct position. With a date aperture it is usually necessary to remove the hood to gain access to the date ring or disc behind the dial before it can be rotated.

Unfortunately, although all date mechanisms should be set up to commence changing at midnight and thus be free by 4 or S A.M., this is by no means always the case. Thus, if more than slight resistance is felt in moving the disc or ring it will mean that the disc is engaged and you must then delay changing the date until it is free. By looking behind the dial, you can often see whether or not the pin or lever driving the date mechanism is actually engaged.

Moon Discs

When a clock has a moon disc (which is usually situated in the arch of the dial), this also will need to be set correctly. This is simply done by removing the hood and rotating the disc in a clockwise direction (never counterclockwise) until the correct age of the moon is shown. As with the date ring the moon is moved roughly once every 24 hours; (it goes round 29 ~ times a month) and is only engaged for a few hours of that period. It is important not to try and move the moon disc when resistance can be felt because the mechanism will actually be turning the disc. On no account should you try to rotate the moon disc without removing the hood (for example, by pushing it from the front), as either the disc is likely to become distorted or the pin on which it rotates will be bent and the mechanism will then fail to work.

Summary - Setting Up Your Antique Long Case Clock

  1. Make certain the clock is stable. Fix it to the wall if possible.
  2. Always wind up both weights of the clock and the chime side(the one on the left) a little more then the time side
  3. Never turn the hands backwards.
  4. Always let it strike each hour.
  5. To slow it down, lower the bob. To make it go faster, raise the bob.
  6. Only correct the date between 4 and 8 o'clock.
  7. Always open the trunk door before winding up the weights to insure that the lines are not twisted.
  8. Stop winding weights well before the pulleys touch the underside of the clock.

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