Cuckoo Clock preventive maintenance / oiling frequency

Schatz70

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I bought an eight day cuckoo over thirty years ago and it has been in service maybe ten years out of the thirty and in storage for something like 20 years. When I initially got it it ran for several years then stopped then I had it fixed and it ran for several more years then it stopped then I put it in storage for 20 years then July 2017 I pulled it out and had it fixed again and it has been running happily for a little over two years now. I'm going to guess that my experience is common, but that people who know more about clocks don't run a clock until failure and instead at least put some oil on it before it stops.

My question is, if I want to keep this clock running continuously for another twenty or thirty years, what do I do and on what schedule? At this point I've taken apart and put back together an 8 day movement on a different clock, so I'm comfortable taking the movement out of the case. It seems strange to take the movement out of the case for a clock that is running fine, but I guess people do that and you have to to access the pivot holes on the front plate to oil it. In this situation, do you just oil it, or do you do some cleaning while you're at it, and if so, how far do you go with cleaning it? Taking the plates apart seems like total overkill for a clock that is running fine.
 

POWERSTROKE

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I’m interested In the answers to these questions as well. Can the movement be oiled in the case? If I was shown how to do it, I would be comfortable doing that to prevent failure.
 

Schatz70

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I’m interested In the answers to these questions as well. Can the movement be oiled in the case? If I was shown how to do it, I would be comfortable doing that to prevent failure.
I don't think you can oil it in the case. The pivot holes on the front plate are difficult to get at even with the movement out of the case because there are levers in the way that you have to work around.
 

shutterbug

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Personally, I'm a "run it still it stops" kind of guy, and I do not recommend occasional oiling to my customers. There are several reasons for this stand, but the most important are:
1 Oil loosens accumulated dirt and turns it into a virtual file that increases wear
2 Oil masks wear in the movement, allowing it to become worse before stopping the clock.

I believe the modern synthetic oils are pretty trustworthy. You oil the movement after servicing it, and let it do it's job until it can't. I get movements all the time that have run over 50 years with no interaction at all from humans. I'm certain that others will take the other side of this argument too, so you'll ultimately do what you decide to do, and deal with whatever consequences come. ;)
 
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Schatz70

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Personally, I'm a "run it still it stops" kind of guy, and I do not recommend occasional oiling to my customers. There are several reasons for this stand, but the most important are:
1
You're leaving us hanging. My guess is that your reason is something along the lines of if you just oil it while not addressing the dirt that has built up it will keep it running at the cost of more wear on the movement from the dirt.
 

POWERSTROKE

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I have believe in the run it until it stops as well too. If you aren’t going to disassemble and clean the whole thing, oiling it just makes the dirt into a sandpaper. Think a bicycle chain. If you scrub it down and then lightly re-oil it, all is good. If you oil a dirty chain, it makes a huge mess and actually does grind it down.
 
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Schatz70

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I believe the modern synthetic oils are pretty trustworthy. You oil the movement after servicing it, and let it do it's job until it can't. I get movements all the time that have run over 50 years with no interaction at all from humans. I'm certain that others will take the other side of this argument too, so you'll ultimately do what you decide to do, and deal with whatever consequences come. ;)
I'll bet the ones that run for fifty years with no service have cases that allow in no air or almost no air. With a cuckoo clock you have big holes in the case allowing in dirt and dust and you have chains dragging dust through the movement. What is the longest a cuckoo clock will run after being serviced?
 

POWERSTROKE

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I have one cuckoo clock that is 15 years old. It’s not been run often. It’s been hanging on my wall since new though. I looked at the movement the other day and quite frankly, it’s pretty damned clean.

E18D8E2C-98EE-46CE-8A7D-0957FF5A6019.jpeg
 

Schatz70

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I have one cuckoo clock that is 15 years old. It’s not been run often. It’s been hanging on my wall since new though. I looked at the movement the other day and quite frankly, it’s pretty damned clean.

View attachment 554519
That does look very clean. I like how the star wheel on it is mounted outside the plates - I'll betcha it's adjustable easily with that little brass piece in the center.
 

shutterbug

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You're leaving us hanging. My guess is that your reason is something along the lines of if you just oil it while not addressing the dirt that has built up it will keep it running at the cost of more wear on the movement from the dirt.
Correct.
 
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Willie X

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I agree with Schatz.

For me the schedule for all clocks is simple and the same. Cocks need to be inspected and the oil topped up every 3 to 5 years. Overhaul as necessary. The time for an overhaul can vary a lot but a general expectation would be between 10 and 20 years.

WIllie X
 

Schatz70

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I agree with Schatz.

For me the schedule for all clocks is simple and the same. Cocks need to be inspected and the oil topped up every 3 to 5 years. Overhaul as necessary. The time for an overhaul can vary a lot but a general expectation would be between 10 and 20 years.

