by | Nov 26, 2019

I get many emails and phone calls every day from folks all over with questions they have about their cuckoo clock. I like helping people and I know that when I help someone fix something simple on their cuckoo clock that I won't profit from it but that is just fine by me. Its not all about money sometimes. I believe if you help someone by giving advice or aid, be it cuckoo clocks or changing a flat tire, the benefits will come back many fold in many different ways.

Some of my most frequently asked questions are:

Papa how do I set the correct time? My clock strikes before or after the hour? It strikes 4 times on the half hour and once on the hour, and the time is not set right, and the hour hand is wrong?

Here we go. Assume your clock is striking correctly and your clock’s hands are wrong. At least 90% of all cuckoo clock minute hands have a large round hole in the center of them that fits over a brass bushing which fits to the minute shaft and is held in place by a washer and nut. If you get the hand off and it has a square hole in it just remove the hand and replace it at the next quarter or half hour that would be correct for the clock’s last hour strike. For the majority of cuckoo clock’s that do have the large round hole in their minute hands here is what you do. All the real adjustment takes place with the minute hand. Turn the minute hand clockwise until it strikes the hour and count the hour struck. Then loosen the hand nut and gently move the minute hand till it points at the 12 and hold it there while you tighten the nut back. Some clocks have inside the hand hole a round piece of brass called a hand bushing. It in turn has a square hole in it. This piece of brass needs to be turned one direction or the other and then just set the hand back on the clock. If it looks about right, put the nut on and tighten it and then rotate the hand clockwise to see if it strikes the hour and half hour at the correct time. It probably won’t be quite right the first time around and will take some trial and error to get in just the right spot where it points straight at the 12 when the clock strikes I rarely get them in the right spot the first try and I do this everyday for a living. Be patient, adjust again. Hold the minute hand still while you tighten the nut with a pair of pliers in the other hand. Once you get the minute hand where you want it to be when the clock strikes the hour your good to go! If your hour hand is not in the correct position to reflect the correct number of strikes then just move the hour hand to the last hours struck. The hour hand is a press on fit. Just turn it in either direction, then use your thumbnails to push back on each side of the hand near the shaft to make it tight again.

Papa my clock runs for 3 or 4 minutes and then stops. What do I do?

First, make sure the clock is hanging level on the wall and try to get it started. Your clock should be set to be in perfect Beat when it is level on the wall. Just because it should be doesn’t mean that it was or that it has not been somehow knocked out of beat. When your clock is in Beat you should be able to hear a nice even tic-tic sound as the pendulum swings. If it still doesn’t run move the base ever so slightly to the left and listen for that nice even tic-tic sound. Try running it again and if it still doesn’t run move it slightly more to the left. If the tics don’t even out and the clock still doesn’t run then go back to level and repeat all the above by moving it slightly to the right. Don’t worry if the clock looks a little off level, right now we are trying to see if it will run. It may be a little off beat and still be able to run. You won’t know unless you try this first. You also need to look at your clock’s pendulum and make sure it is hanging straight down to the floor and plumb with the wall. The metal hook tip at the top of your pendulum can become easily bent causing it not to hang straight. They can be bent as to cause the pendulum to hand at an angle pointing back towards the wall and even be twisted so as to make the pendulum swing almost sideways. If your pendulum is not swinging straight it is gathering much resistance as it swings which can keep your clock from running. The pendulum needs to swing back and forth easily and cut through the air like a hot knife through butter. If your pendulum is hanging straight and you’ve tried finding the beat and your clock still will not run there is likely mechanical wear and other factors contributing to it’s not running and it may indeed be time for an overhaul of it’s movement.

Papa, my chain has come off the gear. What do I do?

First we want to avoid the other chains coming off while you are fixing this one. To avoid that with the other chains take a twist tie or a piece of thin wire and pin the other chains together right at the base of the clock where they come through the holes in the bottom. Put the twist tie or string through the chain links and tie them off. If you just put the ties around they chains they may slip down the chain. These ties will keep those chains from coming off when you turn your clock upside down. Now take the back off the clock and turn the clock upside down and give the loose chain a little slack. What you are trying to do is allowing enough slack to make a loop that you can hook around the gear sprocket. It may take a few tries, but if you can see it there is a good chance you can do it. Use plenty of light. On occasion one link will catch between the gears further up in the clock. That makes it harder and then it is just up to luck whether or not this gets done. Like I said, this is a very common question and I would say that about 50% of the time it works. Some clocks have more room in them than others. If you succeed hold onto the chain while you upright the clock. Hang it on the wall and then remove the ties on the other chains. You can also take a small pair of needle nose pliers and gently open up the chain link connecting both the hook and loop ends from the chain and then remove the chain from the clock. Then take a thin flat head screwdriver and determine which way the sprocket inside that you need to feed the chain over again will be rotating. Once you’ve figured that out you can flip the clock upside down and feed the chain down through the correct hole until it begins to catch on a sprocket tooth and using the thin screwdriver gently advance the sprocket one click at a time as you begin to slowly rotate your cuckoo clock back in to the upright position a little for each click of the sprocket until the chain is over the chain wheel sprocket and the clock is upright and continue advancing the sprocket until the chain comes down through the correct hole. Pull the chain through some by hand at that point and if you are successful with this method all that remains is to put the hook and loop ends back on by gently squeezing the link you opened to remove them closed again.

Papa, my clock runs and keeps time, but the cuckoo bird won't come out! Only one weight descends? What do I do?

