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​24 clock repair experts share their advice

Posted by on 6/24/2016

Keeping your cuckoo running like clockwork (pardon the pun) doesn’t take a lot of time, but does require some consideration. To make sure your treasure can be handed down to the next generation I asked 24 experts in clock repair to give their answers to these two questions:

What is the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new cuckoo clock owner?

What is the most frequently overlooked bit of maintenance clock owners should be performing?

The responses I received were fantastic. I’ve always loved cuckoo clocks, part of growing up around them I’m sure, but I’d never considered even half of the tips these experts shared. I’ve listed all of the responses below - have a look!

On choosing your cuckoo

Gail from says

I would suspect there are a couple of pieces of advice that many people overlook. The first would be the type of movement for the clock. Type of movement or mechanism is very important and the German Regula is one of the best choices. The German Regula 25 is the 1 day movement, the #34 is the 8 day movement. Many people buy a cuckoo clock not even realizing they have to wind a 1 day clock daily. The one day clocks are very popular due to the price break but if a person is on the go an 8 day cuckoo clock is a far better choice as it must be wound only once weekly. Much more convenient! If a person is really on the go, a quartz model or battery powered cuckoo clock would be even more convenient as you only change the batteries yearly. The quartz cuckoos are not a true Black Forest cuckoo clock though.

Matt from says

The most important advice I could give is that there are 1 day cuckoo clocks, and 8 day cuckoo clocks. Spending a little extra money on an 8 day clock can really make your life easier, as they are wound weekly, rather than daily!

Many people have a 24 hr clock and if you are truly using it as a timepiece, you have to wind it twice a day, Because if you forget for a few minutes the clock will be stopped. 8 day (Heavy Weights) clocks obviously take care of this issue.

When purchasing a cuckoo clock, one must understand that the modern day cuckoo's are more of a novelty clock, especially the lower cost clocks. Most of the cuckoo's made today all use the same movements in their cases. There are 2 movements that are more commonly used and both will wear quickly if regular maintenance is not performed.

Michael from says

Everyone that buys a cuckoo clock should know that the modern cuckoo clock will typically wear out in 10-20 years. The manufacturers are currently putting the bulk of the money into all the bells and whistles and moving parts (animation) a cuckoo clock can offer and not into the quality of the movement. Modern cuckoo clocks have become novelty clocks (almost like a toy) instead of the high quality movements they used to be. If the clock has a music box it will typically wear out first. The modern cuckoo case is truly a beautiful thing to behold but the movement that no one sees is severely lacking in durability compared to the older ones.

To install your clock

Peter from says

First and foremost would be to enjoy your cuckoo clock.

Hanging your clock correctly on the wall and choosing a good location is an important decision.

Be sure to choose a location that is free from air drafts. These drafts can cause the clock pendulum to stop. Try to find a location away from air vents, open windows and hallways that are high draft locations.

Be sure to read the directions of your clock about wall hanging. This process is important for the safety for you and your clock. There will be forces imposed on the clock when you pull the chains to wind your clock and you don’t want the clock fall from the wall the first time you wind it. My recommendations for best and most secure method would be to position a nail at a 45 degree angle into a wall stud. So when you hang the clock on the nail the clock slides down the nail and rests completely flat against the wall. This method helps keep the clock flat and level on the wall so not to lean forward. Leveling it side to side is also import so the clocks pendulum beat runs at an even tick toc. Having a clock that is hung properly will eliminate most potential stopping problems.

Gail from says

Location would be another item that is overlooked. Although you can put a cuckoo clock about anywhere you want, you must be aware if there are any sudden drafts such as floor vents that may intermittently turn on or off. A sudden blast of air from a floor vent can stop the pendulum. You would need to restart the clock and set the time again. Even a door swinging open and closed can cause a blast of air that can cause the pendulum to stop. During the summer months many people like to leave doors and windows open. A breeze comes thru the door or window and the pendulum stops. We have dealt with many calls over the years where a clock was placed over a heater vent and the clock had chronic problems until moved to another location.

