How to Oil Windup Clocks

Unlike modern clocks with jewelled movements, antique windup clocks use steel pivots against brass bearing points to minimise friction between dissimilar metals. However, these pivot points dry out over time and need to be oiled periodically. Since clock oil is held in place by surface tension, if too much oil is applied, gravity breaks the surface tension, allowing the oil to drain away. If you apply proper techniques and have a special clock oiling kit, you can service your own clock without taking it to a clockmaker.

Remove the clock hands by lifting them off from underneath with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Undo the nuts holding the attaching clamps with the same pliers. Withdraw the clock movement from the case and lay it on a clean work surface.

Locate the small countersunk holes on the rear plate holding all the gears inside the movement; these are known as "oil sinks." Carefully insert the tip of the applicator provided in the clock oiling kit into one of the oil sinks. Apply a single drop of oil into the hole. Lubricate the rest of the oil sinks on the rear plate the same way.

Turn the clock over and lubricate all the visible oil sinks on the front plate with the same technique.

Insert the tip of the applicator into the centre of the movement between the two outer plates. Lubricate the end of the centre wheel and minute-hand shaft with a single drop of oil.

Place a single drop of oil each on the ratcheted escape wheel and on the two escape levers activates by the post on the side of the hairspring wheel.

Lubricate the oil sinks on all posts protruding from the front plate with a single drop of oil. Insert two drop of oil into each of the large holes used for winding the clock.

Insert the movement back into the case and slide the front plate between the holding clamps. Tighten the clamp nuts with the needle-nose pliers.

Hold the minute hand with a pair of tweezers and position it over the minute-hand shaft protruding through the dial. Gently press down on each side of the minute hand flange with the tips of the pliers; ensure the hand points to the 12 o'clock position while doing so. Re-attach the hour hand the same way, and ensure it points precisely toward the 6 o'clock position.

Set the hands to the correct time. Insert the key and wind up the clock to complete the servicing procedure.

Things You'll Need

  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Clock oiling kit
  • Tweezers
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About the Author

After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand and qualifying as an aircraft engineer, Ian Kelly joined a Kitchen remodeling company and qualified as a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD). Kelly then established an organization specializing in home improvement, including repair and maintenance of household appliances, garden equipment and lawn mowers.