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.
Some 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.