A very complex ship's bell striking movement

People exhibit a wide variety of skills.  There are many that possess good and even excellent mechanical ability.  Let this serve as a word of caution to those people who can't resist the urge to dive into a malfunctioning machine and try to fix it themselves. Unless you are aware of the repair techniques and methods specific to clock movements, I would recommend that you leave this type of work to the professional. That being said, there are those who will ignore this advice and dive in anyway. This section is for you.  (Please note that I have had my fair share of re-assembly jobs where I receive the clock as a pile of parts). 


If you are drawn to doing it yourself (DIY), here are some basic principles to keep in mind.

  • If lubrication is your goal, NEVER use a spray lubricant (e.g., WD-40) on a clock movement. Spraying the entire movement may in the short-term, get your gummy, dirty clock running again, but putting lubricant everywhere can actually damage a movement.  Clock gears are designed to run DRY. The only parts that are lubricated are the bushings and pivots, and these are lubricated sparingly.  The only gear teeth that receive lubricant is on the escape wheel.  Lubricant on the teeth of clock gears will actually accelerate tooth wear because dirt and dust is attracted to the teeth when then acts like sandpaper, grinding the teeth away. 
  • To properly lubricate the bushings and pivots of a clock movement, use a pin-type applicator and a fine clock oil touching each pivot point. That brings up the next basic principle of clock lubrication.  Unless the old oil and black buildup is first removed from bushings, adding fresh oil to a dirty pivot/bushing should not be considered a permanent solution. The added oil may get the movement going again, but, the effect of adding fresh lubricant to gummy old oil and dirty buildup is to solubilize the old oil. That in turn washes any dirt trapped in the old oil directly into the bushing. As above, this process will accelerate bushing wear.  The proper technique for lubrication is to first disassemble and clean the movement to remove any old oil and dirt. Then upon reassembly, the clean bushings are ready to accept fresh lubricant. 
  • Be extremely careful if you decide to undertake disassembly of a clock movement, especially movements driven by large mainsprings.  If the mainsprings are not fully let down (unwound), splitting the plates of a clock movement can cause damage to internal parts, and/or personal injury from the rapidly decompressing mainspring. I have a special tool to safely let down mainsprings, but even when using that tool, I still wear a heavy pair of leather gloves to protect my hands from the sharp edges of the mainspring. 
  • Probably the main reason I get disassembled movements from well-meaning customers who try to DIY, is that reassembly of a clock movement requires a knowledge of the methods of synchronization of the various clock trains. Clocks use a series of levers and trip-pins to sync the time train with the chime and strike trains. If the pins (usually found on the gears) are not properly timed, then the movement will simply not function correctly and may indeed jam and not work at all. If you must try disassembly, take many pictures of the interior gears and levers for later reference.  Also, operate the movement manually to see the effect of each pin and lever to achieve proper action. Study the movement carefully.    

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