There is nothing as calmingly reassuring as the gentle ticktocks or the melodious echoes of chimes generated by antique clocks. Ever since the sundial, man has been trying to keep track of the passing minutes and through the ages the clock has developed in both accuracy and beauty. Due to their incredible variety of styles, clocks can be extremely rewarding to collect by those with limited budgets to those with much deeper pockets. However, antique clocks, much like their owners, need regular maintenance and care in order to function properly.
If you're trying to maintain a diminutive gilded French carriage clock, or to fix a 20th-century electric novelty clock showing an elderly woman knitting in her rocking chair, there are many ways to help keep your collection ticking merrily along.
Indications of malfunctions come in many forms. The clock may keep accurate time, but lack of chiming is an indication that your clock is headed for trouble. Horologists can make house calls for clock owners having problems with grandfather or tall case clocks.
Aaron Southworth, clockmaker at The Clock Shop of Richmond, Ltd. (6000 W. Broad St. 282-0331) is one such clock doctor. "If your grandfather clock hasn't been oiled in the last two to three years, you may be ready for a home visit. If your clock exhibits signs that its time-keeping has gone awry, then it needs to be taken care of by an expert." Southworth explains that the most common problem with clock mechanisms is wear. Professional clockmakers will clean and polish parts that can become worn and rough or replace damaged pieces with similar working parts.
Like Southworth, Bob Draucker of Antique Clock Restorations (13510 Midlothian Turnpike. 378-8855) does not use new works in repairing clocks. He would advise against purchasing an antique clock retrofitted with new replacement parts. Southworth cautions buyers against purchasing antique clocks via Internet auction sites because many of his customers have been duped into purchasing a clock with new parts. Also, clocks can become easily damaged in the shipping process.
"Clocks are a prized family possession and should be taken care of," Draucker states. "I repair damage to wood casings and have a selection of old veneer available in order to do patchwork. Bumps and chips often happen during the moving process. These can be replaced and the colorization matched." Draucker suggests that clock owners take a close look at their clocks' finish. After many years, there may be signs of wood separation or mildew. The best thing for an owner to do is to allow a professional to try to restore the finish versus a complete refinish job. The restoration helps retain the clock's value.
Often, antique clocks simply need oiling. Much like cars, their parts require lubricants in order to run smoothly. Most clockmakers will gladly demonstrate how to do this task on your own, but you can also consult the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors (www.nawcc.org) to learn about basic maintenance and about clock shows and conventions.
So wind your clocks carefully, but no too much or you might bust a spring, and be careful not to scratch the dial with the metal surface of the key. Remember, your clock wants to put its best face forward and continue measuring the hours for your family and for many generations to come.