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How 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
You bring it home, or have it delivered, put it in your house
- - - and it wont 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 properly.
Sometimes they run for a while then stop, this can be even more
annoying than if they wont 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
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
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 another
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
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 its swing, and
tock at the other.
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
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,
(dont worry about the shape of it, you cant 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
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 tock. 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 driven clock.
Also, be careful with the crutch bending, dont 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.
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.
Clocks 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 dont understand some
or all of this, I recommend you to seek out a competent repairer
to do it for you, I dont want to encourage you to break
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!
8 A Short History Of The American Clock
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