In April a chap, say Ferdinand, brought in a 30 hour longcase clock movement because the chain kept slipping round the sprockets on the two main wheels – a common enough problem caused by wear.

The trouble is that most of these weight-driven clocks started life with a rope to drive the wheels, but the ropes fray quite quickly as the spikes on the sprockets grip and release them. So most ropes needed replacing frequently. They also cause a lot of unwanted dust fibres in the movement, which sticks to the oil and dries out the pivot holes. So most owners have opted to replace the worn out rope with longer-lasting metal chain and this was no exception.

The particular problem was that the sprockets were original; there were just five spikes on each and they were worn and not designed for chain so they were too short and only two spikes were in contact with the chain at any one time. It needed new sprockets designed for a chain, plus a new chain, which I supplied and fitted using the existing cheeks to retain as much originality as possible.

Then while the movement was in pieces I agreed to clean the pivots and pivot holes and re-oil them. The owner collected the movement but when he got it home, he  re-fitted the dial and hands and put it back into the trunk himself. Next day he rang to say that the clock would not go and the strike would not stop.

The only way to sort this was to see the movement in action in situ, which I offered to do free of charge. I found that the pin on the strike wheel was now bent flat and it soon became obvious that it was suffering from metal fatigue and needed to be replaced. So I agreed to replace it free of charge, on site. This is not a small job as it entails stripping the movement again and I learnt from this not to reassemble a job on the bench without checking all the parts (even if I was not being paid to check them). Had I done so, I would have spotted the damage and fitted a new pin before assembly and collection. That was the strike problem sorted.

As I refitted the dial, I replaced the nails and split pins with proper steel taper pins, and I also added a new domed washer to the rather loose minute hand. Then, once the movement was installed, I could hear that it was out of beat. Some clocks will run like that and as this one was screwed to the wall, I guess it must have for many years. But there is a very great risk of it stopping, as indeed this one had evidently done. So I adjusted the crutch manually and set it in beat for this particular clock case, which of course I had not seen before. Again, no charge.

When I left the clock was running well again and it still is. The owner is delighted but I’ve learnt also not to expect an owner to be able to set up a longcase clock himself so henceforth I insist on attrending to the set up personally. It’s quicker and cheaper for me in the long run.

Another lesson learned.