Last week, this column gave the history of the grandfather clock and how it came to be called by this family reference. Commonly, people refer to a grandmother clock as a grandfather clock because they are so similar. The disguise is in the height.
A grandfather clock generally measures at least 6 feet 3 inches in height. A grandmother clock is shorter, so it generally measures less than 6 feet 3 inches in height. To make things even more confusing, there is a granddaughter clock as well. The granddaughter clock usually measures between 3 and 5 feet in height, so it is a little easier to recognize.
The sound, most commonly heard when these clocks chime, is called the Westminster Quarters. A set of four bells are used to chime. It is also known as the Westminster Chimes, from its use at the Palace of Westminster.
The Specific note sequence for the melody is in E major and is as follows;
G#4, F#4, E4, B3
E4, G#4, F#4, B3
E4, F#4, G#4, E4
G#4, E4, F#4, B3
B3, F#4, G#4, E4
Purchasing a grandfather clock can be compared to purchasing a piano. Buyers want to know what brand to choose for the best quality. The top three brands in terms of sales are Daniel Dakota, Howard Miller, and Coaster. These brands are known for their outstanding and long lasting durability.
Almost all grandfather clocks are made to run for seven or eight days without winding, so winding them on the same day each week will ensure that it never stops. It is virtually impossible to over-wind this type of time piece. Once the coils of a flat mainspring are in firm contact with one another, the spring cannot be physically wound any tighter. The only way to over-wind a clock spring is to turn it so tightly that the spring actually breaks.
Another way in which these pendulum clocks are like a piano is that they should not be placed next to a window or door. By keeping them away from doors and windows, you will be insuring that direct sunlight or moisture won’t enter into the mechanism if the door or window is opened.
Whenever one of these time pieces needs to be transported, special measures need to be taken. The weights need to be removed from the clock and wrapped carefully in a blanket. Next, the inside of the clock needs to be packed with moving blankets to stabilize the glass, and then wrap the outside securely in padding and cardboard over the padding. Lastly, tape the cardboard together to make sure the doors cannot open.
The words of American Historian Alice Morse Earle, sums it up nicely. “The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present.”
— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise
appears in the Times-Journal week day editions.