Servicing your own clocks

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by Uhralt, Jul 6, 2017.

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  1. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    I have about 50 clocks in my collection. I realized, if I would service my clocks as preventive care every 5 years, I would have to do 10 of my clocks a year, roughly one every month. I do much less.

    I service my clocks whenever I see a problem: The clock stopped. The clock suddenly loses or gains time of more than a few minutes per week. A dramatically decreased pendulum amplitude. The spring has a stiff feeling when I wind it or makes noises when winding.

    Rarely I experience a problem with the strike side, but very occasionally a clock would start striking the wrong number of strikes or wouldn't strike at all.

    I never kept a diary of when I last serviced my own clocks. What do you do?

    Uhralt
     
  2. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User
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    I do keep a spreadsheet record that shows how long since last service. I have several that I have stopped running, although they will run just fine, because they ar e due for, service.

    RC
     
  3. novicetimekeeper

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    I don't service clocks myself, but I will attempt to attend to any problems that might arise if I can.

    If one of my less important longcase stops and I can't fix it I replace it with another clock as I have plenty that are not currently installed and not running.

    The cost of servicing means that usually it would be cheaper to buy another clock, but most of my main collection has all been relatively recently restored as I get through sending them off. In ten years time there are going to be quite a few coming up for service!
     
  4. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    my clock mentor says to let them run until they let you know that they need attention ...
     
  5. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    That could mean additional expense, I think the theory is that a clean and relube every ten years, plus a change of gut lines, is a sensible precautionary approach.

    They made it to three centuries with very little maintenance but I'd like to think they could make it a few more.
     
  6. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User
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    That's an interesting recommendation and I agree with the last part.... sort of. They will let you know that they need attention, or more precisely, they will 'let you know' when they are in pain from lack of maintenance. Unfortunately too many people follow that philosophy. By the time there is a noticeable loss of performance, especially in the case of over powered American spring wound clocks, wear is already occurring at an exponentially greater rate. There appears to be no universally accepted maintenance period that's right for every clock and every situation, but 10 years seems excessive to me.

    What's best for the clock, and what may be the most economical for the clock owner over a lifetime may be two different things. A clean well oiled clock is a happy clock, but if one has to pay a couple hundred bucks to have a clock cleaned and oiled every year at today's shop rates on could invest a fortune in an old clock. Perhaps the modern clock makers producing movements that have an expected useful life of maybe 25 years have the right idea - run it until it stops and replace. Of course those of use who want to prolong the life of our cherished antique clocks will want to care for them as best we can. And I believe that includes oiling and periodic cleanings before the clock stops working properly.

    The photo is from one of my Sessions mantel clocks from the 1930's. Note that this manufacturer specifies that the clock should be oiled once a year. The construction of this movement is typical of American mantel clocks. One can argue that modern oils may last longer - that is the oil may last longer but no guarantee the oil will stay in place longer, especially is worn pivot holes. I'm afraid I don't oil this clock every year, but perhaps I get to it every 3 or 4 years. The one thing I feel sure of is that by the time our clocks "let us know" that they need service, it's been too long.

    RC
     
  7. Andy Dervan

    Andy Dervan Registered User
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    Hello Uhalt,

    A clock's servicing interval depends upon type of clock and its condition.

    Weight driven clocks in well sealed case in modern heated/ac home might only require minor servicing (oiling) 5- 7 years and good cleaning after 15 years particularly if they were properly serviced initially by a competent repair person.

    Time and strike spring spring driven clocks may require more servicing as springs cause more wear particularly on strike side, so complete overhaul and bushings may be required - again how robustly were the movements made. Late 19th century American movements generally are very thin and wear more easily. A good initial overhaul correcting issues, a good cleaning and oiling is best protection and should increase time required for next servicing.

    We have a number of 9 bell Seth Thomas Sonora Chime clocks and they require servicing every 3-4 for a variety of reasons - I refer to them as Italian race cars always in the shop for repair.

