How to safely move a grandfather clock?

If you happen to own a grandfather clock, chances are good that it has been passed down to you from previous generations as a highly valued family heirloom. In such a case, it’s only natural that you’ll want the antique clock to remain in the family – intact and in good condition – for the next generations to come. If you need to move house, however, you will be faced with an enormous challenge: How to move a grandfather clock safely? How to transport it to your new home without causing damage to the fine ornaments, delicate finishing and intricate mechanism of your precious timepiece?

To ensure the safety of your long case clock – whether it’s indeed a family heirloom or just a valuable new addition to your home décor – throughout the relocation process, you need to handle it with great care and follow a number of essential guidelines that will help you properly prepare your treasured timepiece for moving.

First things first:

1) Never lift up and carry a grandfather clock without disassembling it first. The clock weights and pendulum must be removed before transporting the timepiece even a short distance. Otherwise, you risk not only damaging the movement, but also causing the suspended pendulum to break or allowing the weights to swing in the case and cause irreversible damage;

2) Do not touch the delicate components of a grandfather clock with bare hands. Use a soft cloth or wear cotton gloves to prevent the oils that are naturally present on the human skin from tarnishing the fine brass parts or glass elements of the clock;

3) Hire specialty movers who have the rich experience, appropriate packing materials, and professional know-how to safely handle and move your valuable clock.

If professional movers are not an option for one reason or another, adhere strictly to the following instructions on how to move a grandfather clock yourself. You should do just fine.

How to disassemble a grandfather clock for moving

Preparing a grandfather clock for moving requires utmost care and attention on your part. The first thing you need to do is open the front of the clock case. Then, follow the steps below:

STEP 1 – Remove the pendulum

Carefully stop the pendulum from swinging. Hold it from the middle and lift it slowly to remove it from the suspension spring that holds the pendulum in place. Do not force it – the pendulum should unhook easily.

Wrap some newspaper around the pendulum guide to prevent it from moving around during the transportation. The pendulum itself should be wrapped in bubble wrap or foam sheets and packed in a well-cushioned, tightly sealed moving box.

STEP 2 – Remove the weights

  • If your clock is chain-driven, pull the chains until the weights are about halfway to the top. Tie the chains together with a thin wire (or twist ties) just where they protrude below the movement, so that they don’t come off of their sprockets during shipment;
  • If your clock has cable-driven movement, fit blocks of hard foam (approximately 2 inches square) or rolls of newspaper (about 2 inches in diameter) above each of the pulleys between the cables. Wind the weights up one at a time until they come to a stop, so that the paper rolls (or the foam blocks) are tightly jammed above the pulleys. This will keep tension on the cables and will prevent them from tangling when you remove the weights.

Unhook the weights from the pulleys and remove them from the clock. Make sure you mark the weights (“L”- left, “C”- center and “R”- right) in order to know where to put each of them upon reassembly. This is very important because the weights are not identical – the heaviest one is usually on the right hand side and operates the chime mechanism.

Wrap the weights in a soft protective material to prevent damage to the brass casing and pack them safely in a properly-padded, sturdy moving box.

STEP 3 – Secure cables and chains

Once you have removed the pendulum and the weights, you need to make sure that the cables and/or chains do not get intertwined with each other or snap back into the clock’s movement. To achieve this you’re recommended to bunch the chains top to bottom and wrap them with newspaper or bubble wrap. Secure the bundle with a rubber band or twist ties. This will keep the chains and cables from tangling or banging against the sides of the case and damaging the finish.

Alternatively, you can put a piece of cardboard behind the cables or chains and tape them to it – this will successfully prevent them from crossing over, moving up into clock’s movement or getting misaligned.

It is also a good idea to secure the hammers for the chime and the striking mechanism. All you need to do is bend the corresponding levers to prevent the hammers from swinging freely within the case and getting damaged. Then, stuff some bubble wrap or cardboard between the hammers and the bells and secure it in place with packing tape.

