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My Black Forest Cuckoo Clock

Updated on July 20, 2015

The Black Forest Cuckoo Clock

This Anton Schneider Black Forest cuckoo is my most treasured collectible from Germany. It is displayed in a litte alcove next to the fireplace in our family room. Aside from the fine craftmanship, reputation and reliability, this cuckoo clock is a mechanical marvel. The clock keeps time driven only by the pinecone iron weights, the swinging pendulum, and the internal teethed gears. It is made in the same traditional method since the mid-eighteenth century by the clock makers of the Black Forest. At the strike of the hour and half hour, the cuckoo bird pops out of the trap door to call out the time and colorful wooden figurines all come to life with the music.

Photo Credit:~Nathan

The Black Forest (German:Schwarzwald) is a densely forested mountain range in Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. The pines and conifers block out most of the light in the forested area creating a dark green or almost black effect, hence the name Black Forest. The fir trees shoot up into the air with very few branches which make the Black Forest ideal for the logging and woodcarving industry. Cuckoo clocks were made from the seasoned linden wood and have become a symbol of the Black Forest.

More points of interest from Wikipedia

Video from euromaxx: The Truth About Germany - The Black Forest

The bird made famous by the cuckoo clock

More often heard than seen

The first cuckoo clock was credited to Franz Anton Ketterer of the village of Schönwald in Triberg, Germany who added the famous cuckoo to his clocks in 1738. He chose the Common cuckoo bird to call out the time because of its characteristic two-note call (coo-coo) which he cleverly re-created by two bellows (air chambers) and pipes inside the mechanical clock inspired by the technology of the church organ. Two small pipes are attached to the tops of two air-driven bellows that make alternating high and low pitched whistles that mimic the sound of the cuckoo bird. At the top of each hour as the cuckoo clock's pinecone weights and swinging pendulum cause the clock's wheels to turn, the cuckoo bird pops out of the trap door and the bellows are activated sending alternating puffs of air into each pipe causing the sound of a cuckoo in addition to striking a wire gong.

A short history of the origin of the cuckoo clock

Origins in the Black Forest

Heirloom cuckoo clock for every home - Every child in you remember these

These outstanding handcarved and finely detailed Schneider Black Forest cuckoo clocks will charm and leave young and old, wide-eyed and for many generations. Aside for the splendid German craftmanship, the moving figurines, dancers, beer drinkers, water wheel, music and melodies will enchant at every hour.

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So what makes the cuckoo clock tick?

The pendulum is responsible for keeping time

Pendulums have been used to keep time since 1656 when Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens successfully created the first pendulum-powered clock. One of Newton's Law states that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by another force. The pendulum in the cuckoo clock has a weight (bob) at the end in the shape of an ivy leaf suspended from a fixed point which will swing back and force due to the force of gravity. The pendulum is not dependent on the weight of the bob or the angle of the swing (arc) but on its length. It is the length of the pendulum that determines the period ( the time it takes to move from one side to the other side). The pendulum of this cuckoo clock swing twice every second.

But the pendulum will not swing forever. It will eventually stop due to forces like friction and air resistance which will slow it down. There is a device called the escapement that gives the pendulum a push usually from a gear train and is the part that ticks. Most escapements have a locking state and a drive state. In the locking state, nothing moves. The motion of the pendulum switches the escapement to drive, and the escapement then pushes on the pendulum for some part of the pendulum's cycle.

Find out more how pendulum clocks work

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How to wind a mechanical cuckoo clock

It is in the weights.

This mechanical Black Forest cuckoo clock is stricty weight-driven. It has three iron weights (1500 grams each) shaped like pine cones attached to three separate chains attached to the gears of the clock. Through the force of gravity, the weights will continually pull the gears to drive the clock's timekeeping mechanism. One chain winds the clock, the other chain winds the cuckoo bird mechanism and the third winds the music movement. Cuckoo clocks with two weights do not have music.

The clock is wound by pulling the round ring on the end of the chain downward and raising the pine cones up. In order for the second hand to spin around exactly sixty seconds each minute, the pendulum must continually swing at a constant rate while a weight (pine cone) pulls the gear that keeps the second hand continually at a constant rate.

This Black Forest clock has an 8-day movement which means it needs "winding" once a week, as opposed to the 1-day movement which requires winding every 24 hours. For this reason, the 8-day movement cuckoo clocks are more expensive since the mechanisms are more complicated.

The charm of the cuckoo clock is that it was handmade in the Black Forest.

The Black Forest Chalet Cuckoo Clock is made of stained linden wood.

The Black Forest Chalet Cuckoo Clock is made of stained linden wood.
The Black Forest Chalet Cuckoo Clock is made of stained linden wood.

The bellringer pulls the cord the same number of times as the cuckoo calls.

The bellringer pulls the cord the same number of times as the cuckoo calls.
The bellringer pulls the cord the same number of times as the cuckoo calls.

The chalet-style cuckoo clock has a wood shingle roof.