First, check and see if the shipping latch above the cuckoo door is up so the door will operate freely. Also look to see that the birds head comes up to the door as it opens and is not smacking his head against the sides. If your cuckoo bird has any trouble coming through the door this could keep your clock from being able to strike. If the clock is new or has been shipped back to you be sure you have removed the clips that hold the bellows closed. Newer cuckoos may also have come equipped with a night shutoff feature. Some cuckoo clocks have a black colored night shut off lever attached to the top right corner of their mechanical movement that then comes out of the side of the clock case or is attached to a black heavy wire with a loop on the end of it that comes down from the shutoff lever and comes down and out of the bottom of the clock. Move the night shutoff lever to the down position or pull the loop down and see if this gets your cuckoo clock cuckooing again. Many of the newest cuckoo clocks built since the Millennium have come equipped with an automatic night shutoff lever. This looks much the same as a simple two position night shutoff except for where it will attach to the top right corner of the clock movement you will also notice a black plastic gear there on the outside of the rear plate and the switch will be a three position switch instead of two. This has a position for on, off and automatic. As opposed to the simple night shutoff where down is on and up is off we have the opposite. With the automatic night shutoff the up position is on 24 hours a day and the middle position will allow the night shutoff to engage automatically at night but strike during daytime hours only and the bottom lowest position will silence the clock at all times.

Papa, I've been told by others that my movement is worn out and needs replacing. Is that the only answer and how can I tell the difference?

Unless a customer wants a new movement that has a night shut off feature I alway just overhaul your cuckoo clock’s ORIGINAL movement. They all wear in certain key places until they stop. They just don’t wear out completely so I overhaul your movement. Here is how to if your clock has significant wear that is causing it to stop running or cuckooing.

Caution: Do not lay the clock flat on its back or turn it upside down because the chains are only held on their sprockets by gravity and will come off. While looking in the back pull up and down on one chain. Another words gently tug back and forth on the winding chain and the weight chain of one wheel enough to cause the wheels to wiggle a little you while watch the back plate at the spots where the steel rods the gears rotate on which are called pivots come through the brass plate. Particularly, it is the 2nd gear up from the bottom that tends to show the most significant wear. If those steel pivot rods are jumping back and forth in the hole and you can see motion there then your cuckoo clock’s movement does have significant wear. Keep doing it and look at the other holes as you go up each train as you are pulling. If your case is big enough to get your hand in there just wiggle the bottom gear that the chain rides on. You will get the same effect. Usually the wear starts on that second gear but it is normal to have 2 or 3 gears worn that much on a clock that has been run a lot during it’s life. The nice round pivot holes as the wear from running begin to oval out in time. This wear causes the gears to start separating and they don’t mesh well and friction begins to develop. That friction causes it to loose power all the way up the train of gears. . Try the time side also to check for wear. If one side is worn, it is likely that the other side isn’t far behind. If those holes are nice and tight your clock is likely to not be suffering from mechanical wear and tear and the clock’s problem may lie elsewhere!

Papa, how does the clock operate the music box?

Notice, this is for information only, pretty please don’t try to fix this yourself or you will need me or someone else for sure. I always advise people to stay away from these and don’t bend anything, but some are going to anyway and at least this gives them some idea of how they work.

I’m going to try to tell you how the music box works. It may not be exactly what you have, but all are similar and will give your somewhere to start. There should be 2 connections from the movement to the music box. On some movements both wires come from the same spot. On others there is a flat strip of metal coming off the right hand corner of the clock and a straight wire coming off the back center of the clock. The flat strip of metal is hooked to a linkage that pulls or pushes a locking pin or hook out of the music box tune cylinder at the time the music box is tripped. The music box tries to play but the flywheel of the governor unit is immediately stopped by the straight wire coming off the back of the clock or trip lever. That wire will move back and forth as the clock cuckoos and when it finishes it is supposed to drop away just enough to let the flywheel rotate freely and the music will play and then it will lock itself back down when the tune is finished. That is how it is the cuckoo clock’s music box is supposed to work however getting them to do that can at times be extremely tricky. I sometimes spend as much as a whole day on adjusting one music box. Others may take me 10 minutes. There is only one sweet spot where everything will work.

Papa, my clock stops just before the hour every hour?

The period your clock is in from about 5 minutes till the hour up until the clock strikes is what is called the Warning phase. This phase is when your clock is having to work it’s hardest in order to trip the strike lever and engage it’s musical box that will allow the clock to sound at the top of the hour when it strikes. If your cuckoo clock is only a few years old this is likely a simple fix by making a small adjustment to the trip lever on it’s music box. I will be happy to tell you how if you telephone me. Your music box must be stopped in exactly the right two spots in order to trip again easily. With continued use they can come out of perfect adjustment which in turn causes this problem. This would be a rather lengthy explanation of the solution for me to write and is much easier for me to talk someone through while they are with their clock and can see exactly what is taking place. If your clock is over 10 years old it’s likely to have begun suffering from mechanical wear and tear within it’s wheel trains which adds to the stress your clock is under while working to trip the strike and may be contributing to this problem. I will be happy to help you troubleshoot it and see if you can make the adjustment needed to solve the issue but your clock may need to be overhauled in order to fully solve this problem.

Papa, my hands stop at 5 minutes till the hour but the pendulum keeps swinging and only one weight descends?

Again at 5 minutes till the hour your clock is having to work it’s hardest to engage the strike. This problem is not an easy fix. It has to do with the motion works which drive the hands. These are held by tension and drive the hands forward by friction however they have to be able to slip some as well to allow you to turn the minute hand in order to set the correct time. When a clock’s hands stop turning but it still keeps running it’s motion works have become too loose from many years of running to continue driving the hands forward during this time and must be made tight again. Unfortunately the gears that need to be made tight again lie in the center of your movement between the plates and your clock’s movement will have to be disassembled in order to do this. If your clock has begun to do this you can bet it’s time for an overhaul to make it as good as new once again!