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How to Maintain a Cuckoo Clock

Updated on January 23, 2016

Cuckoo clocks are absolutely unique and quite easy to maintain

I have always been in love with cuckoo clocks! I remember growing up as a child with a simple two counterweight wooden cuckoo clock which my Mother had brought back as a souvenir from the Black Forest in Germany. It was mounted on the wall just outside my room and the cuckoo softly calling out every half hour and playing the tune of "Edelweiss" used to soothe and lull me to sleep every night and is forever etched in my memory.

We used to travel frequently to Switzerland when I was young, which is famous for its watches and clockmanship. I was fascinated by the hundreds of cuckoo clocks, all different shapes and sizes covering the walls of traditional watch shops from floor to celing, softly ticking and chiming away, their pendulums swinging rythmically...

On my first visit as an adult to Switzerland, on a skiing trip with my new family, I had my heart set on bringing back home one single item...the largest and most beautiful cuckoo clock I could possibly afford! You can see it in the picture, proudly hanging on my living room wall.

Cuckoo clocks hanging on a shop wall...which one to buy?

Photo Credit: gingerbeardman via Compfight cc

Kassel Large Cuckoo Clock
Kassel Large Cuckoo Clock

It will look beautiful on your wall and instantly change the look of your living room


Setting up a cuckoo clock

As soon as I got back home, my first move was to unpack my precious cuckoo clock and hang it on the wall. And that is when disaster struck! As you can see, the cuckoo clock is quite large and the three counterweights are big and heavy...much too heavy for the nail I had just hammered in the wall to support it...The clock came crashing down, chains, weights and all and to my absolute horror and dismay, the chains came rolling at full speed out of the wheels, viciously ripped out by the weights as they crashed to the floor...The clock had to go back to the factory in Switzerland and it took it about three months to return and almost double the price I had paid for it to get it fixed...In the meantime, I read everything I could lay my hands on about keeping and maintening a cuckoo clock!

Therefore, my first and most important piece of advice before you set up your new cuckoo clock is:

make absolutely sure that you have screwed a screw in the wall (not a nail like I did!) big and strong enough to support the weight of your cuckoo clock, including the counterweights!!!

Also, make sure that the place you have chosen to display your cuckoo clock is protected from sudden drafts which could interfere with the clock's mechanism and cannot be reached by small children or pets, especially cats!!! They really love playing with the chains and can cause great damage!

Some more things to keep in mind

  1. When you unwrap your new clock, make sure you take out all packaging and clips out, especially from inside the clock (you have to open the back door to do that). Leave the wires securing the chains in place until the clock is hanging on the wall.
  2. Hang the clock on the wall and take off the wire securing the chains. Carefully hang the weights and the pendulum.
  3. Set the correct time by gently moving the minute hand clockwise, allowing the cuckoo to chime every half hour as you go.
  4. Gently nudge the pendulum to set the clock into motion.
  5. That's all! You' re done! Make sure that you rewind the cuckoo clock by gently pulling the weights upwards every day and your cuckoo clock should keep on hapilly working for generations, with little or no maintenance.

Maintening your cuckoo clock

Traditional cuckoo clocks need very little maintenance and will work problem-free for generations.

Regularly clean the outside with a soft dry cloth or a natural oil based wood polish. Once in a while, open the back door and use a can of pressurized air to blow off the dust from the inside. Do this very gently though and avoid touching the moving parts of the clock, as they are very delicate precision mechanisms that can easily be damaged. Also, never try to oil your cuckoo clock yourself. This is something best left to specialists and, under normal circumstances, should not need doing more than once every three or four years.

Simple troubleshooting

A traditional cuckoo clock is an amazing precision mechanism but quite simple too. Things that can go wrong are pretty standard and are usually quite easy to fix if you know how. Otherwise, you could cause major damage to the clock and if the simple tips I share with you here do not seem to work, you would be better off taking the clock to a specialized repair shop.

1. The cuckoo clock keeps stopping

Before you do anything more drastic, check that it is hanging absolutely level. By level, I mean flush with the wall and not skewed left or right. Also check that nothing obstructs the weights from moving downwards. If they come to rest on something (table, floor or other surface) the clock will stop working. Also, check that there are no drafts interfering with the pendulum. I have already mentioned this, but these are simple facts frequently overlooked.

2. The cuckoo is running fast or slow

This is a very easy fix, although it may take some adjustments. Stop the clock and remove the pendulum. If the clock is running too fast, gently push the wooden leaf or disk on the pendulum just a click downwards on the pendulum shaft. Do the opposite if the clock runs too slow. You should only adjust the leaf or disk by one or two millimetres at a time, then put the pendulum back, start the clock and observe it for a day or two before you proceed to any further adjustment.

3. The cuckoo clock calls the incorect time

This is the most tricky problem to fix. Normally, you should never touch the hour hand to correct the time. If you need to set the time, you should do this by gently moving the minute hand clockwise, letting the cuckoo chime every time in between. But if, for example, the clock shows 2 p.m and chimes three times, here is what you should do:

Remove the right weight. Then move the minute hand clockwise so that the hour hand points to three. Replace the weight, set the correct time and start the clock. Repeat if necessary.

Find a cuckoo clock on ebay

You can find really beautiful cuckoos on ebay auctions and get them fairly cheap if you are lucky!

© 2013 Aquamarine18

Do you like cuckoo clocks? Do you have one? Please leave a comment

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      Mari 3 years ago

      Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well wrettin article. I'll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I'll definitely comeback.

    • Aquamarine18 profile image

      Aquamarine18 4 years ago

      @ChristyZ: Thank you! A cuckoo clock is a really charming thing to own!

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      ChristyZ 4 years ago

      I have never owned a cuckoo clock but I love them. When I was a child we would go to this restaurant in Michigan that had an entire wall full of cuckoo clocks (it looked much like your photo). Every so often all of the cuckoo clocks would go off at the same time, it was so fun! I really enjoyed this lens, great tips!