Digging out the old dusty cuckoo
First check if all the pieces are there. If the clock only
has a cuckoo bird and the time, it only uses two weights. If the clock has a
music Box or dancers, usually the clock would take three weights (with some
exceptions). There is one weight that runs the time, one weight that controls
the cuckoo and the bird action and the last weight controls the music and/or
dancers. It is simple to look at the chains hanging from the clock to determine
the quantity of weights the clock takes, then see if all the weights are
with the clock.
Also see if it has its pendulum, and the back (which has the gong attached), its head dressing and
lastly see if the hands are on the clock or broken off.
The back of the clock is only needed if you choose to hear
the gong after the cuckoo call, and the head dressing is only a decoration for
the top of the clock.
Checking the cuckoo for damage
The hands commonly break off cuckoo clocks because when the clock is stored, if anything gets put on top of the clock, the hands break off. Another common thing to be damaged (or just worn from age) are the bellow tops. To locate the bellows, just look inside the back of the cuckoo clock and you will see the big bellows on either side of the clock case. Most of the time there is one on each side of the clock but sometimes they're on only one side. There are always two bellows, one for the "cuck" and one for the "coo" sounds. What makes these sounds are the air blowing through the wooden bottom of the bellow, the longer the bellow is the lower the tone of the sound. To check the bellow tops simply move them up and down with your finger to check for rips in the cloth material. If they are ripped, its common to replace these tops with new ones.
The reason behind replacing the tops only, rather than replacing the entire bellow, is the cost. It is much cheaper to buy only the tops from us than getting the entire thing. If you would like to purchase the complete unit, you get to skip most of the steps described but it's still good to read this next section for the instructions on the removal and installation of the bellows.
Replacing the bellows
The first step is to get the bellows out of the clock. There are lifting wires attached to the bellows that must come off first, unless the tops of the bellows are torn off completely, these wires would be attached through a circular pin or staple like pin that is attached to the bellow top. Remove the wire by opening the diameter of the lower wire holes that the lifting wires attach to with a Small flat screw driver. This gives an opening for the lifting wire to slip out and be removed. These wires cannot be mixed up, so put them on the table just as they came out of the clock. This is true with the bellows also, keep them on the table just as they were in the clock, so left and right will not be mixed up. If you did mix them up it would be obvious when you went to assemble the clock, but just to keep things easy, best to keep it separated on the table just like it was in the clock. Next is to remove the bellows by unscrewing the screw that holds it in place on the side of the clock. Then the bellow easily comes out.
To change the tops of these bellows is the most common job and is easy to do. The top is the Large flat part of the bellow that flaps and creates airflow down to the bottom part. This top is only glued or epoxied to the bottom.
The bottom part of the bellow is the long tube that has an opening on the side that the noise comes out of. The things to order when replacing the tops would be the tops themselves, a wire assortment (if needed), and epoxy. The wire assortment is for you to replace any missing lifting wires or bellow top pins.
The epoxy is needed to attach the new tops to the bottoms. The epoxy we sell dries in only 5 minutes and comes in a two part mix. Personal experience with this epoxy says it is the best to recommend. You can also use it on broken cuckoo case parts, such as a head dressing that is broken in half.
Now to do the replacement, first take the new bellows and match them up with the old tops. Place the new next to the old after matching the correct side with the correct side. Take the old bellow tops and break them off of its bottom. They are only epoxied on, so snapping them off its bottom is pretty quick and painless. Then take a jack knife to clean up the top by scraping all the old epoxy off, making the top nice and smooth. Next step is to prepare the new tops to be epoxied on. Before doing this, we must insert the pins that the lifting wires go into, that lift the bellow top in a flapping motion. Use the pins from your old bellow tops, taking Small pliers to remove the pin, then inserting the pin in the same way it came out into the new top.
Do this to both tops and your ready to epoxy them on. Read ahead before mixing your epoxy to learn how to line up the top and bottom, there is not much time before the epoxy dries and is too hard to use, so being prepared is best. Notice the air hole on the bottom and the top, these must be somewhat lined up - just enough so air can blow through the top to the bottom to make the noise. Another consideration is to give 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch clearance from the bellow top to the edge of the bellow on the side the air comes out. This gives the bellow top freedom to open and close without hitting the side of the case. Now with the epoxy mixed with toothpicks, have the bellow top on the table with the side to be epoxied facing up, and the bellow bottom in hand to be coated with the mixed epoxy. Put the epoxy around the hole of the bellow bottom and then hold down by hand until the epoxy grabs the top nice and tight. This could take a couple of minutes of sitting still like a statue, but its the way its done. A vise will not work in this case. Do this to both sides and your almost done. Put the bellows in the cuckoo case just as they came out, hook your lifting wires back on, close the end that holds the lifting wires with some needle nose pliers, bend any wires back that got bent in the changing process, AND YOUR DONE.
