Clocks, Watches/Chime rods


QUESTION: I have a Barwick Howard Miller Grandfather clock, #155 Triple chime weight driven movement #4875. For years I haven't had to touch the clock, one day while winding the weights I hit the pendulum and it fell, knocking out the bottom of the clock. I took the weights and top off of the clock and lay it down and fixed the bottom, the I proceeded to check out everything else. The chimes on each quarter hour sound out of tune. I checked and adjusted the hammers (using a spark plug gap tool, just came to mind 1/8 inch thick#, to be 1/8 inch away when at rest. While checking it out I noticed on the top of the chime rods they have screws, all of which are set differently. Is this a way to "tune" the sound? I didn't want to fiddle with them because I wasn't sure. Everything else seems to be working properly, just still trying to get time regulation the way I had it before the pendulum fell. I had it about 5 minutes ahead within a weeks time because you have to turn the hands back when setting the time. #just made more sense and left less room for error#

It's the chime rods I'm curious about. Could they be bent?
They look straight, but not even. And are the screws at the top significant in any way? Anything you can tell me would be great!

Thanks, Wendy

ANSWER: Wendy, you did a good job on the bottom.  It is exactly how I do it.  Remove the weights and pendulum and carefully lay the clock on its back to repair the bottom.

Adjusting the chime rods are critical.  However, a gap tool or measuring device cannot be used effectively.  To start the alignment all the hammers should be between 1/8" and 1/16" from the rods at rest.  They should be aligned on center with the rods and in line with the movement, not askew.  Pull the first hammer back one hammer length and release it.  If it double strikes or makes a thudding sound, it is too close.  Form the hammer wire to bring it back a little.  If the sound is too light, form it so it is a little closer to the rod.  Do this with each hammer until they all sound good.  To do the final alignment, run the clock through the chimes, listening to each note.  As the clock will probably pull the hammers back a little differently from your manual action, it might sound a little different. Re-adjust for a good sound.  The strike hammers are adjusted in about the same way except that they all have to be adjusted as a gang action.  If three of them are okay and one is too close, adjusting the one back might cause the others to be too close, so they have to be adjusted again.

The chime rods are not adjustable.  The pitch is a result of the length.  The screws are installed very tightly at the factory.  They should not be turned.  The chime rods should be in approximately alignment, but being off a little is not a real problem as long as they don't hit each other or anything else like the pendulum or the case.  

The regulation of the clock can be very close and you should not have to worry about setting it to move it forward or backward when winding.  I will say that a few minutes off a week is normal for a mechanical clock.  The electronic clocks we have now give us a feeling that the mechanical clocks are not as accurate as they should be, but that's just because of our advanced technology.

Since the pendulum has been dropped, it could be that the rating nut at the bottom is out of position.  There is a round nut at the bottom of the of the pendulum bob. It probably has a wide flange at the top portion of the nut.  It should fit into a horizontal slot in the bottom back of the bob.  When this is in place, running the nut up and down should respectively speed up and slow down the rate of the clock.  Make sure the bob is resting firmly on the rating nut before and after each adjustment.  Use an electronic device, quartz watch or clock, cell phone, DVR, etc, to set the time on the clock.  Run it for 24 hours and check it again.  If the clock is too fast, unscrew the nut as follows:  The general rule for a grandfather clock is that one turn of the rating nut changes the rate 1/2 minute a day.  So, if it is running 2 minutes a day slow, screw the nut up 4 complete turns.  If it is running too fast, unscrew the rating nut accordingly.

I hope this helps a little.  Let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions.

John Newman
Old Prattvilliage
Prattville, Alabama

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: in reference to: The chime rods should be in approximately alignment, but being off a little is not a real problem as long as they don't hit each other or anything else like the pendulum or the case.

They zigzag back and forth but aren't hitting anything, so I guess I'm good there. Just about have the time regulated how I want it. It's just the patience of working with the hammer rods. (and preciseness#

The first chime is off, I think it's too far, because it's the quietist, the rest seem good. I like them loud, so you recommended they be more like 1/16th " at rest instead of 1/8". I'll try that. I enjoyed tinkering with the clock. I miss my Grandfather, he used to tinker with clock and watches in his retirement, even make a grandfather clock. #I think is was a kit clock#. None the less, I think he would be proud of me.

Wendy, you wrote:  " recommended they be more like 1/16th" at rest instead of 1/8". I'll try that."

Sorry for the misunderstanding.  I meant that you should use that measurement range of 1/16" to 1/8" as a starting point for each hammer.  Then each would be adjusted for the best sound.  There are other factors in this adjustment in that the lift of the hammers can be increased or decreased a little for the best sound, but this should be attempted by an experienced clockmaker as it affects other parts of the adjustment.  Overall there is not much leeway in the whole adjustment process of the chime operation.  To get the loudest sound, you would adjust them to the closest point to give maximum volume without double-striking or thudding.  Incidentally, the higher notes have a tendency to be a little softer than the ones with the lower notes.  This is just a normal way sound works.  You can back off a little on the lower notes to even it up a little.

On the chime rod alignment, I usually carefully push them in one direction or the other to line them up.  I am not going to recommend this because they are rather thin at the top, and if they were not secured during a move they could have been subjected to stress from vibrating during move.  I have had them break when attempting to straighten them.

Good luck and enjoy your clock.

John Newman  

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John Newman


As I am not a certified appraiser I do not give values of clocks over the Internet. There is very little published information on what I consider to be the value of "modern production clocks". However, 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. As clock case model label numbers are difficult to relate to the movements, it is helpful if you can give me the information usually found on the movements themselves. Modern clock movements usually have the information on the back plate of the movement. I have been a clockmaker for about 40 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 in Prattville, Alabama.


One of my greatest accomplishments was traveling to China to assist a clock factory in building clocks to the standards which we required at Emperor. 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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