The chalet-style cuckoo clock has a wood shingle roof.
The chalet-style cuckoo clock has a wood shingle roof.

Dancing couples twirl to the tune of the music.

Dancing couples twirl to the tune of the music.
Dancing couples twirl to the tune of the music.

The Umpa band sway to and fro to the tune of Edelweiss and The Happy Wanderer.

The Umpa band sway to and fro to the tune of Edelweiss and The Happy Wanderer.
The Umpa band sway to and fro to the tune of Edelweiss and The Happy Wanderer.

The water wheel turns as the music plays.

The water wheel turns as the music plays.
The water wheel turns as the music plays.

Watch the Black Forest cuckoo clock come to life

As soon as the cuckoo calls out the time, the dancing couples twirl to the tune of Edelweiss or The Happy Wanderer alternately. The Umpa band of four musicians sway to and fro playing their tuba as the waterwheel churns.

Watch how a cuckoo clock is made - The clock of the past, present and future.

The functionality of the cuckoo mechanism has remained basically unchanged from its inception, but the wooden casings, designs and themes continued to evolved based on decorative tastes prevailing at the moment.

Fabulous Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks - Pricey but worth it

Schneider cuckoo clocks are known the world over for its high-quality craftmanship and intricate detailing. Every cuckoo clock is hand-carved utilizing the same traditional methods used by the skilled artisans of the Black Forest since 1848 when Anton Schneider began producing these mechanical marvels in his farmhouse in Schonach.

What if you could walk into a cuckoo clock....

Every village make its own claim to have the world's largest cuckoo clock.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk into a cuckoo clock? Here at the Black Forest in Germany, along the stretch of the road called "Deutsche UhrenstraÃe" (German Clock Route) there is a string of several gigantic cuckoo clocks that boast to be the world's largest. The German "clock route" unfolds its charms along an approx. 320km-long round trip Villingen-Schwenningen via Rottweil, Waldkirch, Titisee, and back to Villingen-Schwenningen in the heart of the Black Forest, an old cultural region where cuckoo clocks come from.

Photo Credit:Strabanephotos

This cuckoo clock may look like a clock tower but it is actually a working cuckoo clock with all the gears and a working pendulum. Located in Eble Uhren (Clock) Park in the tiny village of Schonachbach in the Black Forest, this behemoth cuckoo clock weighs six tons and measure four meters across. The large cuckoo bird inside has the vital statistics of 5m long and weighing 150 kg.

Visit the website here.

Photo Credit:onkelshark

This life-size clock is situated in the Untertal in Schonach and was built by clock maker Josef Dold and his family over a period of two years. The facade of the clock and the wooden cuckoo pipes were all built to the exacting scale of 1:50. Dimensions of the cuckoo clock is 3.60m in length, 3.10m in height, and 1m deep.

Alpine style giant cuckoo clock

WIth its pitched roof and lovely hanging geraniums, this lovely alpine style cuckoo clock shop can be found near the Hofgut Sternen Hotel in Breitnau, Germany. It is a real working cuckoo clock that tells time with moving figurines and you can walk right in to browse and shop for your cuckoo clock souvenir.

My favorite giant cuckoo clock - Whimsical and so delightful

This gargantuan chalet-style cuckoo clock is one I would love to walk into. It was always my dream as a child to be able to walk into a doll's house. There is no need to be miniaturized and be amongst the 21 moving figurines in this spectacular cuckoo clock. The House of Black Forest Clocks is a family-owned cuckoo clock maker of Adolf Herr who have been creating handcarved and mechanical clocks for generations."The giant cuckoo clock" (Hornberger Uhrenspiele) is located in Hornberg, Black Forest, Germany.

Photo Credit:msusanschmoo

This huge cuckoo clock has the expert woodwork and animation of a mechanical cuckoo clock. The clock has not one, but two birds calling the time. The cuckoo bird calls the hour and half-hour and a quail calls every quarter hour. Beer drinkers can be seen raising their beer steins as a woman threatens one of them with a rolling pin; a bellringer pulls the cord, musicians parade around as three couples twirl to the music. A woodchopper is busy at work, two deer hop up and down with delight as the waterwheel churns. On the far right, a clock peddler ("Uhrenträger") can be seen with dials and movements on his backpack going door to door selling his wares.


Black Forest cuckoo clock resources

Chronicle of HUBERT HERR Cuckooclocks

Starting in a small workshop, the company, now in its 5th generation, grew to a world known and leading manufacturer of quality cuckoo clocks

Cuckoo-Clock.com

All handmade mechanical cuckoo clocks hand-sgined by Adolf Herr.

Installing and trouble-shooting your new cuckoo clock

Rhomba & Haas Company

Each clock made by Rombach & Haas is completely unique in its own way and designed with the highest quality of craftsmanship and elegance available. This is why Rombach & Haas also called Romba is such a popular manufacturer of German Black Forest clocks, and why their customer based in worldwide. The Romba Workshops are located in Schonach in the Black Forest .

