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Clocks, Watches/Colonial Grandfather clock will not stay running


Hi Mr. Newman,

I'm looking for some help with my Great-Grandmothers grandfather clock.  It is a COlonial clock model 1389 gifted to her in 1927.  I have had it for 11 years and it has always run very reliably.  Last complete professional service was in 2007.  Now it will not stay running.  I believe it has a dead beat eacapement.  I've done a little research and what I am noticing is that the escapement wheel occasionally turns more slowly without an audible "tick-tock" and then the wheel might also turn backwards a bit before resuming.  The clock will run this way for about 30 or 45 minutes but then stops.  I have checked the level and it is still perfect.  Beyond that I am looking for advice.  Thank you!

Beth, contrary to popular belief, level is not critical.  It is the beat that is the factor.  Being "in beat" means that the tick tock sounds like, tick....tock....tick....tock.  If it goes tick..tock......tick..tock......tick..tock, it is out of beat and will eventually stop.  When the clock leaves the factory or has been serviced properly it should be in beat when level.  But the beat is the important part and sometimes the clock has to be tilted to obtain the level beat or the escapement mechanism has to be adjusted so it is in beat when level.  I receive quite a few questions concerning the clock stopping soon after it was wound.  Most of the time the pendulum has been bumped which can cause an out of beat condition.  The first thing that should be done is to listen for the beat to see if it is an even beat.

However, the symptoms of your clock indicate that there is some resistance of the power getting to the escapement wheel, causing it to hesitate in rotating and the reduced tick tock sound.  This could be caused by old and gummy lubricants and/or worn parts.  You state that it has been a little more than 5 years since it was serviced.  Sometimes a lubrication point is missed during service and that can cause a problem such as yours.  I cannot offer any thing else, as you have done a good job in your checking.  It looks like it might need to be looked at by an experienced clockmaker.

Oh, by the way, there are some other causes for your problem.  Make sure the hands are not touching each other or the dial as they turn, or rubbing on the side of the hole in the dial.  Sometimes the dial or movement will shift and this will happen.  Another thing is to check the clearance of the hands.  If the hour hand is not pushed on far enough, the minute hand will not have enough clearance and they will touch at the center point.  To check this, carefully move the hour hand front and back and you should hear a clicking sound as it moves from front to back.  If there is not enough clearance, they will bind.  Another way to check is to loosen the minute hand nut and run the clock.  Do not remove it completely.  If that was the cause, it will run okay.  Then push the hour hand on a little more and tighten the minute hand nut.

Let me know what you find.  Good luck.

John Newman
Old Prattvillage
Prattville, Alabama  

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John Newman


As much as I would like to offer values of clocks, I am not a certified appraiser and will not venture into giving an unresearched guess. There is very little published information on what I consider to be the value of "modern production clocks". Considerations are what the clock originally sold for, the condition of the case and movement, and particularly the area in which you live, the demand and the economy. ALSO, WATCHES ARE NOT MY FIELD. However, I can advise the clock owner on proper maintenance of a clock to keep it running, small corrections and adjustments and how to move a clock without damaging it. I can also advise on obtaining parts for clocks. It helps if you can send any information on the clock movement which is usually found on the back plate of the movement. I have been a clockmaker for about 35 years and was plant engineer in the mid 90's and later operations and engineering consultant at Emperor Clock Company in Fairhope, Alabama. I now have my own clock shop.


One of my greatest accomplishments was traveling to China to assist a clock factory in building clocks to the standards which we required. With the proper specifications and quality control, some beautiful clock cases were built. The factory people from the wood carvers to the plant manager were very congenial, friendly and I left a lot of wonderful friends when I returned from my trips.

NAWCC (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors) 30 years Prattville, Alabama Chamber of Commerce

Horological Times, a publication of the American Watch and Clockmakers Instute. Collaberated column author, with Photos and ideas for clock movement conversion article.

Associate of Science Mechanical Engineering Technology Emperor Introductory Clock Repair (Eventually taught a portion of the class after becoming employee)

Awards and Honors
Small Business of the Quarter (Prattville, Alabama) Leadership Class of 2009 (Autauga County, Alabama)

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