How to Oil Your Clock

How to Oil Your Clock


The mainspring is the heart of the timekeeping of any spring drive clock. If the mainspring is not oiled properly the clock will not work. The oil that is used is absolutely critical ; it must be able to work in a slow moving environment and it must be able to resist evaporation for many years. It is also very important that the oil be absolutely non corrosive. In my opinion the mainspring grease that is available through the various suppliers is probably the best to use. Listen to the mainspring unwinding as the strike runs if you hear the mainspring clunking or making a snapping noise : then the lubricant probably isn’t working. If this situation exists in the time mainspring then the clock will not keep time and may not even run at all. Mainsprings in the older clocks that have been around for many years have a buildup of hardened oil that is not removed by the ultrasonic process. This must be removed, or the clock will not work.The mainspring will stick erratically and cause timekeeping problems, and may actually bind up and release suddenly and cause a tooth on the spring barrel to be bent or even bend a tooth on the second wheel. If this happens when no one is there to hear the spring snap, then you will be befuddled when the thing just stops working after a careful overhaul.I have used 0000 steel wool on mainsprings; have also tried very fine emery paper #1000 or crocus cloth. The problem with using emery paper is that extreme care must be taken to remove all of the residue from the cleaning with the emery paper or the mainspring will be worse that it was before it was cleaned.After the mainspring has been cleaned and polished, if you ,a clean soft light colored cloth can be used to remove the residue; then run the spring through the ultrasonic cleaner.


Levers that are attached to sleeves that ride on shafts should not be oiled : particularly those levers that depend on gravity to operate. The reason for this is that when the oil thickens up slightly the lever will not drop every time; or it will drop too slowly . A classic example is the count arm, or the rack as it is sometimes called. It will work just fine at first: then after several months the oil will thicken and the common complaint is: the clock only strikes 1 sometimes. If you feel you must oil the lever ; be sure that it is only the thinnest possible film; and .at that, you will be taking a chance. The more oil the more the chance of a problem.


If oil is placed on brass gears (gear teeth) in a slow moving gear train, the gear teeth will very likely be destroyed in several years. This applies particularly in the area of the higher power gears ; the main and second wheels.

types of oil to use:

The clock oil that is available through the suppliers that is made specifically for clocks is the only type , in my opinion , to use. The synthetic oil that is designed for brass on brass , brass on steel and steel on steel is the best. Do not use wd-40 , ever. It is a good lubricant , but not for clocks. It thickens up rapidly and will add enough friction to stop the clock in a few months. Be sure that oils are not mixed ; often the combination of two oils can cause chemical reactions that will corrode the steel pivots. Avoid oiling cuckoo clock mechanism levers whenever possible. The majority of these mechanisms use gravity to make the levers drop. An excessive amount of oil on a trip lever , for example, can cause it to fail. picture. How much oil is too much? If the oil is running out of the oil cup then it is too much. If there is no substantial oil cup then only oil enough to fill the space between the bushing and the pivot. Oil the hand clutch so the hands move smoothly when setting the time on the clock.Do not oil moon dials.Do not oil calendar mechanisms.



  1. Al Diaz
    | Permalink

    Almost messed up mechanism by using wrong oil! Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Grandfather Clocks
    | Permalink

    You always want to use a non-migrating, synthetic oil for grandfather clocks and other mechanical movement clocks.