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Mike, Consultant
Category: Clock Repair
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Experience:  I've been active in clock repair for 14 years - NAWCC member.
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My Black Forest cuckoo clock has stopped working after about

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My Black Forest cuckoo clock has stopped working after about 8 years. I have done nothing but dust it during that time: no oiling or anything else as I don't know what to use or how to do it. Can you advise?

Many thanks


Hi! Joseph, My name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you. Yes I think it might be do for a good cleaning.


This is a chronic problem with this type of works....
pivots and actuators are highly susceptible to dirt and dust and the lubricants often will dry up and bind the movements...
you need to do a light cleaning (ether will work as it evaporates quickly)
and then you can blow dry it with a can of compressed air, try cleaning first and if that does not remedy the problem.



First you should not use oil. What we use in the industry is called clock lubricant, and then, only in very minute quantities. For example, a single drop distributed over all the lubricating points of you clock should be adequete. Too much lubrcants is often times worse than not enough. If you feel secure in doing your own lubricating, by all means do so.
Should you be so disposed do at least the following;
1. Aquire some clock lubricant. (be specific and emphatic about this.)
2. Aquire a throw away hypodermic syringe from a drug store, or whereever. To make it into a lubricator file a notch into the needle slightly above the point, then brake it off. This gives you a flat hole that will be needed to place the lubricant. Using the hypodermic allows you to control the minute quantity of liquid needed to do the job. Another way to control the amount of fluid is to put a drop of lubricant on a glass surface and from there distribute the amount require by dipping a needle in the drop then touching the point to where you wish to deliver. This is a far more precise than the hypodermic delivery system but not as convenient. If you choose to do this yourself be SURE to carefully lubricate teeth of the escape wheel and the escapement itself. (i.e. the piece that rocks back and forth as the pendulum swings right to left.) This is cuicial.


Cuckoo Clock Basics

Cuckoo Clock History

The idea for the development of the Black Forest Cuckoo Clock was probably brought to the area through glass salesmen from Strasburg. In the famous artistical Strasburger cathedral clock, a rooster crows every hour to announce the hour time. In any case, around 1750 the so-called Schottenuhr clock design (special Black Forest painted wooden shield clock) began to appear with a cuckoo that came out of a small door at the top of the clock face, proclaiming the time every hour. These clocks were highly coveted and extremely expensive rarities. Soon a new variety of the cuckoo clock was developed with a brown-stained, oak clock face in the shape of a railroad house. Today this world renowned, wood-carved Black Forest Cuckoo Clock is still produced in the same form as it was in the beginning. The carvings vary according to design: carved leaves, hunter design, or a miniature house. Many extra features have been added to enhance the clock's design: 8-day clock movement, a night shut-off switch, a minute hand which can also be turned backwards, and the choice of having a music box built into the clock. As can be seen, the Black Forest Clock is much more than just a beautiful souvenir - this clock has impacted the development of our area in a significant way.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process of an original black-forest cuckoo clock requires a lot of talent and skills. Consisting of many individual parts, all of which are handmade, a high quality clock originates after 4 steps:

To summarize, the manufacturing process of a Black-Forest Cuckoo Clock can be divided into four steps:
The woodcarver carves the wooden surface
The clockmaker builds the mechanical movement
The joiner builds the wooden case
The woodcarving, movement and the wooden case are assembled and adjusted to a unique cuckoo clock by the clockmaker

The woodcarving is the core of each clock. It is made of linden wood by using many different kinds of chisels. Linden wood is mostly used for woodcarvings, because it is not too hard and not too soft.
manufacturing process of a unique cuckoo clock
First, the layout is drawn on a prepared wooden board with a pencil. Then the shape of the carving is sawn out by using a scroll saw. Now, the carving process can begin. The piece of wood is attached to a wooden panel by nails. The carver works out the coarse structures in order to finish it by using smaller chissels. The first cut is the "stop cut". This cut requires a solid bench, a solid mallet, and a little violence. The "stop cut" outlines the object and is cut straight down into the wood all the way around the perimeter of the design, about 0.2 inches deep. The next step is lowering. This means working all around the "stopped" design until it is outlined with a "lowering cut" at least 0.5 inches across. This procedure repeats itself until the shape of the carving corresponds to the picture that the woodcarver has in his mind.
manufacturing process of a unique cuckoo clock
The apprenticeship to become a woodcarver takes 3 years. However, it takes a life time to become a Master Woodcarver like Rudi Fehrenbach.

What to Look For?