WIllie X
When you are topping up the oil, would you do any cleaning, say by swishing the assembled movement in a bucket of soapy water or putting it in an ultrasonic cleaner? I'm guessing that by overhaul you mean taking apart the movement.
 

R. Croswell

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I agree with Willie - oil every 3 to 5 years, disassemble and clean and overhaul as required every 10 to 20 years, or whenever oiling does not restore proper operation, or when there is visible "black stuff (pivot poop) around any pivot hole, or when there is accumulated dust and dirt. The service interval can vary considerably depending on the environment where the clock lives. I do not believe that a visibly dirty clock should be oiled without cleaning first, regardless of the time interval.

Run it until it stops, in my opinion, is only advisable for some modern clocks where the cost over time to have the clock serviced regularly exceeds the cost to just replace the movement after 25 to 30 years.

Never swish the assembled movement in a bucket of soapy water or putting it in an ultrasonic cleaner

RC
 
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Willie X

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I might peg something here and there but mainly just inspect and top up the oil. It takes very little oil to do this.

I was speaking of all clocks. For cuckoos and modern clocks, I would lean in the direction of bugs. It's gona stop soon enough and pivot poop indicates a take apart service, or 'ovethaul', or replacement, will be needed.

I've seen old Vienna wall clocks that are dry as a bone but still running good with no residue around any pivots. If the inspection doesnt indicate any wear (or wear products) thats right, I top up the oil and let'em run.

WIllie X
 
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R. Croswell

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.......
I've seen old Vienna wall clocks that are dry as a bone but still running good with no residue around any pivots. If the inspection doesnt indicate any wear (or wear products) thats right, I top up the oil and let'em run.

WIllie X
Yes, I believe that applies mostly to clocks that begin life with very hard and highly polished pivots.

RC
 

JimmyOz

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That does look very clean. I like how the star wheel on it is mounted outside the plates - I'll betcha it's adjustable easily with that little brass piece in the center.
It used to be, it was attached with a small screw, however they now pressure fit these and it is hard to get them off without bending the pivot.

As for the one day cuckoo clocks, and oiling, I would just run it till it stops, the cost of a new movement is less than the cost of having someone to work on it. They are not made to last as older clocks were and when these come into the shop for a service (ha ha code for stuffed) I just put a new movement in it as it takes about 20 minutes to change it over. I would throw out about 250 of these movements per year.

The more expensive cuckoo clocks with music and other things going on do need to be serviced though and the shop informs the buyer to have it done every 7 years or so, not many people do this and I see them when they have stopped working or their code "service"

If you are doing it as a hobby, servicing, bushing, working out what is wrong and fixing it is all part of the fun so then you would do it.
 
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Willie X

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That change, to the pressed on star/spider wheel hub, dates the clock to post 1976.
WIllie X
 
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kinsler33

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But:

We don't know how long a, say, otherwise undisturbed Regula model 25 cuckoo movement will run before it stops,
nor do we typically ever learn just what made it stop .

Synthetic oil doesn't turn to gum, or at least I don't think it does. Nor does it evaporate. (Car engine oil burns off and/or leaks out.) So why would anyone need to 'top off' a clock movement?


M Kinsler
 

R. Croswell

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........Synthetic oil doesn't turn to gum, or at least I don't think it does. Nor does it evaporate. (Car engine oil burns off and/or leaks out.) So why would anyone need to 'top off' a clock movement?

M Kinsler
That's a very interesting question and I don't have a proven answer but here are some thoughts. First, we assume that capillary action is a major factor that keeps oil in place and we are looking for factors that may take several years to make a difference. I suspect that "migration" over long periods of time is one factor. Anything that would diminish the surface tension of the oil (atmospheric contamination, dust, additives added to engine oils - detergents if you will, etc.) would encourage migration. The Vapor Pressure for Mobil-1 0W-20 is given as: < 0.013 kPa (0.1 mm Hg) at 20 °C [Estimated], which is not zero, and the Evaporation Rate (n-butyl acetate = 1): N/D. Even though the evaporation rate is apparently not determined, if the vapor pressure is greater than zero then over an extended period of time some evaporation would take place. Then there is absorption of oil by dust that that might wick oil away from the pivots and turn it into a non fluid mass. In a badly worn movement the conditions for retention by capillary action are poor so some of the oil may just run out and the oil film left would eventually migrate and disburse.

From a practical standpoint, just as one periodically checks the oil level in one's car engine, adds oil only if needed, and changes contaminated oil after long period of use, I believe that after three years one should "take a look". If the pivots are dry then 'top off' with fresh oil. Doesn't really matter what happened to it, if the oil is gone that's all the reason neds to 'top off'. If the movement is obviously dirty then its time for an 'oil change' is what I think.

RC

Material Safety Data Sheet: http://www.jbco.com/_SDS/Mobil 1 0W-20.pdf
 
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