    Andy Dervan
     
  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    10 years seems to be pretty widely accepted here for longcase, would have been sooner before synthetic oils. I've seen the same advised for dial clocks and bracket clocks.
     
  9. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    I just replace the batteries once a year.

    M Kinsler

    hee hee hee hee
     
  10. djstucker

    djstucker Registered User
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    Anytime I overhaul or clean a movement, I use my label maker to note the date, , what work was performed, and BPH. I stick this inside the case somewhere so that I never lose the record.
     
  11. moe1942

    moe1942 Registered User

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    That's my method too...
     
  12. moe1942

    moe1942 Registered User

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    I agree.
     
  13. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User
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    Assuming that's your bike in your avatar, do you also wait until it loses 500 rpm when you rev it, or until starts to smoke or misfire, or otherwise 'lets you know it needs attention' before performing the manufacturer's maintenance schedule?

    RC
     
  14. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    So, what is recommended? Tear down and clean the movement, polishing the pivots and burnishing the holes? Or just put oil in the pivots, as Howard Miller recommends in the puzzling booklet that comes with each of its grandfather clocks? Or just oil the easily accessible pivots, which is what seems to have been done by the locals (now departed) after elaborately assuring the owner that only they possess the magic synthetic oil? Do we or do we not oil previously-oiled pivots?

    Clock maintenance should probably not be compared to that for motor vehicles. Manufacturers maintenance recommendations aside, clocks are all alike, with their low speeds, low loads, fanciful gear-tooth profiles and plain bearings that rattle.

    Clock oil takes years to evaporate. Does it need to be changed like your engine oil, which is subject to very high temperatures and continually contaminated by the products of combustion? The gear wheels in your car's transmission have teeth cut such that they retain rolling contact even when distorted by the extreme loads of acceleration. Do we do this with clock wheels? Nor have I ever seen a clock with a burned-out or spun bearing. Nor a seized bearing, if memory serves.

    M Kinsler
     
  15. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I have an 18th century waywiser with helical gears, but I agree, I haven't seen them in a clock.

    As you say, clock gears move very slowly, and apart from the great wheels under very small loads. Also there is no combustion process adding waste products to the oil.
     
  16. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    I guess i am from the old school, i prefer to repair before the repairs get too extensive. Like the old Fram oil filter commercials. You can pay me now, or pay me later :)
     
  17. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User
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    If the clock is not running and/or is unknown to me then I want it to come apart and be cleaned, pivots inspected etc before oiling. If the clock is one of mine or one I have previously serviced I may just oil it IF there is no "pivot poop" and the movement looks clean inside (no dust accumulation etc). I would no recommend just oiling the accessible pivots. Especially for modern clocks, follow the maker's instructions. The oils of yesterday turn to goo sooner than modern oil so it is probably ok to cheat a bit on vintage instructions and older texts.

    RC
     
  18. zedric

    zedric Registered User
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    There is a series of skeleton clocks using helical gearing, the name MacDowall being associated with them. There is a photo of one here http://www.my-time-machines.net/macdowall_detail.htm and others can be found on the net. As explained in the text below the linked image, it would appear these clocks were made this way simply because they looked different (and in the format of skeleton clocks this can be seen and appreciated), rather than for any performance reasons....
     
  19. R&A

    R&A Registered User

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    I don't run the ones I restore for my collection
     
  20. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I don't have them all running, only 8 at the moment.
     
  21. woodlawndon

    woodlawndon Registered User

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    An interesting thread. As I begin to acquire more clocks all the time, I am going to start a log book with a description, my best assessment of it's age/history and maintenance of each one to help me with the cycle. Another purpose of the log book could be a type of roadmap of each clock's history so that when I pass and they end up with family members, they will have an idea of each clock's history. Thanks for the suggestion.
     
