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Antique Cuckoo Clocks

"Old World Quality and Craftsmanship©"

These instructions apply to older weight-driven cuckoo clocks and quail & cuckoo clocks that do not have a self-synchronizing feature.  

Prepare the Clock
Hanging the Clock
Unlatch the Cuckoo Door
Winding (pulling up the weights)
Setting the Hands (Cuckoo)
Setting the Hands (Quail and Cuckoo)
Regulating the Time Keeping
Cuckoo Synchronization (Method 1)
Cuckoo Synchronization (Method 2)
Quail and Cuckoo Synchronization
If Clock Does Not Run
Moving The Clock
Three Year Lubrication and Inspection

Prepare the Clock: Open up the back by moving the latch aside and gently prying the top out.  Remove the shipping clips (if any) from the bellows (on top of the whistles that produce the cuckoo sound).  Remove the paper (if any) from the gong.  Reinstall the back and rotate the latch down.

Hanging the Clock: Install a #8 or #10 wood screw in the wall, angled upward at a 45-degree angle.  It should be 6 to 6 1/2 feet above the floor.  The screw must be long enough to be securely fastened into a stud in the wall.  Hang the clock on the screw.  Untwist the wire that is holding the chains and remove it.  Hang the pendulum on the hanger at the bottom of the clock (near the back).  Hang one weight on each hook.  Give the pendulum a gentle push and the clock will start ticking.  Move the bottom of the clock to the left or right until it is ticking evenly.

Unlatch the Cuckoo Door: If the cuckoo door is held closed by a wire latch, move the latch aside. 

Winding (pulling up the weights): Place one of your hands on the clock to steady it, and with your other hand, pull down on the free end of one chain, bringing the weight on the other end up to the bottom of the clock gently.  Do this for each weight.  This needs to be done each day.  For best results, wind the clock at about the same time each day.

Setting the Hands (Cuckoo): Move the minute hand, pausing at each hour and half-hour for the cuckoo call.  Never move the minute hand counterclockwise past 6 or 12.  After setting the hands, pull up the weights if they are down.

Setting the Hands (Quail and Cuckoo): Move the minute hand, pausing at each quarter hour for the quail and cuckoo call.  The quail will call once at quarter past, twice at half-past, three times at quarter before and four times on the hour.  The cuckoo will call on the hour following the quail call.  On some clocks (such as those from the 1940's and 50's), the cuckoo will call after the half-hour quail call, too.  Never move the minute hand counterclockwise past 3, 6, 9, or 12.  After setting, the hands pull up the weights if they are down. 

Regulating the Time Keeping: The clock can be made to go faster or slower by means of the bob (usually a leaf or a disk) on the pendulum.  On some clocks the bob is a friction fit, on others a nut moves it.  Move the bob up to speed up the clock or down to slow it down.  Move it a small amount each time.  Typical accuracy is one to two minutes per day.  Move the minute hand to the correct time when it is wrong by more than several minutes.

Cuckoo Synchronization (Method 1): If the cuckoo calls the wrong hour, pull up the weights, and then proceed as follows.  Open the door on the right side of the clock and push in on the vertical wire.  The cuckoo will call.  Repeat until the cuckoo calls the correct hour or half hour.  Close the door.  Pull up the weight that has descended.

Cuckoo Synchronization (Method 2): If the cuckoo calls the wrong hour, pull up the weights, and then proceed as follows.  Move the minute hand forward to the next hour or half hour.  Repeat this until the cuckoo calls out an hour 2:00 or higher.  Remove the right weight.  Move the minute hand clockwise until the hands point to the hour that the cuckoo just called.  Replace the right weight.  Set the hands to the correct time, pull up the weights and start the clock.

Quail and Cuckoo Synchronization: If the cuckoo or quail call are wrong, pull up the weights, and then proceed as follows.  Open the door on the left side of the clock and push in on the vertical wire.  The quail will call.  Repeat until the quail calls the correct quarter hour.  Close the left door.  Open the door on the right side of the clock and push in on the vertical wire.  The cuckoo will call.  Repeat until the cuckoo calls the correct hour.  Close the right door.  Pull up the weights that have descended.

If Clock Does Not Run: 1) Make sure weights are up.  2) Make sure clock is ticking evenly.  If not, move bottom of clock to left or right until the ticking is even. 3) Make sure pendulum hanger wire is not rubbing on slot in case bottom.  If this is the problem, make sure the clock case is flush against the wall, or shim out the top or bottom of case if necessary. 

Moving The Clock:  Remove the weights and pendulum.  Obtain a thin wire and thread it through each chain where it enters the clock.  Twist the ends of the wire together.  This will prevent the chains from coming off the wheels inside the clock.

Maintenance: As with any precision mechanism, your clock needs periodic maintenance to keep it running reliably and to give it long life.  We recommend the following:

Three Year Lubrication and Inspection: After three years of operation, your  clock should be inspected and lubricated.  We will check the overall condition of the movement, including the mainsprings, dirt deposits on the face of each wheel, and on each pivot, and excessive wear or movement (end-shake) of each wheel arbor.  Assuming each of the foregoing is within operating standards, we will lubricate each pivot and other points of contact using specially formulated clock/watch oil.  We will provide a written evaluation of your clock, our observations and recommendations as to when an overhaul should be completed.

Overhaul: Weight driven clocks need overhauling every 5 to 7 years.  The environment in which the clock is used plays a big role in the interval between overhauls.  As dust gets in the mechanism, the oil becomes an abrasive paste that causes wear.  The longer the clock runs in this condition, the more repair the clock will ultimately require.  Clocks have very strong mainsprings that will run the clock for years after the oil has gone bad, causing severe wear to pivots and pivot holes “bushings”.  If your clock stops and you spray it with oil to make it go again, it will continue to wear badly, because it is still dirty.  Shortcuts like cleaning the movement absent disassembly, even using an ultrasonic cleaner, cannot properly clean pivots, bushings, and mainsprings.  These techniques merely postpone the need for a proper overhaul.  During overhaul, the movement is taken apart and cleaned in a specially formulated ultrasonic solution.  Each component is examined for wear and damage, and checked for correct operation.  The necessary work is carried out including repair to pinions, polishing each pivot, replacement of worn bushings, the mainsprings are replaced (a broken mainspring can easily destroy the movement), the mainspring ratchets and lock mechanism are inspected, and the correct alignment and “meshing” of each gear is confirmed.  Each part is again cleaned; each pivot bushing is then cleaned and polished with a sharpened piece of peg-wood.  The movement is then reassembled and lubricated.  Finally, the movement is put into beat (via an electronic beat analyzer) and any adjustments made.  Your clock is “bench tested” for a minimum of two days and regulated for correct timekeeping, then assembled into its case and allowed to run for a minimum of one week.  A written evaluation of the movement, of each observation and any corrective action taken is provided.  This evaluation should be kept with the clock, as it will provide valuable maintenance history for the next repair facility and enhance its value for sale.

A properly maintained clock will, quite literally, run forever.  Each year our facility services many clocks two and even three hundred years of age.

Don’t forget that BSR Group offers complete case/cabinet restoration services.