The first thing to be decided about the repair of your clock is which of
these three approaches to take. The decision may be straightforward
or it may well be quite difficult. I can advise you, but ultimately
it is your decision. The 3 choices can be summarised as follows:
repair consists of doing whatever is needed to get the clock running
reliably with no regard to its originality or value.
involves returning the clock to its original condition. This means
removing any alterations or bodged repairs that have been done over
the years, and polishing all the brass and steel parts so that it
looks almost new. The disadvantages are that modifications that are
historically important may be removed, and that original metal is
polished away – metal that can never be replaced.
is an approach that normally only applies to historically important
and/or very valuable clocks, i.e. museum pieces. The ethos behind it
is to not take away anything except the dirt that has accumulated
over the years, and to preserve every part of the clock. The result
is a movement that while clean, stills retains the tarnished
appearance of old brass. In extreme cases it may also mean that
essential repairs can not be carried out to avoid removing original
material and you are left with a non-functioning clock.
In practice most of my work is a combination of restoration and
conservation in as much as I tend to conserve as much as possible of
the original movement, and yet sometimes have to compromise this
principle in order to get the clock running reliably.
I can repair most of the spring or weight driven clocks you are likely
to have at home. That includes grandfather, mantel, table and wall
clocks. If I feel that your clock is one of the few that are beyond
my capabilities I will recommend you contact another clock repairer,
rather than risk a doing a poor job that neither you nor I will be
satisfied with. Note that I do not work on watches or electric
- The repair will always start with full dismantling and cleaning of
the movement. (The movement is the mechanical part of the clock
inside the case.) This is usually the most expensive part of the
repair but I will not take short cuts such as dipping the whole
movement in cleaning fluid.
- The second step is to inspect all moving parts of the clock, before
repairing any wear. Often this means bushing worn pivot holes,
(fitting new bearings in layman’s terms,) burnishing the
pivots, (smoothing and hardening the axles,) and polishing the pallet
nibs, (the pallet is the bow shaped steel lever that drives the
pendulum.) Other parts of the clock are repaired as necessary, or if
they can not be repaired, new parts will have to be made.
- The third step is to reassemble the clock, checking the operation of each
part individually before lubricating at the appropriate points.
- The clock is set up on a test stand and run for between one and four
weeks for adjustment. During this time it will be connected to an
electronic timer and a computer to record its performance. A printed
graph of the clock’s rate will be given to you on its return.
- The movement is refitted to its case and run for another week as a final
test of proper operation, before being returned to you.
Dials were made from a variety of materials: silvered brass, painted iron,
enamelled copper, and printed paper being the most common. Cleaning
and repair techniques are obviously vastly different for each of the
different materials involved.
Generally I will do little more than simple cleaning with a little soap and
water, except of course for paper dials which would be damaged by
contact with water. If it needs any form of repair, restoration or
major cleaning I will, if you wish, send it to a specialist for this
work to be done. Specialists can resilver brass dials, repair damaged
enamel, and repaint faded or damaged painted iron.
Like dials, clock cases were made from a wide range of materials, such as
the wooden cases of classic long case (grandfather) clocks, the black
limestone (so-called “marble”) of French mantel clocks,
the porcelain of many European clocks, indeed almost any material
that can be moulded or carved to support a movement.
I can carry out cleaning and minor repairs of many types of cases, but
like dials, those needing major work can be sent to a specialist, if