Oiling your mechanical clock – a quick guide

Like a car engine, oil is the lifeblood of a clock. A correctly oiled clock will ensure a long life.

clock oiler

Lubrication is essential to the efficient running of any mechanical clock movement.

Clock pivot oil
Keystone clock pivot oil

Oiling a movement without first dissembling and cleaning is not recommended unless following a visual inspection the mechanism is free of black oil and the pivot holes are simply dry. Otherwise, the addition of new lubricant to old will mix with the dirt and grime to form a grinding paste which acts as an abrasive hastening pivot and pivot hole wear.

German time and strike clock movement

The purpose of lubrication is to minimize wear.

Here is a quick guide with a few dos and don’ts.

  1. Never use a lubricant spray like WD-40. Use a lubricant such as Keystone clock oil, specifically designed for a clock. WD-40 is a water dispersant/displacement agent. In fact, never spray your mechanical clock with any kind of lubricant as some parts such as wheel teeth must be kept dry.
  2. Apply a small amount of oil equal to about the size of a pinhead for each lubrication point; use a toothpick, small wire, needle dipper design for clock oiling, or a clock oiler (see above photo).
  3. Don’t over-oil; excess oil attracts dust, binds with the oil to create a paste, and increases wear.
  4. Oil the pivots of all wheels and the anchor or lever arbor on both front and back plates.
  5. Oil the crutch loop where it touches the pendulum rod.
  6. Oil the escapement pallets.
  7. Oil the clicks.
  8. Oil pulley axels on weight-driven clocks.
  9. When servicing the clock oil the mainsprings with special mainspring oil. Drizzle the oil along the side of the coiled spring and allow it to wick between the coils and wipe away excess oil.
  10. Don’t dip out of the oil bottle. Pour a small amount into an oil cup.
recoil escapement
escapement pallet

When to oil

I inspect my clocks every 2-3 years and if movement is free of dust and the pivot holes are dry I will apply fresh oil. If there is blackened oil around any pivot hole it is time to disassemble to movement, clean it and apply new oil once reassembled.

More suggestions? Don’t leave the oil in a sunny window. UV rays will break down the oil and cover oil when not in use.

Use this handy guide whenever a clock requires oiling.

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