How to Clean and Maintain Your Antique Cuckoo Clock

Cleaning a cuckoo, especially the vintage mechanical variety, can seem pretty daunting at first. Cuckoo clocks are absolutely full of nooks and crannies, as well as tiny moving parts, where dust and dirt can lodge itself.

Tradidional cuckoo clockSome amount of wear and dust can actually add to an antique clock’s charm. However, too much can make your clock seem derelict, and can actually affect the performance of the internal mechanisms. So regular cleaning and maintenance is important.

Try and find a professional clock repair expert to do the job. They have the know-how to safely clean and maintain clocks and look for potential problems, like worn gears.

If you feel confident enough to clean your own cuckoo, then it’s very important to approach the job with the utmost care. With a particularly large number of delicate moving parts, one wrong move can cause an expensive amount of damage.

The most common cleaning task is cleaning the exterior. Normally the wooden exterior will not need anything other than regular dusting. This should be done with care to avoid breaking any of the exterior carvings.

Failing to dust regularly may lead to a built up layer of grime after a while, and you may want to resort to a cleaner. Make sure the cleaning agent you use is a natural oil based one, labeled as appropriate for finished hardwood. Test it out on the back of the clock, before you start cleaning in earnest, to make sure you don’t damage the varnish.

If you feel the interior of your clock has developed enough buildup that it’s hindering the performance of the mechanisms, you may need to resort to cleaning the inside. This can be done with a q-tip which has been moistened with water and a mild soap. Avoid dripping water on the wooden housing.

The objective is to reduce the buildup of grime, rather than to get things spotless. You’re concern is function, rather than appearance.

Some cuckoo owners who inspect the interior of their clocks may think they are in need of oiling when the see the gears are dry and coated with dust. However you should never apply any kind of lubricant to your clock’s mechanism, as they are intended to be dry to prevent them getting gummed up.

Clock shops sometimes apply graphite powder to clock workings to maintain their function. This is applied sparingly with a blower bottle. You can remove dust with a can of compressed air, available at computer stores.

Clock mechanisms have numerous gears which move on pivot shafts. On the front and back plate of the gears, are oil wells, where lubricant can be placed with a syringe. Annual oiling can protect your clock mechanism from wear and tear and extend its lifespan. Be careful not to get excess oil on the gears themselves, as this will attract dirt and cause the gears to become sticky.

Some clocks have mechanisms that are accessed through a side door. In this case, you can oil the gear shaft where it meets the front and back plates.

Above all, always be careful not to disturb the delicate inner workings of your clock. Treat your clock with a gentle hand and you can keep it beautiful and extend its functional life for generations to come.

Animate Your Room With a Playful German Scene

Water wheel musical chalet cuckoo clockChalet Clock With Moving Water Wheel
Model No. MD400-12P by River City

As Black Forest craftsmen increased their skill over the years, they began to produce more and more elaborate and sophisticated clocks with elaborate carvings and multiple moving elements. This painted chalet clock is characteristic of the kinds of clocks that resulted of the sopisticated clock building that centuries of competitive craftsmanship have produced in Germany.

Like antique chalet clocks this authentic German import features playful images of traditional Black Forest village life, rendered in brightly painted carvings. The clock is animated by German dancers who circle in and out of the chalet every half hour to the accompaniment of “Edelweiss” and “Happy Wanderer.” A yellow carved cuckoo calls out the hour and a water mill wheel turns below.

The entire scenario is brought to life not with electronics, but with traditional German Regula movement, powered by three pinecone weights which must be wound daily. A hand-carved wooden pendulum keeps the time. A switch keeps the music off at night.

The clock is traditionally carved by German craftsmen in fine linden wood. It is large, measuring 12 inches in height.

Some may find such an elaborate clock a bit too much, but true lovers of German tradition will appreciate the centuries of tradition that go into a clock like this one. It would make a perfect heirloom for any family with German roots to pass on to their children.

A Vacation Cottage on Your Wall

chalet cuckoo clockChalet Clock with Leaf Designs
Model 436HV
List Price:

After the traditional natural leaf design, the most popular cuckoo design is the chalet style, which originated in Switzerland. This type of cuckoo features a traditional mountain vignette around a little alpine chalet, and often features playful animated figures in addition to the cuckoo.

