How to Release the Chain on a Weight-Driven Clock

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Chains on weight-driven clocks can be released when repair work is needed.
Chains on weight-driven clocks can be released when repair work is needed. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Weight-driven clocks use chains meshed with sprockets to provide the torque that operates the time, chime and strike mechanisms. Grandfather clocks and cuckoo clocks are popular examples of weight-driven clocks. When the clock mechanism needs to be disassembled for repair, the weight chains need to be released from their respective sprockets. Releasing the chains is a task you can accomplish in 10 minutes with a minimal amount of tools and basic mechanical know-how.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft clean cloth
  • Needle-nose pliers

Stop the motion of the clock’s pendulum. Grandfather clocks with brass pendulum bobs should be handled with a soft clean cloth. Cuckoo clocks are wooden and can be handled with bare hands.

Remove the weights from the chain hooks using the cloth. Place a small piece of masking tape on the bottom of each of the weights and indicate their position with a marker. "L" is for left, while "M" is for middle and "R" is for right.

Remove the weight hook from each of the chains using needle-nose pliers to open the chain link that holds the hook. Remove the hook and the open link from the weight chain.

Pull the weight chain down slowly with one hand while providing a slight resistance with the other. When the last of the chain enters the mechanism, continue to pull slowly until the chain is released from the sprocket.

Repeat the last two steps as necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean cotton gloves work well when handling brass weight canisters and brass chains.
  • The positions of many weight canisters on grandfather clocks are marked at the factory.

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