  22. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    it might be the web equivalent of 'when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail', but as a web guy i've created a folder on my computer called 'clocks'... with one folder for each of my clocks, named appropriately and containing original seller images, my photos after cleaning/servicing, info (pdfs from nawcc, etc.) and notes about each one... all in one handy location.

    another advantage is that while i didn't follow in my father's footsteps and become a doctor, i did inherit his handwriting... my executors will thank me for doing this task on the 'puter instead of leaving a written log! :cool:

    and, of course, backups of the info are part of my regular off-site backups... which means there are multiple copies out there, just in case.
     
  23. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I should do this, otherwise I'm going to leave a lot of complications behind. When a clock is not together I do write on all parts with a marker the maker of the clock.
     
  24. woodlawndon

    woodlawndon Registered User

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    Touche, you're right, computerizing would be better. I could absolutely do that, but I do know myself and I wouldn't have as robust a back-up system as you. I might originally but I bet in 20 years when it would have to be found, it wouldn't be. My old job involved using handwritten logbooks for as long as I can remember so it won't be onerous. And having relatives review the yellowing pages with my scratchings might be fun for them, wine stains and all ;)
     
  25. shutterbug

    shutterbug Super Moderator
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    Am I the only one who keeps his computer password private? I don't want my family digging around in my files when I'm gone. I like the pamphlet idea.
     
  26. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    sb -

    my devices are all password-protected... but as a webmaster, i have information that many of my clients will have lost. if/when i go, it would probably be nice of me to leave my executors my password, just in case... they're already going to get my clocks so i can't be any more upset about the turn of events. :cool:

    but... i do have a few password-protected disks/folders/apps that will disappear when i do.
     
  27. shutterbug

    shutterbug Super Moderator
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    LOL - so you get it. I have an encrypted, password protected area on my hard drive that I can store stuff in. That will be the place for the stuff I don't want prying eyes to find, I guess.
     
  28. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I clearly live a very sheltered and boring life, I don't have a need for such a secret folder :(
     
  29. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    I am toying with the idea of making my personal clock "database" website more open to other users (on their own link for their own clocks), even users with limited computer skills. But if you can post here, you could post your clocks and info, so not that onerous.

    www.rovdoc.com/clocks

    I also have hidden information regarding the prices I paid and received and for parts costs, both itemized and totals. So it is sort of my complete clock database other than the drawings I make of the movements when servicing (which I could scan and post if I ever got around to that). It's also nice for sharing your clocks with others.

    If interested, reply or PM me. I'm not selling anything, just trying to gauge interest, and I like developing web applications when I'm not working on clocks.

    Nick - I would offer you a secret code name just so you don't feel left out.

    Tom
     
  30. Time After Time

    Time After Time Registered User
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    Tom,
    You've been busy on "Craig's List" haven't you?
    Nice collection you've started there.
    Keep having fun!
    Bruce
     
  31. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    Thanks. Yes, CL, Merritt's, and a few local antique shops, all when the price is right. Often, the price isn't right... but it's fun to look. :) I'm beginning to focus on certain styles, which could change the buying habits to auctions since all of the above are hit or miss for that. Not sure if my budget manager will approve... :(

    Tom
     
  32. Time After Time

    Time After Time Registered User
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    Tom,
    Definitely a wise way to dive in the way you have. As I recall, you were challenging yourself early with clocks needing a lot of TLC and acquired at very low prices. Now, you're much better positioned to focus on finding good examples of preferred styles at fair prices. Have fun collecting. I organize my collection using an Excel Spreadsheet with linked image files. I like your web-based solution approach though.
    Regards,
    Bruce
     
  33. shutterbug

    shutterbug Super Moderator
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    In case of a house fire, an off site record is sure helpful. You just never know.
     
  34. Time After Time

    Time After Time Registered User
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    That's true. I do have an offsite backup of the files....SugarSync....better make sure it's "Sync'ed" though. :)
     
  35. shutterbug

    shutterbug Super Moderator
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    The other issue is that you have to provide a "replacement value" to the insurance company, and it has to be verifiable. In their eyes, a clock is a clock. It's a pain ... and you can only hope for about 50% return on your losses. I had that unpleasant experience about 10 or 15 years ago!
     
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