In the world of cuckoo clocks there are three different styles. The chalet style, traditional style (also known as classic style) and the station house style (which can be found in the traditional section on our website). The chalet style is probably the most famous of all three since it has a lot of action such as a moving beer drinker or woodchoppers. The traditonal style and station house style are the two most historic styles. Both styles have a very long history in the cuckoo clock world. The tradtional style is famous for its deep animal carvings and dark stain, whereas the station house style captivates the eye thourgh its classy look.

Our clocks have two different movements, the mechanical brass movement and the quartz movement (battery powered). Both movements keep good time and are very reliable. If you are looking for an authentic Black Forest Cuckoo Clock you should definitely go with the brass movement. The brass movment is available as 1-Day and 8-Day movement. This means that you have to wind the clock either once a day or once a week. All mechanical movements are manufactered by SBS in Schonach, Black Forest, Germany and are well-known under the brand name REGULA.

All cuckoo clocks with three weights play music. The 1-Day clocks play two songs an hour, one song to the full and one song to the half hour. The 8-Day clocks play also two songs, but they alternate on the hour. The musicbox is the only part which is not made in the Black Forest. The musicbox is made by well-known brands in Switzerland like REUGE or JOBIN. Both companies are famous for high-end musiboxes.

Night Shut-Off
All our cuckoo clocks are equipped with a night shut-off. The shut-off is usually locatetd on the bottom or on the side of the cuckoo clock case. For further information about night shut-offs please see the next section "Getting a Cuckoo Clock Started."

Getting a Cuckoo Clock Started

Unpacking the Clock
1 cuckoo clock (left image chalet - right image traditional), 2a top piece with bird or 2b top piece with deer head and 2 antlers, 3 pendulum, 4 two weights for a Cuckoo Clock without music or three weights for a Cuckoo Clock with music. Some clocks (eg. the Black Forest House or the Black Forest Mill) have NO top pieces as mentioned in 2a and 2b.

Please check to see if small wood pieces from the clock (i.e. small carvings) have broken off during shipping and are laying in the carton. If this is the case, use wood glue to glue these parts back on the clock. Please be careful when unpacking!
Pick up the clock by the ROOF, and not by the carving section.

Removing the Shipping Security Objects
Carefully lay the clock face down on a soft surface.To open the back of the clock, gently stick a screwdriver or pencil in the small hole (see 11) in the middle of the clock and pry the back open.
Attention: DO NOT put your finger or a tool in the bottom hole (see 12).

Very carefully remove the paper strip (5) that is lodged between the metal spiral on the back door of the clock, being sure not to bend or adjust the position of the spiral. Take out the U-formed clips (6) that are holding the cuckoo bellows together and put them in a safe place for later possible transport, along with all other packing materials.
Replace the back door of the clock and push the metal stay into place.
Careful: Please do not bend any other wires or clockwork pieces on the clockwork.

Attaching Top Carving Piece
Slide the top piece of the carving (2a or 2b) into the screw holders on the clock "roof" and gently but firmly screw the top piece on tightly enough that it will not come loose.

For the deer head top piece, first screw the deer head onto the top piece, and then screw the whole top piece onto the clock. Stick the antlers into the deer head, with the antler tips pointing toward the inside.

Hanging the Clock
Place an upward-slanted nail or screw and dowel (13) into the wall approximately two meters (6 ft) above the floor, leaving a thumbs-breadth sticking out of the wall. Hang the upper opening on the back of the clock (9) onto the nail/screw. Then you may open the wire holding the cuckoo door shut (7) by turning it to the side so that it will no longer stop the door from opening. Only when the clock is already hanging on the wall should you open the package with the chains (8) and let the chains slowly out of the package, carefully loosening any knots that may have developed. Then you can pull the security wire out from between the chains. Please be careful that the clock is not laid down or turned upside down while the chains are loose like this-otherwise the chains could come away from the turning gears in the clockwork. Hang the pendulum (3) on the pendulum hanger (10). Hang the weights on the chain hooks, and then your clock is ready to run.

Starting the Clock
With the clock hanging straight on the wall, gently nudge the pendulum to start it swinging. If the clock is hanging correctly and straight, the pendulum should not rub against the clock cabinet, should be swinging freely and the ticking of the clock should be even on both sides. Check the ticking of the clock, and adjust the straightness of the clock until the ticking on both sides is equal.

Setting and Regulating the Time
To set the clock time, turn the long hand to the left (counterclockwise) until you reach the correct time. The cuckoo call sets itself automatically. Please DO NOT turn the short hand or touch it.If you turn the long hand to the right (clockwise), then you must wait every hour and half-hour for the cuckoo to call before you turn any further, and if you have a cuckoo clock with music, then you must wait until the melody has finished playing before you can turn it any further.

