How to operate a non-working grandmother clock

Written by linda stamberger
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How to operate a non-working grandmother clock
Wooden Grandmother clock with ornate brass design. (mini grandfather image by GiGiZ from

Grandmother clocks are like Grandfather clocks, only they are smaller and more aesthetically feminine in design. Grandmother clocks are made of various types of wood, like walnut, birch, cedar and maple. Grandmother clocks sometimes have the look of traditional Grandfather clocks, although some have an hourglass shape. Most Grandfather clocks are free standing from the floor up, while some Grandmother clocks are small enough to be placed on a table in the same manner as a mantle clock. The inner working mechanisms of Grandmother clocks are the same as Grandfather clocks.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Small flat head screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Check that the pendulum is not hitting against the weights within the clock. Make sure the weights within the clock are in their proper place. One weight should go left, one right, and the other centre. Give the pendulum a full swing and see if it swings easily once the weights and chimes are in their proper place.

  2. 2

    Remove the pendulum if it seems stuck and then reattach it. Make sure that the verge pin is in its proper place when guiding the pendulum back in place. The verge pin should be located in the slots of the pendulum guide.

  3. 3

    Look inside the clock at the inner mechanisms to access what the problem might be if the clock parts are in working order on the outside. Take a flat head screwdriver and gently open the back of the clock to look inside. See if the spring mechanism is functioning.

  4. 4

    Remove the spring. Oil the ends and pivots within the clock, being careful not to overuse the oil. Most antique Grandmother clocks need to be oiled once every 3 years. Lack of oiling can contribute to the spring and inner mechanisms not functioning correctly. Reattach the spring and see if the clock works. Replace the spring with a new one, if necessary.

  5. 5

    Check the suspension spring if there is one in the clock. A suspension spring should be straight. Straighten the suspension spring if it is crooked. Loosen the thumb screw first and then straighten the suspension spring. Re-tighten the thumb screw. Use a small screwdriver to do this.

  6. 6

    Examine the hands of the clock to see if they operate without interference. Never let the hour hand---which is the larger hand---hit the second hand. Pull the second hand out gently if it is rubbing against the dial. Push the hour hand closer to the dial only if the hour hand is rubbing against the minute hand. If stuck together, the hands may not rotate properly around the dial, so that should be checked.

  7. 7

    Wind the clock after the hands are fixed. Do not overwind the clock. The clock should only be wound one time. Do not go past the 12 with the big hand. Listen for a chime or the clock strike while slowly rotating the hand counterclockwise.

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