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Moon Roller

of Stamford

How to set up a pendulum clock


To set up a longcase clock, first get your case where you want it and wedge it tightly up against the wall. This may mean wedging a packing piece between the backboard top and the wall to fill the gap caused by your skirting board at ground level. Many clocks have a wooden batten on the upper backboard so that this can lean against the wall. A clock that can wobble to and fro may keep stopping, so the case must be firmly positioned against the wall. Some owners like to screw them to the wall, though this is not essential.

If you do plan to screw the case to the wall, however, the best thing is to let the clock run for three or four weeks first, so that you know it is levelled correctly. Then drive your screw home to hold it firm and safe from dashing children and the roving vacuum.

You need to have some means of ensuring that you can re-level the case again if it moves, e.g. by sinking into the carpet, or if you decide to position it elsewhere. Therefore it is wise to take a particular surface on the case which you can set level with a spirit level. The flat ledge in front of the glass hood door is a good place to use for levelling, as all clocks have a flat surface there – the lowest projecting moulding of the hood itself.

With that ledge level side to side, lean the clock very slightly backwards firmly against the wall. Too far back and the pendulum will bump against the backboard; too far forward will cause the weights to bump against the door. This side to side level is the only one which matters from now on. If need be pack small wedges under the front feet to level the case side to side and make it lean against the wall.

Set the movement with its wooden seatboard in position, hang on the weights (two with an eight-day, one with a one-day clock). This holds the movement safely in place, leaving both your hands free to fit on the pendulum. Make sure the dial is positioned centrally to the door glass. The pendulum fits at the back of the clock movement, and slides through an opening called the fork within the suspended iron rod at the back of the movement, which is called the crutch.

Once the pendulum is in place, give it a gentle push side to side and see what happens. If the crutch is set correctly, the clock should run. The crutch may have been bent in transit from its true position, and if so, this will cause the clock to keep stopping. It the clock stops infrequently, perhaps after a few hours, then the setting is probably bent only slightly out of true. If it ticks for only a few minutes, it is probably bent seriously. You will now need to re-set the crutch by bending it very gently to the left or right. This may take two or three attempts on a trial and error basis.

When level the clock will tick evenly from left to right, the time lapse between ticks being about equal and regular – just like somebody walking. A clock ‘out of beat’ will tick unevenly, like somebody limping, with each tick alternately long and short. If you watch the pendulum bob you will probably see it swinging further over to one side than the other. Bend the crutch gently in the middle of its length, not at the top, or you may break the joint. If the clock ticks heaviest to the right, then bend the crutch to the right, and vice versa. You will hear the difference when you next push the pendulum to start the clock.

With other types of clock – wall clocks, bracket clocks, mantle clocks, whether weight-driven or spring-driven, the principle of setting it into beat is exactly the same. The clock must be in beat, and this is correctly done by adjusting the crutch position.

The same result can sometimes be achieved by leaning the clock to its left or right, but this is not a satisfactory method, as you have no proper means of checking the level in future.

If the clock is in beat and refuses to run, check for obvious things such as hands catching, weight lines fouling, pendulum rubbing on the case. If it still refuses, the clock may need servicing or setting up by a professional.

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