Beat setting – a super quick guide

Having trouble getting that newly acquired clock to run continually. It may be as simple as a clock that is out of beat.

Here is a quick guide for setting the beat on your mechanical clock.

30-hour parlour clock with a pendulum

This quick guide refers to a mechanical clock with a pendulum. 400-day clocks, clocks with a balance wheel or lever escapement require a specific procedure to set the beat.

This movement has a balance type escapement requiring a very different procedure to set the beat

A pendulum clock is in beat when its ticks and tocks are even….tick…tock…tick…tock…, and is out of beat when they are uneven…ticktock…ticktock…ticktock…or tick…tocktick…tocktick…

When a clock is out of beat, either it will not run at all, or it will run for a few minutes and stop.

There are two ways to put a clock in beat. The first, and simplest, is to tilt the clock sideways, one way or the other, and listen for the beat to even out. When the beat is even, prop the clock to stay tilted that way. Now it will run, but it will look funny while tilted. If it is a wall clock the tilt may not be as noticeable but a tilting mantel clock will always look a little strange.

The second way is to adjust the crutch to one side or the other until the beat is even. The crutch is the rod that extends down from the pallets and the pallets are the things that rock back and forth. The pendulum rod passes through either a loop (called a crutch loop) or a forked foot at the end of the crutch.

If the crutch is a simple rod or wire, it is adjusted by bending it to one side or the other. If it attaches to the pallets with a friction joint, it is adjusted by holding the pallets still with one hand, and shifting (pushing) the crutch right or left on the friction joint.

Which way to tilt it? Rich Jones, a master clock repairer, has formulated a simple rule, known here as Arjay’s Maxim:

Sessions Drop Octagon
Sessions Drop Octagon with a pendulum

Tilt her till she ticks with pride
Then adjust the crutch toward the high side

First, use the tilting procedure to make the beat even. Note which side is the high side. Now, straighten the clock so it’s vertical, and adjust the crutch toward the side that was the high side.

How much to adjust it? Trial and error. Adjust the crutch, then start the pendulum swinging and listen to see if it’s in beat. If it isn’t, repeat the procedure. If it goes out of beat the other way, you have adjusted it too much. Adjust it back a little. You should get it right in one or two tries.

Using toothpicks to set the beat on a 400 day clock

Now the beat is adjusted and the clock does not look strange.

A beat amplifier will amplify the beat

A clock that will not run because it is out of beat is one of the most frustrating experiences for a new clock owner. Why would your newly purchased antique mantel clock be out of beat? Because it was adjusted for the last surface it was on.

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