Help me fix my clock!

So I’m trying to fix the old grandmother clock that I inherited from my grandfather (confusing, I know) and I can’t seem to get it to work. Or, rather, it works very intermittently. It’s got a pendulum and a spring to wind, and I have both wound the spring and swung the pendulum, as my uncle demonstrated a couple years ago when I got the clock. Having taken off the face of the clock, I can see that the pendulum swinging (ideally) causes a gear to turn one notch every second, and the clock is apparently supposed to multiply that up to the hands. However, whether or not this gear actually does turn seems to be random- it’ll work for half an hour and then stop, and then I can swing the pendulum all I want and I can’t seem to get that gear to turn. Also, the pendulum does not always keep swinging- I had it working for about half an hour, and now I can’t seem to get it to work anymore; it just swings until friction and air resistance stop the pendulum.

I know that this clock worked three or four years ago when I got it, and since then it’s been sitting on my wall dormant. Has anyone ever successfully restored an actual analog clock before? Any idea what’s going on?

it sounds like it could be a few things… let’s start with the easy ones

  1. Tangled or twisted chain on the counter wieghts (if they are used by your clock) "trace " the path of the chains… look to see if any kinks, twists or other deviations can be corrected.

  2. dirty mechanism

Get some electromic areosol contact cleaner and hit the pqarts you mentioned with it…

3)) Gummed up lubricants

follow step two, and then lubricate “axles” of gears with castor oil (don’t use petrolium based products, they can ruin the old finishes by off gassing). Use a Q-tip to position oil.

  1. Worn gear teeth/stretched spring.
    Get ye to a professional clock restorer… this in not a do it your self project… Price will be high ($200-$400). Check with a large local museums conservation dept for names.

Best of luck

I second the dirty mechanism thing.

My parents had an old mantle clock that wouldn’t work.

I fiddled around with it and got it to work.

Three days later, it quit.

They took it to somebody, I don’t know who, but he cleaned it and it has worked ever since.


Normally, the center chain (assuming a typical three-weight clock) is the one that drives the movement. The outer two drive the chimes, so you can ignore them for now.

As FML suggested, make sure the drive chain’s not kinked up or binding on anything. It’s the weight being pulled down by gravity that drives that main gear. There’s a mechanism that resembles a crab claw called an escapement that’s driven by the pendulum that controls how fast the weight can fall, and how fast the main wheel can turn. Also ensure that the hands are not bent and touching themselves, the dial, or the glass. Clock hands are driven with fleapower torque, and it’s easy to stop a clock cold if the hands bind up at all.

If that’s Greek to you, or if the clock has particular sentimental value, stop here and look for a clock shop. If it’s been sitting still for four years, and who knows how many years since it’s been maintained, it’s probably all gunked up with old oil and dust. At this point, it needs to be cleaned - probably by dipping the entire works, then lubricating with clock oil. Not motor oil, not sewing machine oil, not corn oil. Not WD-40. Clock oil. There is no substitute.

An in-shop servicing will probably run $100 - 200, give or take whether or not any parts need replacing. If the works are too far gone, you’ll probably be looking at around $400 - 500 to replace the works, assuming this is a relatively modern clock and replacement movements are available. Old clocks can be breathtakingly expensive to fix if they’re so old that the only option is to have parts custom-fabricated.

No weights on this clock- there are some, but they’re clearly ornamental, judging by the way that their chain is just screwed into the wood in the bottom of the clock. This one seems to be driven entirely by the one spring. (Well, two springs, but one’s just the chimes and I’m less interested in making that actually work.) I suspect that a cleaning and oiling is within my meager talents and budget, so I’ll give that a try. Thanks for the quick response!

It had occurred to me that I might have overwound it- is that even possible?

I first read this title as “Help me fix my cock!” Oh dear…

Please, please… ifd you care about the clock, do not take this upon yourself. I’ve been taking clock repair classes, and worked at a clock shop for a year or so, and have a bit of experience - and I can tell you that the worst thing you can do for a clock is mess with it without knowledge.

If you don’t care about the clock, feel free, but if you do…

Those little gears are very touchy. They can bend, break and warp with very little pressure. There is a chance that the clock is just dirty, but cleaning it incorrectly will just make it worse. Oiling it without taking it apart fully, cleaning each gear and reassembling it just gums it up worse. Trying to get it back together when it has a chime feature is very difficult (well, you CAN get it back together, it just won’t run!) and then the poor clockmaker that has to fix the “fix” has to figure out just what you did…

Can you tell this idea has me in anguish?

By the way, can you give us a maker on the clock? Shold be a name on the dial - if not, check the back of the works.

It’s not that old a clock, so I hope that a repair won’t be too expensive. It’s a “Hamilton”, and I can see the words “Hyl-Hamilton” on the front of the brass housing for the gears. I also see following that the words “No jewels” and “Made in Japan”, for what it’s worth.

Age doesn’t have much to do with the price of repairs, what costs more is the state the clock is in when the clockmaker gets it. If the teeth are bent, or gears have obviously been fiddled with, the clockmaker will assume the worst. If it just needs cleaning and adjusting, it is usually a standard fee (around $100 around here, for a time/strike clock.

Don’t put too much money into it unless it is a sentimental favorite - that clock wouldn’t resell for too much.