How to Unwind a Grandfather Clock

A grandfather clock is a beautiful, intricate machine that can be difficult to understand at first. The gears are notoriously hard to turn, and the pendulum needs careful adjustment before working correctly. Here are some tips for how to unwind a grandfather clock so you can enjoy hearing its sweet chimes ring out on the hour! 

How to Unwind a Grandfather Clock

Grandfather clocks help keep track of time and provide a focal point in any room. However, if your grandfather’s clock has been ticking away for years without issue, you may be wondering what could go wrong. In some cases, the unwinding process of the clock can become difficult and may require the assistance of a professional. Keep reading to learn more about how to wind a grandfather clock.

10 Ways on How to Unwind a Grandfather Clock

1. Hold the Chime Rod Down:

The chime rods of a grandfather clock rest in brackets on the inside wall of the works and can become stuck under one another. This makes it hard for them to move, and therefore, they cannot sound their bells. It is necessary to hold the chime rods down to fix this problem. This allows them to move freely and sound off.

2. Oil the Crank Shaft:

To ensure that a grandfather clock will remain in good working order for years to come, it must be oiled every so often. Every time the clock is wound, a small amount of oil should be applied to the crankshaft. This will keep it moving smoothly and prevent wear and tear.

3. Check the Weights:

Grandfather clocks are typically fitted with two or three weights. If one or more of these weights falls off of the clock, it will not operate correctly. Therefore, checking the weights regularly is essential to keeping the clock running smoothly.

4. Tighten the Screws on the pendulum:

The pendulum of a grandfather clock is what keeps it in time. If the screws are loose, the pendulum will not swing correctly, and the clock will lose time. Therefore, it is important to check and tighten these screws once a week.

Tighten the Screws on the pendulum

5. Keep the Floor Clean:

Dust, dirt, and debris can cause friction on the floor of the clock case. This friction will rub against the wood and cause damage to both the case and weights over time. Therefore, it is essential to keep the surface clean so that all clock parts can work together efficiently.

6. Oil the Stairs:

If a grandfather clock is placed on stairs that move or shift, it can cause damage to the weights and the steps of the case over time. A simple fix for this problem is to place felt pads under the clock’s feet so that it does not slide up and down. Doing this will keep it in place and ensure that they remain in good condition.

7. Replace the Glass:

If the glass on a grandfather clock is chipped or cracked, this can cause serious damage to the works inside of it. Glass is relatively cheap, but this does not mean that it should be ignored. On the contrary, a chipped or cracked pane can cause real problems for the long-term functioning of the clock.

8. Clean the Glass:

Over time, dust will accumulate on and inside glass panes. This makes it harder to see the dials and, if left uncleaned, it can cause friction between the glass and the metal parts of the case. A solution for this problem is to regularly clean off the glass pane with a dry cloth.

9. Clean Each Metal Piece:

Many different metal pieces work together to make up a grandfather clock. If one of these pieces becomes corroded or rusty, it will not function properly. Therefore, all-metal pieces should be cleaned once a week with a dry cloth to keep them in good condition and work together as intended.

Clean Each Metal Piece

10. Polish Each Metal Piece:

In addition to cleaning each metal piece on the clock, they should also be polished from time to time. This will protect them from corrosion and rust and keep them looking shiny and new. These are just a few ways that a grandfather clock can be unwound. Your clock will continue to run smoothly for years to come by following these tips. If there is ever a problem, do not try to fix it yourself. Instead, take it to a professional who will be able to help.

Some Tips and Suggestions

  1. Do not try to stop the clock’s movement. This will cause damage to the chime rods, weights, or other mechanisms in your grandfather clock.
  2. Do not try to force the pendulum/gears out of alignment; this may cause damage.
  3. Disassemble no more than one gear train at a time, so you don’t lose track of how the gears fit together.Disassemble No More Than One Gear Train at a Time
  4. If you’re not sure how to reassemble the gear train, draw a diagram or take pictures as you disassemble it.
  5. Be especially careful when handling the pendulum and weights- they are delicate and can easily be damaged if mishandled.
  6. If the clock is dirty, use a soft brush or cloth to clean it before you begin unwinding.
  7. If any parts are bent or broken, replace them with original manufacturer parts or with parts from a reputable clock supplier.
  8. If you take apart your grandfather’s clock and cannot reassemble it, contact a qualified clockmaker for help.


The article provided a detailed and informative explanation of how to unwind a grandfather clock. The grandfather clock is a beautiful piece of furniture that can last for many years. However, as with any timepiece or appliance, they will need to be cared for and periodically serviced to keep them running smoothly.  

If you are not skilled at taking apart clocks, consider hiring a specialist. You can find one by looking for an expert in clock repair on the internet or through people that may be selling their grandfather clocks. We hope this guide has been helpful, and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about caring for your grandfather clocks.

Jennifer Branett
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