If your clock has chime rods, you should fit some bubble wrap or foam padding between the rods as well, so that they don’t move and bang against each other during the transportation. Have in mind that the chime rods are very fragile and difficult to replace.

STEP 4 – Take care of the movement

Your next step is to check the movement. In case it is not tightly secured but simply set on two sideboards inside the case, you should remove it and pack it separately. It is recommendable to pack the movement and the dial upright in a sturdy, well-padded box – this way you will keep the front of the dial and the clock hands safe and will prevent the crutch at the back of the movement from bending and getting damaged.

If your clock has tubular movement, you should remove the tubes.

STEP 5 – Remove glass shelves and decorative elements

Remove any shelves from inside the grandfather clock and wrap them individually in soft packing paper and bubble wrap to prevent them from breaking.

If possible, remove any decorative ornaments from the clock as well (most of them are simple dowels and should pop out quite easily). If the decorative elements are firmly secured, make sure you place extra padding around them when packing the clock.

Consider stuffing a soft blanket, crumpled paper, or packing peanuts inside the case for added support.

STEP 6 – Secure the access panels

When the grandfather clock is fully dismantled, reinstall the access panels and secure them in place (lock them or tape them). Don’t forget to lock any windows or doors your clock may have or secure them with packing tape to prevent them from opening and getting damaged.

How to pack a grandfather clock for moving

Packing a grandfather clock for moving is easy enough, once it has been properly disassembled (as described above). You are recommended to:

  • Place a piece of cardboard over the glass front;
  • Wrap the entire case with several layers of bubble wrap for optimal protection;
  • Wrap a furniture blanket around the clock and secure it with packing tape. Wrap two full circles of tape near the top of the clock, one more at the middle, and one near the base;
  • If your grandfather clock is an antique or has very high sentimental or monetary value, you are strongly advised to pack it in a custom-build wooden crate – it will ensure the best possible protection for your precious timepiece. Make sure you fill any remaining space in the box with packing peanuts to prevent shifting during the transportation;
  • Pack all the detached clock elements separately – make sure you use the safest and most appropriate packing method for every individual piece (as described above);
  • Label all the boxes that contain parts of your grandfather clock “FRAGILE” and “HANDLE WITH CARE”. The crate or box that holds the clock case should be marked “THIS SIDE UP”, so that it won’t be laid down or flipped during the move.

How to move a grandfather clock yourself

If you’re moving your grandfather clock by yourself, use a dolly to take the carefully packed timepiece out of your home and to the moving vehicle. Tilt the box as little as possible when loading it on the truck. Use straps to secure the clock case, so that it won’t slide, slip or tumble down during the transportation.

If you are not sure how to transport a grandfather clock, you’d better keep it in an upright position during transit. Newer grandfather clocks can be moved lying down but this puts unnecessary pressure on the panels and glass elements, increasing the risk of breaking. Older clocks need to be moved upright because of the weight of the movement and the way it is attached to the case.

SEE ALSO: How to move antique furniture

After the relocation

When you arrive in your new home, set the clock up with great care:

  • Install your delicate timepiece on flat stable flooring – a grandfather clock may not operate properly unless it is well balanced, so you need to make any necessary adjustments to ensure the base of the clock is perfectly level;
  • Carefully remove the packaging and replace all the detached parts – make sure all the components are properly fitted and located on their rightful places;
  • Allow the clock to reach room temperature before servicing;
  • Start the clock and ensure accurate timing. Re-adjust any moon dials and make sure the chimes ring accurately.

Packing and moving a grandfather clock is quite a challenge – consider having your precious timepiece serviced by qualified personnel after the relocation to make sure it is in prime condition.

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2 thoughts on “How to safely move a grandfather clock?

  1. I did some more hunting on your website and found the exact information I was looking for. This article has been so helpful for a new grandfather clock owner and I am very grateful. Thank you so much.

  2. Article says newer clocks can lay flat. I have a sligh clock 25 years old. Can it lay flat?

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