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How to set the calendar dial of your clock
How to set the moon dial on your clock

 

How to assemble and set up your pendulum clock

To set up a long-case 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 leveled 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 leveling, as all clocks have a flat surface there - the lowest projecting molding 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 seat board 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, and 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.

How to set the calendar dial of your clock

Many antique clocks have a calendar feature to show the current monthly date. This may be in the form of a small square box in the dial with a number showing through it, or a small crescent-shaped cutout in the dial showing the actual day plus a day or two each side of it, or a pointer. On most clocks the calendar is positioned just above the VI hour numeral. The manner of re-setting the date is the same, whichever form of calendar it has. It is not necessary to wind the main clock hands forward for days on end to re-set the calendar; in fact this is positively unwise.

Calendars are moved on by one full unit per day, but with some clocks (principally thirty-hour clocks) this may take the form of being moved half a turn twice a day. In other words the calendar changes by being moved one full unit every twenty-four hours, or one half units every twelve hours. The calendar is 'in drive' (i.e. actually turning) for a period of three hours or so a day on a twenty-four-hour-changing calendar, and during this time it cannot be re-set. In the case of a twelve-hourly-changing calendar, it is 'in drive' during a period of three hours or so twice a day, and cannot be moved when 'in drive'.

The calendar, whether shown by a pointer or a disc, can be moved in the direction of ascending numbers when not in drive - this is usually clockwise but not always. Many calendars have a ratchet to stop them being moved backwards, and it is always safest to try to move them in order of ascending numbers. If the hand (or disc) refuses to move, let the clock run on for two or three hours more, and try again, as it should then be free to move. A pointer can be moved from the front, as with any clock hand. A disc calendar is better moved by sliding it from behind the dial.

It is not necessary to stop the clock from running when changing the calendar setting.

If the calendar does not progress as the clock runs, then the calendar drive is probably damaged or missing, and needs the attention of a restorer.

How to set the moon dial on your clock

Some clocks have a dial to show the phases and age of the moon. There are several types of moon dial, the commonest being what is called a 'rolling' moon, which is a disc set on the very top of a clock dial, called the arch. The moon dial is designed to show the shape of the moon as it appears in the sky, the number alongside it being the lunar date. This is not the same thing at all as the calendar date. A lunar month has consistently twenty nine and a half days in every month and these are usually lettered in Arabic (English) numerals. Some moon dials also incorporate a tidal dial showing high water times at a certain port, sometimes several ports at once. Tide times are normally lettered in Roman numerals.

The current lunar date can be established by reference to a calendar or diary - many show a white circle to mean a full moon and a black circle to mean a new moon (i.e. no moon). Look up the last nearest full or new moon setting and add the number of days since then to ascertain today's correct lunar date. Once set, the moon dial stays accurate for the year, and does not need constant re-setting as a calendar dial does.

The disc of a rolling moon turns clockwise; most will not allow turning anti-clockwise. It will probably be 'in drive' (i.e. changing) during a period of about three hours in every twelve, and cannot be re-set when in drive. At other times the moon disc will be free to turn clockwise until the appropriate lunar date is showing. Most moon dials have a ratchet to prevent the dial slipping back again. This will be visible behind the dial, usually at the top. If re-setting the moon dial, be careful not to inadvertently disengage the ratchet.

If the moon does not progress as the clock runs, then the moon drive mechanism is probably faulty or lacking, and needs the attention of a restorer.

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