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Here you'll find articles about caring for your antiques and collectibles. 

LATEST ARTICLE_________________________________

Caring for an Antique Clock
by Bob Brooke

 

Most antique clocks are valuable mechanical instruments. As such, they need to be cared for regularly, but few people do. Perhaps they take them for granted since modern digital clocks run continuously as long as they have power. But while a modern clock may keep on ticking, it’s much like a robot. An antique clock, on the other hand, has a soul—a soul that needs looking after.

General Care
Antique clocks generally suffer from three things—careless positioning, incorrect display, and over-enthusiastic handling. Believe it or not, direct sunlight can harm them, and so can extremes of temperature or moisture.

Have your clock lubricated service every four or five years—it costs less than you think. And a full service at 10 years. An antique clock normally runs constantly, so it works much harder than your car which will demand servicing more frequently, plus it costs a fraction of what a car does to be serviced. The wear and tear is cumulative.

Positioning an Antique Clock
The worst location for an antique clock is on a mantelpiece over a working fireplace. Probably because the mantel was often the centerpiece of the room and was a convenient place to put a clock.

Don't position your clock above or close to a radiator, or in direct sunlight, or where children’s fingers can reach it. Changing temperatures and humidity are harmful in the long term but even in the short term lead to poor timekeeping.

Careless or unexpected movement can also affect the workings of a clock’s delicate mechanism. All long case standing clocks and wall-hung varieties should be screwed to the wall or to a solid wooden wall bracket or mount to keep them from getting out of beat.

To maintain accurate time, a clock must remain “in beat.” Once a clock has been leveled, it will produce a perfect beat or cadence to the tick-tock. The sound should be consistent with even spacing between each “tic” and “toc.”

Hang a wall clock on a decent length screw properly secured in the wall, and never on string, a nail or a picture hanger. Unless secured at the bottom as well, also remember that when you open the door to wind it, the clock case will kick sideways.

Before moving an antique clock, check that there are no detachable parts and don’t rely on handles but hold the object under the base with both hands. And secure the clock key or keys—should your clock have a winding key or crank and a door key.

Secure the pendulum of a spring clock by the clip provided or by the spring clamp on many English bracket and mantle clocks. Otherwise remove the pendulum. And remove the weights and pendulum on any clock that has them. For tall case or grandfather clocks, also separate the case hood and movement. If the suspension rod to which the pendulum is attached set in motion while being moved, let it run down completely.

Cleaning an Antique Clock
Cleaning an antique clock should be done very carefully with a soft lint-free cloth and a soft-bristle brush. Avoid metal polishes which may seep into the movement or destroy a valuable patina, like the patina on a brass carriage clock.

Unless the finish is totally ruined, do not refinish the case, as this can affect the clock’s value. There are products designed specifically for cleaning clock cases, so if you feel you must clean the case, use Murphy’s Oil Soap or Merritt’s Clock Cleaner (Curator’s Clock Case Restorer).

Use a Minwax Paste Wax to polish the wood case and avoid silicone spray polishes.
They’re designed to create an intense shine but clog the pores and grain, preventing the natural wood from breathing.

For stubborn marks on a glass face use a cotton ball damped in a mild detergent solution or methylated spirits. Rinse with another damp cotton ball and buff gently with a chamois. Don’t attempt to clean any of the mechanical parts of a clock movement yourself. Leave that to a clock specialist.

Do not attempt to polish the metal dial with any metal polish. While most metal dials are ‘silvered’ – the layer is so thin that any attempt to polish will most likely result in wearing the finish off. This is also true for bezels. So resist the urge to polish. Getting a dial re-silvered can be expensive, as the numbers will have to be repainted, also.

Keep the Clock Running
Keep an antique clock running. It won’t wear out for decades and can always be repaired when it does. A clock that is left idle for weeks and months will eventually dry up and tends to be more difficult to get going again without proper service.

Make sure that the key is the correct one for the clock and only turn it firmly to the point of resistance. If you go away longer than the next due winding, stop the clock to avoid damage to the escapement when it winds down.

If an antique clock is an 8-day clock, wind it fully every week on the same day. Most 8- day clocks will run for 10 to 12 or even 14 days but the timekeeping deteriorates progressively after 7 days as the mainspring gradually loses power. If it's a 30-hour clock, wind it every night before bed for the same reason.

Not all clocks wind in the same direction so make sure you’re winding your clock in the correct direction. Don’t be afraid of overwinding your clock. The key of a fully wound clock comes to a complete stop and won’t go beyond that point.

If your clock has a pendulum, you can lengthen the effective length of the pendulum to slow down the clock; if you shorten the effective length of the pendulum the clock will run faster. How much you adjust the pendulum will depend on each individual clock.

To adjust the minute hand of a clock, gently turn the hands clockwise—never counter-clockwise. If the hands jam, move the minute hand back a fraction but never back past the hour. If this doesn’t free them, take the clock to a clockmaker.

Likewise, don’t try to oil or lubricate an antique clock in any way. Even oiling the mechanism of a valuable clock can be risky if you don’t know where to apply it, and too much or too thick an oil can attract abrasive grime which can affect the mechanism. Horologists use a special oil that enables the smooth operation of a clock movement.

Even if an antique clock seems to be in good working order, have it periodically checked by a professional. Weight-driven clocks go for a longer time between servicing while clocks with a balance wheel require shorter periods between servicing because their finer parts wear down faster.


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Provided by: News-Antique.com