A carriage clock is an ornate, beautiful piece of timekeeping majesty and one that requires a specific amount of care to not only have it running as it should but looking as it should too.

A few months back, we looked into the history of the carriage clock and explained how this now famous, ornamental and often gifted clock came to be in the 19th century. Often imitated, antique carriage clocks are still found, but perhaps not in the same numbers they were before. This leads to those lucky enough to own one from the 1800s/1900s taking more care of them to ensure they remain in exquisite condition and not only maintain their value but increase it too.

In this edition of our blog, we look at how you can clean a carriage clock to help maintain its quality. Not only on the exterior but the interior too.

Equipment needed to clean a carriage clock

Before attempting to reinvigorate your carriage clock and give it a new lease of life, you should make sure you have the correct equipment to complete a clean. Whilst it would always be recommended you visit someone who specializes in carriage clock servicing for a full overhaul and thorough cleaning, provided you have this equipment, you can complete the job to a respectable standard at home.

You will need:

  • A set of precision screwdrivers
  • A set of precision tweezers
  • Large needle nose pliers
  • An anti-static brush
  • Clock oil
  • Clock cleaning fluid
  • Microfibre cloth

As an optional extra, you can use a magnifying glass, (either head-worn or handheld) to help you view the intricate parts a little clearer. This will come down to personal preference but due to the number of small parts involved, it would be advisable. Regarding the oil, it is essential to make sure you only use specialist clock oil. Other oils cause damage to the metalwork and other parts of your carriage clock. The cleaning fluid is similar. You can opt for ammoniated or non-ammoniated clock cleaning fluid, the latter being preferable if your clock is valuable both sentimentally and monetarily. If you decide to use ammoniated clock cleaning fluid, the room must be well-ventilated at all times, and the product must not be mixed with any other form of chemical. The fumes can be extremely dangerous if this was to happen.

Unwinding a carriage clock before cleaning or maintaining a carriage clock

Before attempting any work cleaning or servicing your carriage clock, you must unwind the spring. An unwound carriage clock, no matter how weakly wound it is, could easily cause you injury when you try and clean the parts.

Hold the winding key for your carriage clock in place, this will hold the spring tension. Hold the key firmly and release the ratchet. Allow your key to turn gently to begin unwinding the spring, you’ll feel the tension gradually release. You should do this in half-turn increments, reapplying the ratchet between turns. This will allow you to manage the release of the spring pressure. Keep working through this process until you feel no tension in the spring.

Disassembling a carriage clock for cleaning: Step by step

Now you have released the spring tension, you can begin the cleaning and servicing of your carriage clock.

Losen the base screws

On the underside of your carriage clock, you should find four screws. One in each corner. Before working on them, it may be advisable to apply some tape across the glass of your carriage clock. This will prevent it from falling out and breaking when you remove the clock case.

With your precision screwdriver, loosen each screw but not so that they can fall out. This unscrewing will have loosened the glass slightly. If you unscrew the base all the way, this glass could fall out and break.

Removing the base and movement

Having loosened the screws a little, you should be able to see that the glass is a little looser. Hold the case of the clock to ensure the glass is still supported and remove all four screws completely. You will see that the glass is even looser now so it may be best to remove it and put it to one side.  With the glass and case now removed, you can unscrew the remaining screws to help you release the clock movement from the base.

Removing the carriage clock platform escapement

You should now have the case and the movement removed from the base. The next part to remove is the platform escapement. You will see approximately three or four screws attached to the movement. The platform escapement is a horizontal platform that connects the front and back plates of the clock mechanisms. Loosen the screws until the platform can be lifted off. Ideally, leave the screws in the holes, they are very small and leaving them in their holes will make things much simpler when it comes to putting your carriage clock back together.

Unlocking and removing the backplate

You will see four pillars connecting the front and back plates of the clock. The back plates are locked in place with tapered pins. Using your pliers, you should be able to pull the pins out. Do this gently though as a sudden jolt of force could cause you to either damage the clock or injure yourself! Of course, remember to do this part with the clock lying front down. Consider resting the clock on a towel as you do this to prevent scratching and give you a surface that will help keep the clock steady.