Take this short poll - Your opinion matters

Cuckoo clocks are heirlooms handed down from generation to generation. Most people that own one inherited them from their grandparents or as hand-me-downs fom relatives and friends. Cuckoo clocks are just so much part of tradition and part of growing up that most of us remember seeing one, wanting one or owning one.

Do you own or would like to own a cuckoo clock?

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Traditional Black Forest Theme Cuckoo Clocks

The basic cuckoo clock of today is the railway-house (Bahnhäusle) form, still with its rich ornamentation, and these are known under the name of "traditional" (or carved); which display carved leaves, birds, deer heads (like the Jagdstück design), other animals, etc. The richly decorated Bahnhäusle clocks have become a symbol of the Black Forest that is instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. It is important to mention that the railway "Bahnhäusle" clocks showed the Italian influence of the skilled tunnel builders hired from Italy when railroads were being built through the rocky Black Forest. Most of these clocks are adorned with grapes and elaborate carvings.

Schneider Black Forest 17 Inch Six Leaves 8 Day Movement Cuckoo Clock

Bahnhausle Cuckoo clocks - Italian influence

The Bahnhausle design has been an incredibly popular design since 1850. Friedrich Eisenlohr of Furtwangen, Germany first submitted the design as part of a contest for the Grand Duchy of Baden. The intricately carved design was inpired by the railway house or railroad guard's house with the leaves and grapes, an influenced brought by imported Italian tunnel workers when a railroad was being built through the Black Forest.

Chalet style Black Forest Cuckoo clocks

There are currently three basic styles, according to the different traditional houses depicted: Black Forest chalet, Swiss chalet (with two types the "Brienz" and the "Emmental") and finally the Bavarian chalet. Commonly found in the latter type of clock, is the incorporation of a Swiss music box, the most popular melodies are "The Happy Wanderer" and "Edelweiss" which sound alternately. Along with the common cuckoo bird, beer drinkers, turning water wheels, musicians, dancers and other animated figurines have been incorporated into cuckoo clocks.

Schneider Black Forest 12.5 Inch Musical Wood Chopper Cuckoo Clock

Happy beer drinkers and dancers in the Bavarian chalet cuckoo clock

Anton Schneider cuckoo clocks from eBay

Anton Schneider cuckoo clocks are sought after by collectors all over the world. For over a century, the Schneider name is linked to the highest qualty in craftmanship, reliabiltiy, and the most beautiful cuckoo clocks in the world. The attention to detail and woodcarving skills are the main characteristics of the Anton Cuckoo clock line.

Be entertained and enchanted by these moving figurines

Expensive but worth it.

A piece of art and not just a timepiece.

Black Forest cuckoo clocks are handmade, handcarved and are mechanically driven wonders of engineering. Master carvers and skilled artisans put a lot of hours in to each clock. Antique cuckoo clocks are worth a king's ransom.

Are you cuckoo about cuckoo clocks yet? - Do leave your impression.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Please could you advise me as how to get the clock to cuckoo at the correct time on the hour, many thanks

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I think they are very pretty and show a lot of detailed workmanship. They also reflect that German vibe. They really are great. Nice lens, with a lot of information.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      My mom had a cuckoo clock my brother brought home from Germany. She loved it!

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Most probably I am cuckoo now, but no doubt that I was fascinated about cuckoo clocks in my childhood and... still a bit nostalgic and always when thinking at them it brings me a large smile on the face... :)

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      ScrollSawChuck 5 years ago

      A genuine Black Forest cuckoo clock is definitely the way to go. It's like how owning a Caddy used to be.

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 6 years ago from Ohio

      you are an amazing artist of the squid lens

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 6 years ago

      This is a visually stunning lens, and brings back memories of a time when I lived in Germany.

    • kismetsc profile image

      kismetsc 6 years ago

      I knew of the Black Forest cuckoo clocks, but you give wonderful details about them. The pictures are really amazing.

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      Runnn 6 years ago

      I had one but there some mechanical failure in the clock. The cuckoo no longer making any nose. Sad...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love cuckoo clocks, but I have never seen one with so much detail! Wow, I can see why you treasure this one so dearly. You have packed a ton of information into this lens, and it really shows how much you are a fan of your cuckoo clock. Great job! **Blessed**

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have seen some of these when I was Stationed in Berlin. We did some training exercises in the Grunewald Forest and I even got to hear real cuckoos every once in a while. Never seen one though.

    • avgsuperheroine profile image

      avgsuperheroine 6 years ago

      My parents adopted me while they lived in Germany. They had two black forest cuckoo clocks and I loved reading your lens and remembering those from my childhood. This is a great lens!

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      mockingbird999 6 years ago

      I've never had one, but they are beautiful.

    • Violin-Student profile image

      Violin-Student 6 years ago

      I love cuckoo clocks. I had one when I was young. It drove my mother nuts that I let it run all the time. I never knew what happened to that clock!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Really cool lens and great cuckoo clock collection. Thank you.

    • profile image

      pico88 6 years ago

      good lens