This chalet clock has a nice rustic design carved in warm finished wood. It is mechanically operated by pulling its metal weights, and marks each half hour with the traditional gong and cuckoo. It’s about 10 inches high and fits nicely into any decor with its decorative but not overwhelming appearance.

This clock would go great in any decor that emphasizes nature. A cottage or a room with a cottage design would be perfect. You can compliment your clock with European handicrafts, forest designs (in wallpaper and so on), as well as landscape paintings and photos. It’s a perfect gift for the outdoor enthusiast.

One decorative scheme it probably wouldn’t work well with is modern. One thinks of cuckoo clocks as being traditional, but there are also minimalist cuckoos that would fit into the most modern room decor.

Modern Technology, Combined with an Old Favorite

Quartz cuckoo clockBattery Operated Quartz Musical Cuckoo
Model Q 70/9 by Anton Schneider
List price: $185.76

This modern version of the traditional Black Forest design looks all but identical to the traditional 9 inch tall version, with hand-carved details in Black Forest wood and a rich antique finish, a swinging wooden pendulum and a cuckoo which emerges dutifully on every hour.

So why would you want to replace traditional German mechanisms with modern technology?

Well, with crazy modern schedules being what they are, you might not remember to wind your cuckoo every morning. This battery operated version keeps precise quartz time regardless, and you probably won’t miss the winding. It also automatically shuts itself off at night, so you won’t be in danger of being woken up no matter how forgetful you are.

The simple quartz mechanism is also easy to replace, so maintenance and repairs are not a worry.

As an added bonus, the cuckoo is followed up by an electronic music box which plays assorted popular German tunes, like “Happy Wanderer” and “Edelweiss” for an extra bit of European charm. Music boxes are an ever more popular option for wall clocks as they let you have a diverse set of sounds to mark the hour and keep things from getting stale.

A Colorful Variation on an Old Theme

Painted traditional clockBlack Forest Painted Traditional Cuckoo Clock
Model 522/9 by Black Forest
List Price $322.50

This authentic hand-made German clock is a variation on the traditional five-leaf design. It has a pleasant light walnut finish adorned with colorful blue scilla and the iconic edelweiss, for added alpine charm. Cuckoos and especially chalet clocks can often be painted in a bright palette of colors, but I like the understated color on this model.

A colorful and traditional cuckoo like this one looks great in kitchens and dining rooms. They’re great for announcing the dinner hour. They also work in living rooms and studies. One place cuckoos don’t usually work well is bedrooms due to their restless nature.

Did you know? Edelweiss, meaning “noble purity” is an often used symbol in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Like the traditional German cuckoo, it is weight-driven and gongs on each half-hour interval. Pulling the pinecone weights at the bottom sets it in motion for a full day. A swinging leaf pendulum keeps time. It measures 9 inches in height.

A Traditional Cuckoo Clock – From the 21st Century

Traditional cuckoo clockTraditional Black Forest Clock
Model 90/9HZ by Anton Schneider
List Price: $155.52

The cuckoo aficionado will be pleased to note that it’s still easy to get a modern cuckoo with all the admired qualities of an antique clock: Hand-carved Black Forest wood, German craftsmanship and traditional mechanical movement and sounds.

This model of clock represents one of the most popular traditional designs, with alpine foliage topped with a soaring cuckoo. It evokes the admiration of nature that characterizes the cuckoo tradition.

It’s made by the German clockmaker Anton Schneider, whose operations date back to 1858.

The clock is operated just like a traditional cuckoo with German Regula movement. Raising the metal pinecone weights will set the clock in motion for 30 hours (one weight is for the clock, the other is for the cuckoo and gong), with the little bird announcing the hours and half-hours. It features a mechanical shut-off switch to keep it quiet at night.

The best feature of this clock has to be the hand-carved wood face. It’s carved from German linden wood, which is prized both for its sculptural and acoustic qualities. The distressed wood finish makes it almost indistinguishable from its antique ancestors.

While cuckoo clocks are known for being built to the most outlandish scales, this one is a much more manageable 9 inches in height, which makes it appropriate for just about any domestic setting.

Older posts «