Your cuckoo clock has been regulated already, but you must fine-tune it by observing it for 24 hours to see if it is too fast or too slow. If the clock goes too fast, move the pendulum (3a) gently down (slows down pendulum swing). If the clock goes too slow, move the pendulum gently up (speeds up pendulum swing).

Night Shut-Off
In most cases, the cuckoo call can be turned off manually using a switch on the side or underneath the cuckoo clock cabinet. If the switch for the manual switch-off is in the down position, in most cases the cuckoo will call day and night. To turn the cuckoo call off, flip the switch up. It can be that some clocks have the opposite setup (down is off, and up is on). On some of our cuckoo clock models with 8-day movement and music, there is a built-in night shut-off that you can activate. This automatic setting turns the cuckoo and music off from 10:00 p.m. until 7:15 a.m. Please follow the special instructions for setting the day and night time. These instructions are included with every clock with automatic switch-off.

Option: Automatic Night Shut-Off
The on-off switch lever located on the side of the housing or the stick located on the bottom of the housing can be used to control the cuckoo call and the music as described below.

Position 1
If the shut-off lever is in the horizontal position (middle) or the bottom stick is in the middle position, the clock is in the fully automatic position.In this position, the cuckoo call and the music is discontinued automatically from 9:00 PM to 8:00 AM. To guarantee the proper shut-off function make sure that the shut-off lever is in its proper position.
Position 2
If the shut-off lever is in the bottom position (pointing down) or the stick on the bottom of the housing is pulled all the way down your clock is in the manual shut-off position. In this position, the cuckoo call and music is totally shut-off.
Position 3
If the shut-off lever is moved all the way up (pointing upward) or the stick on the bottom of the housing is pushed all the way up your clock is in the operating position.

Please do not operate the off-on lever/stick while the cuckoo call or music is operating!

Adjusting Time
The hands are already synchronized at 12:00 o'clock noon. After you have positioned your clock on the wall please set the hands at your correct local time as follows:
If your local time is 9:00 A.M. please turn the minute hand (the longer hand) backwards to 9:00 AM. If your local time is 4:00 P.M. please turn the minute hand clockwise to 4:00 P.M..

Installing the Clock/ Winding the Clock
If a weight and chain fall down when you try to hang up a weight, the chain has come off of the clock gear. The chain can be reinstalled as follows:
Pull the chain from the other weight so that the weight is completely up, and then take off that weight. Secure this chain by putting the packing wire through the uppermost part of the chain so that it will not come off of the gear.
Turn the clock upside down, take the gear for the fallen chain, and attempt to wind the chain back around the gear. To get the gear to turn and pull the chain back through, pull the chain at one end to see if it turns. The chain gear will allow you to turn it in one direction, and the other direction will be blocked. Please try it to see which direction the gear wheel should be turned. If necessary, the hook for the weight and the ring on the other end of the chain should be taken off and then put back on.
PLEASE DO NOT USE BRUTE FORCE - Treat your clock gently.
If you have a 24-hour clockwork, the clock weights should be pulled up once a day. If you have an 8-day (1 week) clockwork, the clock weights should be pulled up once a week. Attention: When pulling on the chain to pull a weight up, especially with heavy weights, you may push up on the weight very slightly to relieve the chain of the weight while you are pulling the chain, although the chain still needs to have a bit of tension from the weight in order to be pulled through the clockwork. In order to keep from putting too much pressure on the clockwork, please pull the weights up slowly, evenly, and without a jerking motion.The clock weights move steadily downward when all of the clock functions are operating. If you have turned the cuckoo call switch to OFF (or cuckoo/music), then the weights for those functions will not move, but stay where they were when you turned the switch off.

Care and Maintenance

Cuckoo clocks do not need very much regular care. The modern movements are sophisticated, easy to maintain and durable. To clean the clock please use a soft dry paint brush. Please have the movement checked and oiled at regualer intervals of approximately 3-4 years by a clockmaker nearby. To avoid reducing the lifetime of the cuckoo clock please use the clock in standard room temperatures. Temperatures below 5 °C (40°F), high humidity of the surrounding air, too much dust or dampness may damage your clock. Please do not hang the cuckoo clock directly above an open fire place as the very dry and warm air might distort the wooden parts and the oil in the bearings of the clock movement might run "dry". Minor damage on the wooden parts and carvings due to transport may occur sometimes and can not be avoided. Please repair such minor damages yourself by using wood glue and a felt-tip pen in the appropriate color.

If you need further assistance, please don't hestitate to ask.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.



Thanks for the info.

Sounds like a job for an expert so I will look for a local clock repairer!

I'm glad I was able to help. If you need help in the future JustAnswer is always here. Thanks Mike