The Tick-Tock Sounds of Pendulum Clocks

Gear of pendulum clockPendulum clocks are some of the earliest and most accurate time pieces ever developed. Many major obstacles had to be overcome before the Pendulum clocks became useful, hundreds of years ago. That famous tick-tock sound goes back to the days of pendulum clocks maintaining time in an old grandfather clock, or tall-case clock as they are known, which supplied power to the clock’s movement before the use of electricity and batteries, and after the time that water was used to drive clocks.

Weights or Length?

Typically, pendulum clocks are operated by the use of weights that help keep the pendulum moving. Since there will always be a certain amount of friction in the swinging motion, a pendulum left on its own would not swing forever. Weights attached through the gearing mechanism overcomes the effects of friction and helps the pendulum keep swinging freely. As the pendulum swings it drives the hands around the face of the clock.

The pendulum clock’s accuracy hinges on a complicated series of event that take place with each tick of the clock. The length of the pendulum plays a major role in the clocks accuracy, regardless of the weight on the bottom. Some pendulum clocks have an extension at the bottom of the weight that has no affect on the weight, rather it is made to finely adjust the length of the pendulum.

Frequent Rewinding Not An Attractive Option

When pendulum clocks were being developed, the size of the drum on which the weight chain was wound, if it turned at the rate of one revolution per minute, would put the weight on the ground in about 20 or 30 minutes, meaning each time it reached bottom the clock would need rewound. Rewinding pulled the chain back to the highest position, starting the process over again.

Moving from rewinding every 20-30 minutes to once a week!

As developers of pendulum clocks worked on the problem, they developed a gear chain that reduced the number of times the chain drum turned while still moving the clock mechanism at a rate of once per minute. In most cases they created a ratio of about 500 to one, meaning each time the clock made 500 complete circles, the drum holding the weight chain would make one revolution. This reduced the need to rewind the clock to about once every week or so.

As the need for smaller clocks grew, so did other measures of keeping clocks running and many of today’s pieces have the pendulum controlled by a battery-operated motor.

The pendulum clock continues to fascinate people today with their hypnotizing motion and subtle sound of time passing by. With the expertise of a well-trained horologist, your Pendulum clock can reward you with perfect time for decades – and yes, centuries – to come.


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