How to maintain an antique clock

June 25, 2015

Few things remind us of the comforts of grandma's house more than the regular ticking of an old-time clock. This household item from days gone by is also a striking element in today's home decor.

How to maintain an antique clock

Types of antique clocks

There are various types and styles of antique clocks; here is a run-down of the most common of them.

  • Grandfather clocks: A grandfather clock is a classic weight-driven pendulum clock. If you're lucky you'll find one at a flea market or online; you'll pay a lot more at an antique store.
  • Wall clocks: Wall clocks are smaller and easier to integrate into a space than a huge grandfather clock. Popular finds include quirky cuckoo clocks and pendulum clocks with a wooden case and glass on three sides.
  • Mantel clocks: Mantel clocks come in many different forms. Some are protected by a glass cover, while others have wooden cases with a glass front.
  • Bakelite clocks: Bakelite, and other art deco clocks from the 1930s, will be tomorrow's sought-after collectibles. Look for them at flea markets or garage sales.

Winding your clock

Mechanical clocks need to be wound regularly; most have an eight-day cycle. Choose a day and time to wind your antique clock. Consistency is important for maintenance. Here's how to do it:

  • Wind a weight drive before the weights reach the bottom. When you're resetting the weights, lift them slightly to protect the bearings (and oil them sparingly on occasion).
  • Winding a spring drive calls for particular care; count the turns so you don't twist the key too far.

Clock maintenance

Here are some points to bear in mind when keeping your antique clock in good running order.

  • Never move the hands on antique clocks backward. You risk damaging the mechanism.
  • Carefully treat the varnished case surfaces with cleaning polish and then seal them with a good antique wax.
  • Remove the pendulum and immobilize the pendulum arm when transporting a pendulum clock. For short moves, hold the case in such a way that the pendulum can lean against the mechanism.
  • Learn to live with a little imprecision if you're the owner of an antique clock. If you're continually adjusting the time, there's a chance that you will damage the clock.
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