Gently lift the back plate off. From here you will start to see the gears and intricate parts of your carriage clock. As you remove the backplate slowly, you may see that some parts lift out slightly as you raise the plate. If they do, carefully remove them, and reinsert them into the space they were lifted from.

With the backplate removed, you will now see all the fine mechanisms in all their glory. It would be worth taking a photo at this stage so you have a clear idea of where each part should sit when you reassemble your carriage clock.

Removing the carriage clock gear train

This part should be done carefully. Some of the cogs will be kept in place by others, so it is best to remove them in an order where the easiest to remove is followed by the next easiest to detach. As they are removed, line them up in the order you took them out. This will make things much simpler when you put the clock back together. From here, remove the drum that holds the main spring. You should now see two wheels attached to the front plate by a screw. Remove this screw to take these wheels off.  On the reverse of the back place is another piece attached by two screws. Only remove the screw attached to the back plate. Finally, there should be one more piece of brass that covers the ratchet wheel, remove this and your carriage clock is disassembled.

It would be helpful for the latter stages if you took photos each time you removed a part, so you have a clear idea of where each part goes.

Cleaning your carriage clock: Step by step

With all parts of the carriage clock now separated from each other, you can begin the cleaning process. Start with the gear train.

Cleaning the gear train of a carriage clock

The cogs will likely be a little dusty and dirty from old oil and any debris that may have somehow got attached to them. Using your chosen clock cleaning fluid, soak each piece individually in the solution. Using a small container or a bucket can be good for this. As you remove each piece, use your brush to gently wipe away dirt and debris. Your magnifying glass can come in handy here to ensure you haven’t missed a sport.

Once you are happy each piece is clean, rinse it with clean water and dry it thoroughly but gently.

Cleaning the panels

Using the same cleaning fluid, you can use your brush or a soft cloth to apply it to the panels, much will depend on the material your clock is made from so if you have doubts, check the product information, or consult a specialist. Dry the panels and you should now have all working parts and the exterior clean.

Cleaning the clock face

This part may not be necessary and can cause more damage than good. Especially if you were to cause cosmetic damage to it or break the hands of the clock. If you do decide to clean the clock face, remove the hands first. You can do this by simply giving them a gentle pull. You can then clean the clock face. Depending on the material used for it, this could require a simple wipe with a soft cloth or using your clock cleaning fluid.

Cleaning the glass

Using a microfibre cloth and a small amount of glass cleaner, clean the glass of the clock. Just remember, putting it back together may mean fingerprints may appear on the glass again so you can opt to do this now and then again or after you have reassembled the clock. Just remember, fingerprints or dirt on the interior of the glass will mean you starting the disassembly process again if you decide to clean the glass at the end.

Reassembling your carriage clock

With the interior working parts now cleaned, you can put it back together. If you have left the parts organised, you shouldn’t have many problems. Using the photos you took earlier; you will be able to see how the clock should look.

Working in the reverse of how you took it apart, start to reassemble your clock by putting the cogs back as they were. When it comes to placing the plate back into position, do not force it. Line it up, allowing the taller cogs to slot into place. You should see that some are not quite in line. Gently move each spindle so it becomes lined up you’ll hear the plate fall a little. By gradually repeating this process with the spindles, you’ll have the clock fully lined up.  Using the lynch pins you can keep one area in place while you carefully move the other spindles where they need to be. This can be fiddly and may take time!

Once this is all in place, you can start putting the remainder of the clock pieces back together, and they are the simple ones!

Lubricating your carriage clock

With the interiors and exteriors now cleaned, and the clock reassembled, you can use the clock oil to oil the spindle holes. You should not oil the cogs. It will run more smoothly with oiled cogs but carriage clocks do not require the cogs to be oiled and were built to run without oiled cogs.

 

You should now be ready to enjoy your carriage clock again. Working step-by-step and taking photos as you remove parts is essential to ensuring a complete rebuild of your clock. However, it can very quickly become confusing. If you feel unsure, speak to our team. At The Clock Clinic, we specialise in restoring, maintaining and servicing carriage clocks among all others. Simply contact our expert horologists to book an appointment and we can have your clock back to its best.