Just like regular oil changes extend the life of your car's engine, regular clock oiling extends the life of your clock. Oiling your clock every two years will prevent expensive clock repairs and ensure that your clock will last for the generations to come. Imagine never changing your car's oil; it wouldn't take long for the engine to seize. Without regular oiling your clock will end up requiring a major service, or possibly a new movement. For those interested in learning how to oil a clock, this tutorial will show you how it is done.
The most important thing to remember is to ensure that you only use high quality clock oil. Many professionals use synthetic oil but there are numerous high quality non-synthetic clock oils. The main thing to be cognizant of when choosing clock oil is to ensure it is designed to be used in clocks. Just like it’s not a good idea to cook with motor oil you don’t want to oil your clock using the wrong oil. Using substitutes like WD40 can actually damage your clock’s movement.
Remember the golden rule, “You get what you pay for.” There are several websites claiming to sell synthetic clock oil but actually sell synthetic motor oil. Synthetic clock oil is not cheap because it is specifically formulated for the metals used in clocks. Brass and steel are used in clocks because when properly lubricated with the right oil it forms a perfect bearing. Brass is a soft metal which is why you won’t find it in car engines. Using oil designed for hard metals or containing additives like graphite will actually cause harm to the brass clock plate and lead to premature aging and wear.
All mechanical clocks can and should be oiled. However the ease of oiling and frequency of oiling depends upon several factors. The age and type of clock are the main two factors. Most grandfather clocks have access panels on the sides or have the ability to remove the hood which exposes the movement. Modern grandfather clocks usually have more complicated movements which makes reaching all the oil points a little more difficult. Table or mantle clocks have smaller movements which also makes reaching all the oiling points more complicated.
Generally, removing the movement from the clock will make oiling easier and we always recommend removing the movement and dial before oiling. Because we are experts in antique grandfather clocks, let's talk about an antique grandfather clock. For the purpose of this article, we are simplifying the process. However, the process outlined below should generally describe how to remove most movements.
First, you will need to remove the clock hood. Never attempt to remove the hood without at least one weight being in place. The hood of most grandfather clocks is removed by sliding it forward. Before sliding the hood forward secure the glass door to prevent it from opening while removing the hood. Next, remove the time side (right) weight and then remove the pendulum from the crutch. Because in some grandfather clocks the movement is held in place by the downward force of the weights, when you remove the strike side (left) weight the movement is susceptible to falling. While you unhook the last weight keep pressure on the weight cable, then remove the movement.
After removing the hood and weights you will be able to remove the movement from the clock. Clock movements are generally secured to the clock with screws but many older British grandfather clock movements are not fastened at all. The movement sits on the seat board and the seat board will either be screwed into the clock case or just sits on the case and is held in place by the clock’s weights. Once the screws are removed the movement should just lift out of the clock with the clock dial attached.
Once the movement is removed you will remove the clock hands. Remove the nut or pin that holds the hands in place by gently holding the minute hand. Once the nut or pin is removed gently remove the minute hand. Sometimes it will stick and a gentle rocking back and forth will loosen the hand and it will come off. Next you will need to remove the hour hand by gently pulling on the base of the hand and again gently rocking it back and forth until it comes off.
The first step in oiling or servicing your Grandfather clock is to make sure you use latex gloves when handling any brass or metal parts. at every stage. There is acid in the oils of our fingers and this acid eats through the thin layer of lacquer when it comes in contact with brass.
Now that the movement is free from the case you will notice multiple oil sinks on the surface of each clock plate. Oil sinks are located where the ends of the steel arbor meet the clock plate. In-between the two clock plates are all the clocks gears. These gears are held in place by a steel arbor that is pressed into the clock plate. As the gear turn the steel arbor rotates around while the clock plate remain stationary.
Without oil friction will eventually cause the hole in the clock plate to enlarge and become elongated. This happens because brass is a softer metal than steel and the downward force of gravity will cause more wear on the bottom side of the clock plate. When the hole that holds the steel arbor in place becomes enlarged the clocks gear will not turn correctly and will eventually cause the clock to stop working.
To oil a clock apply one drop of oil to each oil sink. It is best to use a clock oiling pen or a bottle with a long needle. This will make it easier to apply a single drop to each oil sink. Don't try and fill the oil sink, because the oil is held in place by surface tension. If you apply too much oil, the surface tension will not hold and the oil will run down the plate, leaving the bearing dry. Repeat the oiling process for all oil sinks on both the clock plates. Don't forget to oil the weight pulleys and the front plate posts.
TickTockTony sells clock oil that is specially manufactured for clocks. Every order comes with 15cc's of high quality synthetic clock oil in an oil syringe needle which is pictured above. The stainless steel needle is 3.25" long which allows you to apply oil in tight spaces. To purchase the clock oil using PayPal's secure servers, click the button below. The kit costs $16.99 plus shipping. Unfortunately we do not ship outside the United States.
We have created the video below showing how to oil a clock's movement. Visit our YouTube channel to watch more videos. There you will find numerous tutorials covering topics like how to remove a clock's movement from the case, how to remove a clock's dial, and how to adjust a clock's beat.
Here is our YouTube Channel: TickTockTony