Daryl from says

Hang the clock high enough for a full cycle. When figuring where to hang, use a substantial anchor and install it with an upward angle of about 20 degrees from perpendicular to the wall.

Keep the clock away from open windows and ceiling fans.

Mark the wall once the install is complete so that if there is a problem, one can quickly get it back to where it should be.

When winding (raising the weights), help the weights up while pulling on the chain. This puts much less stress on the sprockets and chain links.

Anton from says

Ensure that the clock is hung on a secure screw at a 45 degree angle. This will prevent the clock from falling off the wall and also from stopping.

Probably the MOST important piece of advice for us to give would be to put a LARGE enough hook in the wall and do NOT use a sheetrock screw for hanging. We had a customer come in today when his large cuckoo clock the leaped off the wall and naturally hit the floor.

Ralph from says

We see more problems with hanging the clock more than anything else - when purchasing, be sure the retailer supplies an appropriate hanger along with instructions on how to use it.

Kathy from says

We get quite a few clocks in that have major case damage from being pulled off the wall while being wound up. So I'd have to say that the most important piece of advice is to make sure that your cuckoo clock is hung on a sturdy nail in the wall, either in a stud, or using a molly bolt. Especially if you own an 8 day cuckoo, because the weights are heavy, and you need to pull them up every week. It's very easy to pull a nail out if it's not secured.

Scott from says

For new cuckoo clock - make sure to hang the clock so that it lays flat against the wall and not pull forward. Do not use picture frame hooks. Make sure the head of the screw (#8 or #10) fits snugly into the hole carved out in the back of the cuckoo. DO NOT help the weights up while winding.

Jason from says

Make sure the clock is secured firmly to the wall and that it does not tilt forward. When winding the clock pull and lift the chains to take the stress off the ratchet wheel.

Claire from says

When someone purchases a new clock they should follow the directions enclosed with the clock. Be sure to take the bellow clips off, unlock the bird door and start the clock at the time the clock says preventing throwing the count rack out of sync. Also always pull the chains up to the bottom of the clock and remove the weights and pendulum before moving it.

About setting up and leveling your clock

Brian from says

First off, any cuckoo clock with a rack strike system, which is most of the ones made after WW2, can be set by turning the minute hand forward or backward without injury and they will never get out of sync, it’s just not possible. On an earlier clock with a count wheel system, such as the one pictured at the top, you must only go forward and stop at each half hour to let the clock finish its strike before continuing.

Scott from says

The most common issue I have with cuckoo clocks is that owners try to adjust them by level or sight. Sight is the most common method of adjustment, comparing hanging a cuckoo to hanging a picture. If it is not level, move it until it appears in the right spot. For cuckoo clocks and any pendulum operated wall clock, beat is the most significant method of adjustment. Listen to the clock for an even tick/tock. I know this sounds corny but the ticks and tocks have to be evenly spaced apart. If they are not, the clock will not run regardless of level. The best way to adjust the beat is to listen and then move the bottom of the clock slightly left or right(1/4" at a time) until the beat evens out. If you try and the beat gets worse, move the bottom of the clock in the other direction. Once the ticks and tocks are evenly spaced, the clock will run.

Bill from says

After the clock is hung on the wall and the weights and pendulum are attached, level the clock by listening to the tick tock. Tilt the clock to the left or to the right until the tick tock sounds even, Also, make sure the clock is flat against the wall, not leaning forward. If the clock cuckoos the wrong hour, grasp the HOUR HAND (short hand) at the center and turn it to point to the hour that the clock cuckooed.

Stan from says

Once a block is hung on the wall and running well, tiny pencil marks on the wall right along the case edge will allow repositioning the clock when a weight pulls up a little quicker than intended and knocks the clock out of level.

