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How To Set Up Your Antique Clock

How To Set-Up An Antique Two Train (Time/Strike) Clock

Hello again from Martin Ayers owner of Wessex Gallery, a fine art & antique clock gallery located in Melbourne.

In this article, I will be outlining the steps required to set up an antique two train clock i.e. a clock with two wind holes, one for the clock movement and one for the strike i.e. striking the hours and half hours.

The steps to set up an antique two train clock are straightforward. Proceed as follows:

Unpacking Your Antique Clock If you have received an antique clock which is packaged, set the package on a level surface and gently remove the packaging. Proceed carefully as a clock is a delicate instrument and rough handling may damage the case, glass, hands or movement. Ensure that you carefully check through all the packaging materials before discarding as the key(s) and pendulum are often packed separately. Some antique clocks have a small lock on the front and rear doors which may, in turn, have their own key design. If this is the case, ensure that you have the keys for both doors, the wind key and the pendulum.

Positioning Your Clock

Once unpacked, place your antique clock in the location where you want to position it permanently. This should be a level surface and not subject to significant temperature or humidity variations. Avoid positioning the clock in direct sunlight or near a heat source e.g. open fire, heating radiator/vent. Carefully turn the clock case so that you are looking at the back of the clock and open the rear door. Some antique clocks may be fitted with a lock to the front and rear doors requiring a key to open.

Fitting the Pendulum

There are several designs of the pendulum. The most common types are shown in the image below.

The pendulum on the left is from a silk suspension clock. This is exactly what it says, the pendulum is suspended from a silk thread which in turn is connected to a small adjustment wheel.

The middle pendulum is an adjustable pendulum. The wheel on the pendulum bob enables the length of the pendulum to be altered. Turn the wheel clockwise to raise the pendulum bob which shortens the pendulum to speed the clock up. Turning the wheel anticlockwise lowers the pendulum bob effectively lengthening the pendulum and slowing the clock down.

The pendulum on the right is a mercury compensating pendulum, usually found on some French clocks. There will be two or four phials containing mercury. The theory is that during warmer conditions, the metal pendulum expands and thus lengthens the pendulum lowering the centre of gravity and slowing the clock down but this is compensated for by the phials containing mercury which also expands with the heat but expands up the tubes thus raising the centre of gravity and keeping the speed of the clock consistent. Fine in theory but you will notice that the pendulum is also fitted with an adjustment wheel below the mercury phials which facilitates finer adjustment of the clock speed.

Warning: Mercury is a poison, take extreme care not to break the glass phials. There is no health risk if the mercury is securely contained in the phials and they are not damaged.

Your antique clock may be fitted with a bell or a coiled or tubular gong to provide the chime. If your clock has a bell, this can be removed to facilitate easier installment of the pendulum.

To remove the bell, simply unscrew the central nut – this should only be finger tight. Once the nut is removed gently slide the bell off the central shaft. Place the bell and nut in a safe location for later refitting. (It is not fun having to hunt across the floor for the missing nut).

If fitted with a coiled gong this is not removable and just makes it a little bit fiddlier to remove or re-fit the pendulum but essentially it is the same process except you will need to manoeuvre the pendulum around the gong.

When fitting the pendulum, take great care not to move or damage the hammer arm which strikes the bell or gong. I am aware of cases where clients have either bent or snapped off the hammer arm which may then require a visit to a qualified Horologist to effect repairs.

For adjustable and mercury pendulums - fit the pendulum onto the pendulum hanger, as in the images below. Ensure that the pendulum is securely hooked over the pendulum bar at the top and that the shaft of the pendulum is between the two horizontal bars which are attached to the bottom of the pendulum holder.

Silk Suspension Pendulums - Antique clocks made prior to about 1850 may be fitted with a silk suspension, refer to the below image.

If your antique clock has a silk suspension i.e. the pendulum suspends from a silk thread, the pendulum will have a small hook at the top. The shaft of the pendulum will most likely have a rectangular strip on the pendulum shaft, refer to the pendulum image above. This must be fitted into the square hole on the pendulum hanger. Then insert the hook through the silk thread loop where the pendulum hanger is located, as in the above image.

When the pendulum has been fitted and swings freely, close/lock the rear door and gently turn the clock so that you are facing the dial. Unlock/open the front door. Place the wind key in the right-hand keyhole (clock mechanism) and gently wind the clock clockwise until you meet resistance. The clock is then fully wound. At this stage, it is optional whether you wind the left-hand keyhole (the strike mechanism which makes your clock chime). Set the clock to the correct time by gently moving the minute hand clockwise until you reach the current time. Your antique clock will possibly chime a few times as you turn the hands but that is normal - just ignore it. Never rotate the hands anti-clockwise. Close/lock the front door. Gently tilt the clock from one side about 1 inch and then put it level again. This should start the pendulum swinging and you should now be able to hear the clock movement ticking. Leave the antique clock running for a week and then check whether it has gained or lost time.

Adjust your Antique Clock Timing

To correct the timing proceed as follows:

Silk Suspension clock - You will see that the silk thread, on which the pendulum is hooked, runs to a shaft with a wheel at the end, for turning. Turn the adjustment wheel clockwise to raise the pendulum and speed up the clock and anticlockwise to lower the pendulum and slow the clock down.

Repeat this process ever 24 - 48 hours until you have acceptable timekeeping.

Adjustable Pendulum Clock (with adjustment wheel either in or below the pendulum bob) –

you will need to remove the pendulum and use the little wheel on the pendulum bob to raise or lower the pendulum.

If the antique clock is running slow then you need to shorten the pendulum by turning the wheel clockwise. If the clock is running fast, turn the wheel anticlockwise to lengthen the pendulum.

I recommend only small adjustment of the wheel, say a couple of turns. Then refit the pendulum and repeat the above process, every 24 - 48 hours, as many times as necessary until the clock keeps good time.

In addition to the pendulum adjustment, some clocks have a key-operated regulator, for fine adjustment, above the 12 o'clock position on the clockface (refer to images below). These clocks should have a double-ended key, one end to wind the clock/strike mechanism and the other, smaller end, to adjust the regulator. In this instance, if you get the clock within a minute or two of perfect timekeeping using the pendulum adjustment you can then if required, do a further fine adjustment using this key regulator. This works in the same way as the wheel on the pendulum - clockwise to speed up, anticlockwise to slow down.

(I usually try to get my antique clocks running within 2-3 minutes of the correct time over a week just using the pendulum adjustment. If the timekeeping is not perfect but acceptable then I do not worry with the fine adjustment.

If timekeeping is not perfect then the clock running slightly slow if preferable to running fast as you only have to adjust the minute hand a couple of minutes rather than having to wind the minute hand forward nearly 12 hours - don't wind anticlockwise.) All this may sound rather tedious but it is really straightforward when you get used to it. (Just a little bit of interesting information, the Queen has over 2,000 clocks in Buckingham Palace and has to employ a full-time clock keeper to go around the Palace winding and adjusting the clocks - a bit repetitive)!

Please email me if you have any questions regarding antique clocks! -

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