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Grandfather Clocks

Also known as a floor clock or longcase clock (among other things), the “grandfather clock” traces its most popular name to a 19th century song entitled “My Grandfather’s Clock.” The classic type is about 6 to 8 feet tall, with a pendulum swinging inside the case and driving the clock gears. Until the 20th century, pendulum clocks were the most accurate timepieces available.

The pendulum in a grandfather clock is made of a combination of metals that will resist lengthening and shortening as the ambient temperature changes. Otherwise, the speed at which it swings will vary, causing the clock to run too fast or too slow.

Grandfather clocks have long been desirable as decorative pieces for home or office. In choosing one, there are several matters to consider:

  • Whether you want an antique or a modern version.
  • The design and craftsmanship of the case.
  • The artistry of the clock face, including ancillary dials that may show day and night, phases of the moon, etc.
  • Whether the case for the pendulum and weights is opaque or glass.
  • How often the clock strikes and the sounds it makes. These can be bell-like, gong-like, and/or musical melodies.
  • Its accuracy in keeping time.
  • The frequency with which it must be reset, and the difficulty in doing this right.
  • The maintenance schedule, including the oiling of gears.

There are modern variations that imitate the look of a grandfather clock while being driven by electricity. Some of these include a glass-encased pendulum that moves through the operation of an electric motor but does not drive the clock mechanism. These clocks are lacking in romance, but are generally maintenance-free.

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