Daryl from says

Mark the wall once the install is complete so that if there is a problem, one can quickly get it back to where it should be.

On some potential issues with your cuckoo

James from says

There can be a many number of things why the bird will not come out or it will not cuckoo. It may be the same issue as if the bird can’t come out of the door. So check these things and see if it helps the issue.

There is a wire above the cuckoo door that locks it into position if the clock is being transported. It just acts as a lever and moves down to prevent the door from opening or up to allow the door to open. Be sure this is out of the way so the door can open.

There may be a silence lever if the cuckoo movement is equipped with one. This would be located on your left as you face the front of the clock or your right if you’re looking at the back of the cuckoo clock. If you have the type of cuckoo that has it sticking out of the side of the case, then this is easy. You just have to push it down. Usually up is off and down is on, but it may be different on your clock. Just move it to the opposite direction and see if the clock will cuckoo. If the movement has a silence switch that does not stick outside of the case, you would need to look at the back of the cuckoo with the back panel off. You will see a lever on your right as you face the back of the movement on the top right side. Push it down to activate the cuckoo again. Now keep in mind not all cuckoos have this feature as the manufacturer will sometimes just assume you will silence the cuckoo just by locking the bird door so it will not open.

Next thing to check is that there is nothing in the way of the chain that drives the strike side of the clock. One weight controls the time and the other the strike or cuckoo you can say. If there is anything rubbing the chain, such as the wood case, or if there is something preventing the weight from dropping, this will cause it not to cuckoo. Even the side of the chain that there is no weight attached to, that you pull to raise the weight, if this is caught up on something on the loose end it will cause it not to be able to travel in the upward direction and therefore the weight cannot drop to run the cuckoo sound.

Edward from says

Sometimes the bird sticks out with the door open. If the bird does not go back in DON’T FORCE IT. Take the weights and pendulum off, open the back of the clock, and make sure the wire that goes across the top is UNDERNEATH THE TAIL OF THE CUCKOO BIRD. This wire lifts the bird’s tail and if it somehow got on top of the birds tail it may keep the bird from going back inside the clock.

Gordon from says

If you have just acquired a pre-owned cuckoo clock and it won’t run, try tilting the clock while listening to it ticking. Stop when the tick sounds evenly spaced on both sides of the swing. If it is too crooked to live with, remove the back and gently bend the looped wire that the pendulum rod passes through and try again. If it’s worse, bend it the other way. When the tick is even and it’s hanging straight on the wall, it is “in beat”. If it still won’t run, you may need to have a worn pivot hole re-bushed.

Most important prevention of wear/damage is to remove the clock from construction areas and keep out the dust that likes to accumulate in the clock.

Cuckoo Clocks are child magnets. If there are children in the household it's best to let them be involved and to have the understanding that they are not toys and shouldn't be played with.

Anton from says

Try to keep children from swinging on the weights as this will cause damage to the gears inside the clock.

Nancy from says

Be careful where the lower part of the chains fall for little hands, or animals, could get a hold of them. We see damage where chains have been pulled, causing stretching of the links and pulling the whole clock off the wall.

Regarding Maintenance

Nearly every response suggested that regular (and professional) lubrication tends to be the most overlooked maintenance issue. Cuckoo clocks should be oiled, with clock oil (never a spray oil such as WD40, as this can permanently damage you clock) every 2-7 years depending on where you live. The majority of our experts suggested 3-5 years, but ultimately the goal is to have the oil replaced before it dries out so as to avoid damaging the internal workings of your clock. Because of how many small parts are contained within your cuckoo clock and their delicate nature, most of the responses recommend having this maintenance performed by a professional.

Additionally, regular dusting and the careful use compressed air can help extend the life of your clock oil.

I want to personally offer a
huge thank you to all the experts who took time to send in their thoughts. Please share if you found their advice useful.

Image credits: Cuckoo Clock, Copyright - Mike (Dierken)