How to set up a mechanical Antique French clock
Useful Info

Setting up your clock
The following setup instructions is for a French mantle clock:


Listen carefully to it tick/tock.

In beat is the term given to a clock when the intervals between the 'ticks' and the 'tocks' are equally spaced.  A clock is termed 'out of beat' if, when placed on a straight and level surface,


the tick/tock is uneven


it won't go at all or


it will go but only if the clock is raised on one side.


Gently set the pendulum swinging.  After a minute or two, when it has settled down, check the sound of the ticking. You should hear a consistent: .... tick .... tock .... tick .... tock .... tick .... tock .... tick .... tock.

If it sounds like it's 'galloping' ( ....... tick-tock ....... tick-tock ....... tick-tock ....... tick-tock .......), it's out of beat. A clock that is out of beat is likely to stop because the pendulum is not receiving the optimum impulses to keep it swinging.


Antique French clocks will often have metal straps holding the movement in the case. By slackening the two screws on the back door and rotating the whole movement from the front bezel one or two degrees to the left or right, it may be possible to put it in beat. But if this puts the dial visibly out of true vertical, you'll have to adjust the crutch which is explained below. Don't forget to re-tighten the screws to prevent the clock from rotating when being wound.


Putting in beat by adjusting the crutch


The aim is to adjust the angle of the crutch without disturbing the position of the escapement to which it is attached (the steel bit at the top that stops the brass escape wheel turning).

French clocks can be put in beat easily if they are not too far out. For the rest, a combination of good hearing, a quiet room and perseverance is required to adjust the crutch.


First, stop the clock by holding the pendulum in the central position. Then carefully move it first to the right, until it ticks. (If it doesn't tick, move it to the left, instead). Then do the same on the opposite side. Determine which side requires the least degree of movement from the vertical position.  It is in this direction that the crutch needs to be eased. You can repeat the process as often as you need to until you are sure.


Many movements have a simple friction joint, which allows the crutch to be adjusted on its shaft (arbor) without bending. To adjust these, move the crutch in the desired direction to the limit of its free travel and then apply slight pressure. If the movement is fitted with a friction joint the crutch will turn slightly on the arbor. It only needs to move the tiniest fraction; you can always adjust it again after you have retested the pendulum swing. If the swing of the crutch is restricted (say, by pins protruding from the back-plate), the escapement will have to be held at the top with one hand while the crutch is repositioned. If the crutch starts to flex, let go at once.

Where no friction joint is fitted, the crutch arm may need to be bent; this may sound a little drastic but it is the recognised (and only) method and very common on antique clocks. But be gentle, and never put any firm pressure on a crutch against the escapement as this may snap the pivot or cause other serious damage. Instead, bend the crutch against the resistance of the other hand or between fingers of the same hand. Only make a very small adjustment before re-testing. As it is not possible to measure the alterations you are making, it is largely a matter of trial and error and several attempts may be necessary.


We hope this has helped you get set up.


Time machine team




















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