Setting up your Pendulum Clock

Welcome to the world of clocks! Whether you are new to collecting clocks, or maybe you just have one clock, or then maybe a collection. Whether you have a modern clock or a truly antique one, each clock will need to be properly seated or hung to run correctly. Some clocks seem to work the very instant that they are placed, others however may not like to run at all. It is not luck, since there is a methodology in correctly setting up a clock.


The clock will usually be received with the pendulum packed separately from the remainder of the clock. While all pendulum clocks will have somewhat similar set-up procedures, there are differences. Longcase clocks, wall clocks and Bracket or mantle clocks, spring driven clocks or weight driven clocks, each will be set up in a slightly different manner. Here we will describe how to set up an antique weight driven longcase clock regulated by a pendulum.


It is assumed that you have already chosen a special place for the clock, in the hall, on the landing or in your family room. The clock will be placed against a wall, hopefully where there is sufficient room to prevent knocks by the family traffic.


There will be several parts to the clock, the case, the hood, the movement, the weights and the pendulum. First the case will need to be positioned.


The clock case should be placed flat against the wall. If you have a skirting board, then it will be necessary to place a piece of wood of similar thickness to the skirting board and about two thirds up from the floor to the top of the clock, behind the clock, such that the backboard of the clock rests against the piece of wood that is now wedged between the clock and the wall. It is important to ensure that the clock is stable and does not rock around. It may also be necessary to shim the feet so that all four feet are securely on the floor. In some cases, I would advise screwing the clock to the wall so that it cannot wobble. When positioning the case, it is also important to ensure that the clock stands upright and that the “cheeks” where the movement on its seatboard will sit, is horizontal. Placing a spirit level across the cheeks is a good way to achieve this. A clock that is not secure, wobbles or is free to move can easily stop. This is often a major cause of a clock stopping.


Now set the movement with its wooden seatboard on the cheeks. If it is ment to be screwed down, do this now. Ensure that the lines are tangle free inside the trunk of the clock case. Carefully hang the pendulum by inserting through the trunk door and up behind the movement. The pendulum has a small flat spring at the top with a brass end. This brass end slides through the fork in the movable crutch at the back of the movement and latches into a slot in the back cock from where it is finally hung. Now hang the weights on the hook attached to the line pulleys making sure that the lines remain tangle free and that they are evenly wound around the barrels, without any crossing of the lines. If there are any tangles or line crossings, these must be carefully removed.


All of the components are now in place except the hood. The clock case is firmly in position, the movement is secure and the pendulum and weights are properly positioned. Initially wind the weights about two thirds up.


Now give the pendulum a slight sideways push to start it swinging. Listen to the tick –tock. The tick and the tock should sound evenly spaced, if so the clock is said to be “in beat”. If not, the crutch at the back of the movement will need to be bent sideways to either the right or the left. This is accomplished using both hands – one finger holding the crutch fork and the finger of the other hand pushing slightly on the crutch rod. This may take several attempts to a) find the right direction, then b) find the right amount of bending. The bending will in any case be quite small, usually so small that the actual bending of the crutch rod will not be felt. Eventually however, the tick – tock will be even.


Note, if you can hear that the tick – tock is longest as it goes to the right, bend the crutch to the right.


If the clock ticks evenly but stops, check for obvious things such as the hands catching on each other or the dial, the second hand catching or rubbing on the dial, the lines crossed, or the pendulum rubbing on the backboard. If all else fails, call in a service professional or the seller. Do not try to dismantle the clock or look for problems in the movement.


If you have a weight driven or spring driven wall or bracket clock, the same leveling will be required as will the process of putting the clock into beat.


I would strongly suggest that if you have invested in a good quality antique clock that you buy at least one book on clocks, partly to learn something about them, to learn the terminology and to get alternative descriptions on setting up. It is not necessary to become a specialist, but some knowledge will give you more appreciation of the clock that you have.