How do I start a grandfather clock?

Updated February 21, 2017

The sound of a grandfather clock can bring a nostalgic feeling of 19th-century living right into your living room. Grandfather clocks were originally called long case or floor clocks until American songwriter Henry Work composed the tune, "My Grandfathers Clock," referring to an old floor clock at the George Hotel in Piercebridge, North Yorkshire, in 1875. Grandfather clocks operate the same way today, via counterweights and a moving pendulum, and do not require a battery. To start the clock and have it run efficiently, you'll have to follow a few rules of thumb pertaining to grandfather clock operations.

Place a level on top of the grandfather clock and ensure that the clock is standing on level ground. If not, place a piece of cardboard or a cutting of carpet under the base until you get a level reading. A grandfather clock that is not level will not operate properly.

Move the clock hands to the appropriate time. Only move the minute hand in a counterclockwise direction until you've reached the correct time. Open the door to access the pendulum if applicable. Some grandfather clock models may not have a door.

Push the pendulum to all the way toward the left, then release the pendulum and let it swing.

Observe the pendulum swinging for a minute or two until the pendulum settles into a natural right-to-left swinging motion. Let the clock run for at least 24 hours, then cross-reference the grandfather clock's time with that of a reliable clock, cell phone or watch. If the clock has lost time or sped up, consult your owner's manual to learn how to calibrate your clock, as all models will vary slightly in calibration.


Refer to your specific grandfather clock maintenance guide or owner's manual to ensure that your clock operates efficiently throughout its life of use.


Don't move the clock around your home while the clock is running. Always stop the clock before moving. This can damage the gears and cause the clock to stop operating properly.

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