Setting up your modern tall-case (grandfather) clock

Ridgeway Hamilton Country, now owned by the Howard Miller group of companies
Ridgeway Hamilton Country, now owned by the Howard Miller group of companies

You’ve decided on a new location for your grandfather clock. Now it is time to set it up.

Before you do anything ensure that the clock is level and preferably on a hard surface. Wood floors are great but carpeted floors are not optimal. There are 4 leveling wheels or points on the bottom of the clock. Using a spirit level spin the leveling wheels or points counterclockwise or clockwise to achieve a perfectly levelled clock. If you wish to screw the case to the wall to stabilize it, this can now be done as long as it is standing straight up and not leaning backwards. Stabilizing the case also reduces sympathetic vibration.

Steps for setting up your clock

  • Release the chains or cables that were bundled during transport.
  • Hook the weights. If you had marked them or if they have location direction on the bottom (L, C, R; “L” for left, “C” for centre and “R” for right) ensure that the correct weight goes where it should. The weights are not the same although they may look identical. On most modern grandfather clocks each weight provides the motive power necessary to operate the time, chime and strike trains of your grandfather clock.  The manufacturer has determined that a weight powered by an exact number of lbs will affect how the clock will run. For example, the chime train requires a specific weight. If the weight is too light the chimes will run slowly or not at all. Generally speaking, the heaviest weight goes on the far right side chime train, as it needs more power to run the chime hammers.
  • Pull the weights up if your clock has chains or use a winding crank to bring the weights up if equipped with cables. For a properly striking and chiming grandfather clock the weights will more or less descend at the same time. Check through the side vents that the cables are not tangled. A tangled cable will stop the clock.
  • For cables: not only check to make sure that the weight is hooked but the cable is also in the cable pulley.
  • Release the chiming rods by carefully pulling off the protective Styrofoam or cardboard.
  • Return the side vents or access panels that slot in from the inside. They will drop into their channels.
  • While holding the pendulum guide with one hand (using cotton gloves), slip the pendulum in through the front door with your other hand an place the pendulum hook over the pin or through the slot on the pendulum guide, and lower the pendulum until it is hanging securely on the pendulum guide.
The pendulum rod hooks onto the suspension spring
clock pendulum
Lyre pendulum
  • Let the Grandfather Clock operate for ten minutes until the pendulum settles into an even swinging motion. An even swinging motion means that there is an equal time between the tick and the tock. In clock terms, it means that the clock is in beat.
  • Reinstall any decorative ornaments such as finials that friction fit into their respective holes.
  • If your clock has a moon phase dial: To set the moon dial, apply slight pressure with your fingers to the front of the moon dial. Rotate the moon dial clockwise until the moon is positioned according to the current moon phase. Never force it, it should move easily. If the moon dial will not rotate wait 6 hours and try again. As long as the grandfather clock operates it will display the correct moon phase. If the clock stops for more than a day the moon dial will have to be reset.
  • clock face
    Moon phase dial is adjustable by carefully moving it clockwise
  • Although some grandfather clock instructions say that you can move the hands backwards, it is not a method I would advocate. Never move the hour hand. The hour hand will move with the minute hand. The hour hand is a friction fit and moving it will knock the hourly strike out of sequence.  By moving the minute hand Clockwise it is not necessary to wait for the Grandfather Clock to chime as the minute hand passes each quarter-hour. The movement has a self-correcting feature that synchronizes the chimes with the time. If the clock does not synchronize, give the clock an hour or so before making any further adjustments.
  • If the clock does not strike or chime, make sure that the silencer lever switch is in the “chime” position.
  • Allow the clock to acclimatize to the new environment before regulating the movement. A clock that is regulated keeps the correct time. Regulation is achieved by turning a screw on the bottom of the pendulum bob. Turning the screw clockwise will make the clock go faster and turning the screw counterclockwise will make it run slower.
  • Close and lock the front access door.
  • key
    Ridgeway cabinet key

    Consult your owner’s manual for setting special features not covered above.

    Enjoy your new or relocated grandfather clock.


    3 thoughts on “Setting up your modern tall-case (grandfather) clock

    1. I really think that every of us should have a grandparents’ piece of history in a corner of their own home, because it’s good for us to know our past, in order to better build our future! Ron, as usual, I enjoyed your passion to share your hobby! Cătălin


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