Put the back of the clock back on, hang up the clock, hang the pendulum on, see if it's in beat. Now you do not have to go through all these steps if you order the bellow completes, which have the new tops already attached to there bottoms, but they cost more.
Replacing bellow cloth
Replacing the bellow cloth really is not needed now-a-days with the bellow top completes available, but here are some instructions anyhow.
1. Before removing the old bellows from the clock measure and write down the distance the bellows opens. If the bellows material is torn or you have already removed the bellows measure and write down the distance the lifting arm travels (This should be comparable to the opening of the bellows top.
2. Remove the bellows from the clock (It is not necessary to remove the tops from the pipes) and take a good look at how the bellows material is folded.
3. Cut away the old folded bellows material, between the upper and lower blocks. The hinged end may have many folds over the hinge which need to be removed. DO NOT REMOVE THE HINGE. All material on the edges of the blocks do not have to be removed as long as it is still held tightly to the blocks.
4. If the hinge is still intact, leave it and simply place another piece of the same size new material over it gluing it in place with a good water soluble white glue. If it is dry and flaky remove it and place a new hinge in it's place. When installing a complete new hinge do not hold the upper and lower block tightly together. They will work much better if there is a small amount of space between them. The hinge material should not extend beyond the edge of the blocks.
5. Lay a strip of the new bellows material approximately 2 1/4" wide and 6" long on a clean, dry, and flat surface. Place the bellows on the material with approximately 1/2" behind the hinge and the front top edge of the bellow top halfway over the top edge of the new material. Check that the opening is the same as recorded in step #1. Holding the bellows assembly firmly lift the long end of the strip and bring it over the entire bellows. Check to see that it covers the blocks entirely. If it does not, reposition the blocks (maintaining the proper opening) so that it does cover the blocks entirely. Being careful not to move the bellows blocks, lay the long end of the strip back down and mark with a pencil the position of the blocks on the new material.
6. Remove the bellows from the strip and apply a small amount of glue to the bottom and front edges only. Place the bellows back on the strip in the marked position being careful to keep the new material flat and free of wrinkles. Grasp the long end of the strip and pull upwards bringing the material into contact with the front of the blocks. Press the material to the glued edges to ensure a good seal.
7. Place a thin layer of glue on the top edges and pull the material, keeping it flat, over the top pressing it down to make a good seal. Cut off the excess material leaving approximately 1/2" triangular tabs at the hinge end.
8. Holding the blocks open begin to crease the front side and corners with your fingers. Slightly push in on the side material (do not let the front bulge out) and with a butter knife or other dull object crease the side folds so that they are straight. This is all done with the bellows tops no more than 1/2 closed. Once all of the creases and folds are even and seem to work well, slowly close the bellows making sure that the material is folding properly. If it is not, use your creasing tool to reform or improve your folds and creases until the bellows opens and closes smoothly and neatly.
9. Glue the triangular flaps over the hinge. Keep the bellows open at least halfway while the glue is drying to prevent it sticking where you don't want it.
Note: For bellows with the lift wires and or bird wires on the side, simply place the blocks on their side with the wires pointing up and make small slits in the material around the wires when gluing the top side.
By this time you may have come to your senses and decided to purchase the bellow tops with the cloth already put on them. They're cheap and no mess, but for what ever reason we still sell a lot of these bellow material squares so people can re-cloth their own tops. Maybe they have the old time triangle bellow tops and wish to keep the clock as original as possible.
Putting a cuckoo in beat
In beat is the term that means to make the tick and the tock evenly spaced. A cuckoo that is out of beat would run for a bit and then stop unless its tilted crooked on the wall. When you tilt a cuckoo clock on the wall, it is the same thing as adjusting the beat. You will notice the tick tock sound is not spaced evenly depending on how tilted the clock is. A cuckoo that is out of beat when the clock is straight and level can be corrected fairly simply.
Take the weights off the clock, take the pendulum off, take the clock off the wall, and take the back off. Your now looking at the wire the pendulum hangs on going straight up the center. Now look at the wire that whacks this pendulum wire back and forth, this wire is called a verge. To bend this verge one way or the other makes the clock either in beat or out of beat. Best to bend it in the middle with your fingers one way or the other, not on the top because if you bend it on the top too often, it loosens up the wire at its connecting point. It's kind of tricky to do this without a cuckoo clock stand, it's just trial and error with the process of bending the verge a bit and then trying it on the wall with its weights and pendulum. A cuckoo stand is two pieces of wood supporting the clock up and level so you can work on it while looking at the back of the clock. With the stand it is easy to bend the verge without taking the weights and pendulum off, if your working on many cuckoos, it would be worthwhile making a stand such as this. Two parallel running 1 inch square strips of wood that are about an inch and a half spaced between them is all you need. How the wood is supported in the air is up to you as long as at least one of the strips can be moved back and forth to take different clocks and the boards are laying level.
