Cuckoo Clocks -Collecting and Repairing
The picture above shows one of my cuckoo clocks. I have it mounted on a doorway because I am tuning it. There are lots and lots of variations on the cuckoo clock. But they all share one thing in common: They are amazing. This is a very rewarding hobby. But it will cost you a few dollars to get started!
Just seems to me that the cuckoo clock is one of those amazing inventions that you run across. They have been around for a very long time and they remain because they are amazing! You can start out collecting cuckoos and you can also work on them. In this article I will give you some tips on collecting and repairing/maintaining them.
The Black Forest
If you really want to learn about cuckoo clocks then you should learn a little bit about where they came from. That is the Black Forest.
I have had the good fortune to have traveled to the Black Forest in Germany. And I bought a clock. The picture here is of me in front of the largest cuckoo clock in the world. It's a famous souvenir shop in the black forest.
Wow, did they have a lot of cuckoos!
I recommend that if you don't have a clock you do some hunting and searching to find a new one. Or, to save money, a used one that runs
eBay - This is a great way to find a clock at a reduced price. I use ebay all the time and it works well for me.
Amazon.com: Here is a listing on amazon of cuckoos. They have a whole lot of them! Cuckoo Clocks on Amazon.com
Some Cuckoo Basics
There are lots of variations on the cuckoo clock but a few things are pretty constant. First off they have to have a cuckoo! Otherwise it wouldn't be a "cuckoo" clock. Secondly they have to be weight driven. Some clocks have batteries and a motor drive but this isn't what we want in a cuckoo.
The most basic of clock is the two counterweight clock that tells the time and has a cuckoo. This is the simpler and standard cuckoo. And it is what most people get. With the two counterweights one of them keeps the clock going and one of them drives the cuckoo. Typically the cuckoo will crow on every hour and every half hour. On the hour he crows once per hour so if it were nine o'clock he would crow nine times. And typically we get just one cuckoo on the half hour. So at nine thirty we get one cuckoo.
Cuckoos can get more invovled though. They can add a third counterweight that drives more functions like a water wheel, moving characters or even some kind of a music box.
This picture is of a three counterweight cuckoo.
One counterweight is for the cuckoo behind the green door.
Once counterweight is for the clock.
And one counterweight operates the waterwheel, the beer drinker and a music box that chimes every hour.
One Day and Eight Day Clocks
There is another variation to think about and it is whether or not to get a one day or an eight day clock. It's pretty self explanatory in that the one day needs to be wound up every day and the eight day every eight days! By wound up I mean that the counterweights need to be brought back up to the top.
Inside the clock
Let's take a look inside the clock.
It is a bit difficult to see in this picture but the cuckoo is up there near the top of the clock.
The bellows are what makes the cuckoo sound. There are two bellows and one goes cuc then the other goes koo!
The clock is the whole square brass mechanism that keeps the time and moves the hands on the face of the clock.
Finally, this clock also has a music box that plays a song every hour. You can see it nestled in the corner here.
Typically a cuckoo clock needs very little care and maintenance. They should be oiled every few years and they take a special oil called a clock oil. You never oil the gears. You only oil the bearings and pivots. Oiling the actual teeth on the gears can jam up the mechanism.
The picture here shows me oiling a bearing inside the clock.
If your cuckoo clock doesn't run there are some things to do before you start taking it apart and looking at the various parts to see if they need replacing. First you should oil with a clock oil and secondly you should make sure that it is mounted on the wall level. If the clock is not level it will not run. And level means side to side and front to back. This front to back leveling is often overlooked.
If your clock is oiled and leveled but it won't run very long it probably just needs to have the beat found. This is standard cuckoo clock maintenance.
Does the tick-tock sound even or does it sound uneven? Is there more tick than tock or vise versa?
Finding the Beat of A Cuckoo Clock
To find the beat of a cuckoo clock you should remove it from the wall and open up the back. The picture here shows something called the verve. This is a black wire that hits up against the pendulum. This drives it back and forth. What you need to do is slightly bend that one way or the other until you find the correct beat that will keep the clock running.
Don't bend it with a tool. Just use your fingers and bend it just a little bit around the center of the verve.
This process can take many tries and it can be a bit frustrating to adjust, put back on the wall, take down and repeat. So you might want to consider making up a little something called a cuckoo clock stand that supports it while it is open and has a way for the counterweights and pendulum to still work.
This picture shows a home made cuckoo clock stand. I can work on the clock and the pendulum and counterweights can run so I can find the beat without having to put it back on the wall after every try. This makes it so much easier.
If you are considering cuckoos as a hobby you really should make something like this.
Cuckoo clocks are simply amazing. I really love them. It is a very rewarding hobby and easy to get started. Once you have tinkered with them for a while you can then move on to the more advanced techniques of actually taking apart the mechanism and repairing it by replacing parts and bearings.
Books, Resources and More
Limited edition reprint [1000 copies] of the history and detailed description of the Black Forest Cuckoo Clock, revised and edited to include new archive material & color photos.
There is also another book but it is not currently available on amazon.com. Here it is so you can do a search for it:
Cuckoo Clock Repair Made Simple
By Tom Seaman