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 Cuckoo Clocks
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(Setting Up, Operation, and Care)

Hang the clock on the wall, and hang the pendulum on its hanger. A cuckoo clock must hang flat against the wall to operate properly.  Be sure that the nail or screw that the clock hangs on is secure and does not project too far out of the wall, so the clock is held flat against the wall.   Hang the weights on the chains, and pull the weights up by pulling down on the free end of the chains.  Do not lift the weights while pulling down on the chains, as the chains may then run off the chainwheels.  Gently move the pendulum to one side, and release it. Listen for the "tick-tock" sound.  This is known as the "beat" of the clock movement.  Proper beat is the sound of equally spaced "ticks" and "tocks".

                                Correct: tick tock tick tock tick tock

                                Incorrect: tick tock   tick tock   tick tock

The clock will not run correctly, and may stop, if not set with an even beat.  Move the bottom of the clock one way or the other until it is in beat.  After moving the bottom of the clock until the clock is in beat, a small nail may be placed in the wall on both sides of the bottom of the case so the clock will not move out of position when winding or pulling up weights.  If the clock must be tilted an excessive amount, the problem is most likely due to the clock being moved without removing the pendulum, and it will have to be brought in for adjustment.      

To set the time, move the minute hand only in a clockwise direction, waiting for the clock to cuckoo at each hour and half hour.  The hour hand will set properly unless it has been bumped loose.  If the hour hand is loose, it can be moved to the correct position and set there by gently pressing it toward the dial, as it is a press fit on a tapered shaft.



Rack And Snail

Modern cuckoo clocks have a rack and snail type of strike system.  This system has the advantage of keeping the hour hand and the strike count synchronized.  If this type of clock does not cuckoo when it reaches 12:00, the "rack tail" may get caught on the "snail" and the clock will stop.  If this happens, move the minute hand counter-clockwise to 12, and pull up the weights.  The clock will cuckoo, the "rack tail" will lift clear of the "snail", and the minute hand can be moved forward to set the clock to the correct time. 

Count Wheel

The other type of strike system is the count wheel.  This type of strike system can get out of synchronization if the weight for the cuckoo runs down before the clock stops running.  After pulling up the weight, the cuckoo can be made to correspond to the time by doing the following: 

1. Advance the minute hand until the clock cuckoos. 

2. If  it does not cuckoo the time that the clock shows, open the door on the side of the clock case, and press the wire to activate the cuckoo. 

3. Repeat Step 2 until the clock cuckoos the hour shown by the hands. 

4. Move the minute hand clockwise until the clock shows the correct time, allowing the clock to cuckoo at each hour and half hour.



Slide the leaf on the pendulum stick down to make the clock run slower.  Raise it to make the clock run faster. 



It is usually recommended that a clock be oiled every 5 years, and cleaned, oiled, and adjusted approximately every 10 years.  My experience has shown that it may be more cost effective to only oil the clock when it doesn't run, and to clean and repair the clock when oiling no longer works.  Have the clock oiled when it begins to run slow,  strikes slowly, or doesn't run at all.  To be properly oiled, the clock mechanism  must be removed from the case.  Do not spray the clock movement with WD-40 or something similar.  Dust in the air can enter the case and will be trapped by an excessive amount of lubricant.  This will necessitate more frequent cleaning and cause the movement to wear faster.


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Copyright © 2016 Jack Niewoehner, Clock Repair, Elkader, Iowa
Last modified: 11/22/16