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To Set A Clock In Beat
So, you have bought
a clock, it ran when you saw it, (or you were assured it did if you bought it
through the internet)
You bring it home, or have it delivered, put it in your house
- - - and it won’t run.
99% of the time this is caused by the clock not being “in beat” All mechanical pendulum clocks have to be set in beat before they will run
Sometimes they run for a while then stop, this can be even more annoying than
if they won’t run at all!
I am talking about clocks with a pendulum here, clocks with a platform
escapement are outside the scope of this article, and need
If you have bought or moved a
Grandfather Clock, or a Wall Clock or Mantel clock and it just wont go, despite
running quite well before
you moved it,
here is what you need to do: -
First, make sure your clock is vertical on the floor or wall, or level
horizontally if it is a mantle or shelf clock.
A Grandfather Clock must be stood on a firm level surface, if you have a deep
pile carpet stand it on a board. It also needs to be secure against the wall.
Most antique clock backs have a few holes in them, where previous owners
screwed them to the wall to fix them in position. You can do this, or, if you
have a skirting board at floor level, put a piece of wood between the back of
the clock and the wall to take up the gap. This can be screwed to the back of
the clock or glued on.
You should end up with a clock that feels firm with no shake or wobbling about
if you gently push it with your hand.
A good wall clock, especially the top quality “Vienna” type, has a strong
metal hanging bracket well screwed to the top of the clock case at the back, and
very often two small screws, one at each side at the bottom of the case. Drill
and plug the wall, and put a STRONG screw in for the clock to hang from - - - nails,
flimsy picture hooks etc are not strong enough to hold a big heavy wall clock
for very long
- - - you would not believe what a mess your clock will be in if the hanger
pulls out or breaks. Lets just say you will probably be in the market for
Screw the bottom screws in until they just start to dig in the wall, then we
can get to the next part, setting the clock “in beat”
The following applies to all pendulum clocks, with the exception of a few
expensive ones which have adjusting screws on either side of the
“crutch” on the back of the movement.
When the clock has been fixed in position, put the pendulum on the movement,
and give it a gentle swing. If the clock runs without any problem, with a nice
even beat - - - - - you are probably the sort of person who wins prizes,
lotteries etc - - - - I have never had one yet that did not need adjusting!
More likely, the clock will run, but sound like it is “limping” with an
uneven sound. We are going to use both eye and ear to set it in beat, listen
first, when properly set up the pendulum should swing from
left to right going “tick” at one end of it’s swing, and “tock” at the
A clock running in beat goes :-
tick - - - - tock - - - - tick - - - - tock,
with the four hyphens representing an exactly equal amount of time.
Out of beat, it goes: - tick - - tock - - - - - - - - tick - - tock
- - - - - - - - tick - - tock This
is easier to hear than describe,
the two sounds come very
close together, then a longer interval before two more very close together.
You can also watch the pendulum as it swings, the tick should sound at one end
of the pendulum swing, and the tock at the other end, just as the pendulum stops
to swing the other way. Watching and listening, you will hear the tick (or tock)
then the pendulum will continue
in the same direction
until it stops and goes the other way, and the tick at the other end of the
swing will be quieter, until it eventually stops running.
There are two ways to correct this, the
easy way is to lean the whole clock to one side, if the clock stops lean it the other way, and you
will come to a point where you will hear the beat suddenly even up into a nice
even sound. If you have only moved the clock a tiny amount you can leave it
there, putting some packing under the clock base at the side lifted off the
floor. The problem is, of course, if you have moved it so far it looks like the Leaning Tower
of Pisa you are probably going to want to try something else!
The correct way to set the clock up is this - - - - (you will only have to do
this once, so stay with me) you
need to bend the crutch very slightly.
The crutch is the wire part fixed to the clock at the back of the movement,
usually bent at a right angle at the bottom, with a rectangular hole in it for
the pendulum rod to slide through. If you touch it you will see it can move from
side to side through an arc. Very often this wire is already bent slightly,
(don’t worry about the shape of it, you can’t see it at the back of the
movement) when the clock is running it is the crutch that swings the pendulum,
by giving it a tiny impulse at each swing. Many people think the pendulum drives
the clock; it is of course the other way round. The pendulum is there to
“regulate” the clock and enable it to keep time, instead of running away at
a fast speed till it runs down and stops.
Looking from the front, with the pendulum hanging down stopped, move it to one
side by hand, until you hear a tick. Then move it the other way until you hear a
If it has to be moved father to the right (from the centre) than the left, the
crutch must be bent to the left. - - - - - -Or the other way round, of course.
The weights need to be on the clock, or the springs wound if it is a spring
Also, be careful with the crutch bending,
don’t grab it and heave it all over, you can damage the escapement, anchor, or
Reach round the
clock movement from the front with both hands, one on each side, place the
first finger of one hand near the top of the crutch, and the first finger
of the other hand near the bottom of the crutch, where the pendulum rod
passes through it.
The bottom finger does the bending.
- - - - And it only needs a tiny amount. Better to have to do it a couple
of times than overdo it and have to start again the other way, this can go
on for ages if you keep bending the crutch too far each time.
are easiest to set up, there is more room to get your hands in, smaller clocks
need delicate handling and great care not to break any delicate parts. Most
people will achieve a good result with care and patience, if you don’t
understand some or all of this, I recommend you to seek out a competent repairer
to do it for you, I don’t want to encourage you to break your clock!
One final point, the length of the pendulum controls the speed of the clock,
more accurately the distance between the centre of the pendulum “bob” and
the top of the rod. If your clock is going too fast or “gaining” you can
drop the bob slightly by turning the adjusting nut below it clockwise a small
amount, or turn it anti-clockwise to move it up a fraction, and thus speed the
clock up slightly. Let it run for a few days, then fine-tune it if need be.
Eventually you will be surprised how good the timekeeping of some of these
lovely old clocks can be!
Page 8 A Short
History Of The American Clock
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