Setting the cuckoo call to the correct hour
Turn the minute hand clockwise till the clock strikes and notice what hour it's calling out. Whatever hour the clock struck, point the hour hand to that hour and press back on it a bit to keep it tight on its shaft. Then loosen the minute hand nut so the hand can be moved to its hour mark while the center shaft stays in one spot to save the cuckoo striking position. Tighten the minute hand nut and then test to see if it's now striking the correct time on the hour.
New Cuckoo Set-up Instructions
These are the general instructions found in every new cuckoo clock sold. This is not the info you need if you just dragged the thing out of the attic, just if you still have it brand new in the box.
Before hanging up the clock please carefully read these operating instructions. It is very important to apply exactly the procedure described therein. Unpack with care! When removing the clock from the carton please hold it at the roof, by no means at the carving. Also take out the loose accessories such as the carved head-piece, pendulum, and weights -- Please do not open the small paper-bag fixed to the bottom of the clock!
Lay down the clock with the face downwards and turn aside the bolt (A) at the back wall. Bring a nail or a screwdriver into the slit (B) and gently lift out the back panel. Take away the paper strip from the spring. Remove - depending on the model - one or two clamps fixing the bellows. Please take care that no wire of the clock will be bent or damaged. After replacing the back panel place the carved head-piece into the groove at the roof and fasten it by screws.
Now hang up the clock on a strong nail or screw which is fixed to the wall in a height of about 2 meters from the floor. Open the packet underneath the clock containing the chains and pull out the wire. Possible knots in the chains should be undone very cautiously. Please notice that henceforth the clock must not be put down or turned upside down - otherwise the chains will slip off from the chain-wheels. In case one of the chains has slid from the chain wheel, please take your clock to a watchmaker, or pay attention to the following remarks:
The chain can be replaced again by fully winding up the other weights and hooking them off, hereafter the clock must be turned upside down and the chain has to be balanced upon the chain-wheel; it is advisable to open once again the back panel in order to observe the replacing of the chain on the chain-wheel through the chain holes in the clock case.
Remove the wire, which locks the door of the Cuckoo. In Music Cuckoos two wires ( two doors) must be removed. Hang the pendulum in the wire loop in the middle of the case bottom and the weights in the chain-hooks. The clock must be placed in a correct vertical position so that the pendulum can swing freely. Now your clock is ready for operation.
For setting the correct time turn the minute-hand (longer hand) around to the left. Never move the hour hand (Small hand). If you turn the minute-hand around to the right you have to await until the end of the cuckoo strikes released by the half and full hour marks; thereafter you may go on turning around the minute-hand.
For starting the clock, gently push the pendulum to one side. The clock hangs in the right position when the 'tick-tock' of the pendulum is proportionate. Depending on the model the clock must be wound up each 24 hours or each 8 days by pulling the ring on the end of the chain downwards thereby raising the weight up to the clock. The pendulum can regulate the accurate time of the clock. If the clock gains time push the pendulum-disc downwards on the pendulum-bar; if the clock loses time push the disc upwards.
Changing Cuckoo Hands
Hands for cuckoo clocks are usually celluloid or plastic. Some cuckoo clocks have hands made of bone or wood, these hands are hard to get in wood and nearly impossible to find in bone. These instructions are for the most frequent kind of hand style, celluloid or plastic hands with brass hardware for the minute hand. To remove the hands is simple, unscrew the nut that is first in the way, then pull off the bushing and minute hand and lastly pull and turn at once to remove the hour hand, its only a friction fit. The new hands go on the same way as the old came off, hour hand pressed on, the bushing is next, then the minute hand, and lastly the hand nut gets screwed on.
Now is the part of having the hands be where they're supposed to be when the clock strikes its cuckoos - Turn the minute hand clockwise till the clock strikes and notice the hour it's calling out. Whatever hour the clock struck, point the hour hand to that hour and press back on it a bit to keep it tight on its shaft. Then loosen the minute hand nut so the hand can be moved to its hour mark while the center shaft stays in one spot to save the cuckoo striking position. Tighten the minute hand nut and then test the strike to see if it's now striking the correct times at the hour the hands are set to.
Then you look at the condition of the movement to see if it needs to be run through a cleaning process. If you see black goo in the little holes in the plates of the movement, it's time to clean the clock. The holes in the plate are called pivot holes and they have the pivot of the gears riding in them. The clock may or may not operate in this condition but it could use a cleaning either way.