Cuckoo Clock Gong Coil - Fix Shape and Position

Mick Mickle

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Dec 17, 2020
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I would appreciate some experienced tips on how to re-bend this wire-coil gong to get the loops on the same plane about 1/4" to 1/2" from the backboard. (BTW, while attached to the backboard. I want to keep the original coil, and it appears to be permanently mounted.)

My initial problem was that the coil was too far from the backboard, touching the bellows pipes. So naturally, the gong didn't resonate properly.

I've spent hours spinning my wheels with this, and I seem to wind up with a distorted Slinky that's no closer to the board than about 3/4" each time. I've read through many threads about wire-coil gongs here, including advice on how close the resting hammer should be to the coil and how to fine tune that relationship, but I haven't noticed much detail on correcting the shape or overall position of the coil.

I've tried threading the wire loops carefully around the corners to the other side of the board and giving a little pull away from the board to flex the springy wire in that direction so it would be closer to the board when threaded back to the front. That procedure didn't solve the problem, though. I think the answer is probably to apply certain bends to the wire after the hammer's horizontal strike zone. I've tried that but just can't get it right. I can put tension in the right places on the loops to get them separated so they don't touch each other and they're in the same plane, as shown in the photos, but I haven't been able to get that plane both parallel and close to the board. Before I ruin the integrity of the wire by repeated bending, I thought I should ask for advice. Thanks for your help.

(In these photos from different angles, the blue painter's tape has an ink mark to gauge about where the hammer is. And the toothpick has a mark at the current wire position for depth of the hammer from the board. The strike zone of the gong wire is about in the right position now, but the plane of the coil is slanted. Sorry about the wire shadows - can make the photo look a little confusing.)

20210204_223406.jpg
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chimeclockfan

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These cuckoo clock wire gongs were never very intricate for sound quality, even on the older ones. It's just a 'Bang, cuckoo!' sound, nothing so intricate like a set of musical chime rods or chiming coils which are a much harder task to do nowadays. Bending the coil around will likely cause it to fracture or become so weakened it will simply bend back before fracturing.

Finding and transplanting a new wire cuckoo gong is the way to go.

These flimsy wire gongs were traditionally known as 'tonfeder' as to not confuse with the more intricate coil gongs which were mounted onto pedestals.
 
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shutterbug

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Here are some you can consider buying. Choose the size that matches what you have. But if you really want to salvage the original, look for youtube videos on straightening hair springs. The techniques used there are very close to what you need to do to salvage the gong.
 
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Mick Mickle

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Dec 17, 2020
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Thanks, chimeclockfan and shutterbug. Yeah, I understand that the term "gong" makes it seem like the cuckoo clock wire would be much more melodious than it is or can be. (I won't be trying to tune it to 440 Hz, as discussed in one thread from years ago.) I'm posting some photos that might help someone in the future (maybe too many, but enjoy). Some folks here probably have better and easier ways, but here's my amateur contribution.

Although I was concerned that I could break the wire, I was careful to make only gradual bends. And I sensed as I worked with it that I could have safely done quite a bit more bending. But, I was especially careful not to apply much stress to the point at which the coil was solidly attached to the backboard, since that point seemed to be the most vulnerable. In fact, I "reset" the coil in a plane closer to the backboard several times by carefully working the wire over the corners to the back and stretching it slightly in that direction. Then I threaded the wire back to the front. I don't recommend the procedure, but my gong wire wasn't harmed by the procedure. (I also wedged a rubber eraser in the hammer strike zone to maintain the approximately correct distance from the backboard.) This "reset" did get the coil closer to the backboard, but it also spread the coil wider with the wire loops misaligned in different planes and some loops overlapping and touching. Tediously and tenaciously working the wire inch-by-inch by hand, as described below, was still needed, and I think that would have worked by itself.

Too far away from backboard - vibrates against other parts:
20210205_182018.jpg

Would have worked if it wasn't further away on the other side:
20210205_182716.jpg

Nope:
20210205_184408.jpg

Nope:
20210205_185334.jpg

Correct position for hammer strike:

20210205_185424.jpg

Just the right size eraser:
20210205_195550.jpg

Coil threaded around corners to other side. The wire is strong enough, but technique is not recommended:
20210205_200209.jpg

Nope:
20210307_214736.jpg

Nope:
20210207_004849.jpg

Nope:
20210307_232306.jpg

shutterbug, thanks for the link to the replacement gongs. They're very reasonably priced. But my inner self needed to salvage the original. And, I figured the worst case was that if I ruined the original, I could fallback to a replacement. So I studied a few videos for straightening those tiny hair springs, as you suggested. There's helpful instruction for both bent and twisted hair springs.

The first thing I originally tried that didn't work - and led to my original post - was simply bending the whole wire coil at some point close to the center (beyond the hammer strike zone). It would seem that one could move the coil into the right position by doing that. Instead, each try inevitable pulled the coil further from the backboard and otherwise messed it up.

Using tools didn't work well for me, either. Since the jewelers on YouTube fixed hair springs using two tweezers, I covered the jaws of a couple of vise grips with a few layers of electrical tape and experimented in a some areas of the wire coil. After many test bends and do-overs, I decided that technique was more difficult to control and less effective than shaping the coil by hand. (I didn't bother to try smaller pliers.)

Cumbersome, to say the least:
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What worked best for me was to make slight bend corrections by hand in very short sections of 1" to 2", firmly holding both points of each section and bending the outermost point (with respect to the outer end of the coil) toward the backboard. (Nitrile gloves are a plus, since the wire is hard on the fingers.) If the coil has spread too wide, bend the outermost point off the small section also toward the middle. This will narrow the distance between the coils. When (not "if") the coil plane twists out of parallel alignment to the backboard, the next 1" to 2" section should also be bent at a slight angle to bring the coil parallel again. It was very time consuming, starting just outside the hammer strike zone and working all the way around the coil to the outside end. I've got to say that by the time you've massaged every inch of the coil, it becomes relatively easy to fine tune the sections or loops of wire that aren't lined up right.

Inch-by-inch - Hold wire closest to the backboard mount stationary; apply bending tension to wire closest to outer end:
20210307_230741.jpg

The gong is now close enough to the backboard and loops aligned in the same plane so that it vibrates freely without touching anything. The improvement results in it going from "clank", "clatter", or "clunk", depending on my previous tries to shape and position the coil, to a satisfyingly long, resonating "clang".

Aligned parallel and close to the backboard:
20210307_232247.jpg

20210212_151059_1.gif
 
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shutterbug

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Thanks for the description. I'm sure it will help others with the same issue. I'm happy for your success! :thumb:
 
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