Grandfather clocks are commonly seen in cartoons, portrayed with a cuckoo bird that suddenly comes out and pierces the eye of one cartoon character or that shocks another character sitting in a lazy chair out of a deep stupor. But other than these cartoon portrayals, what are grandfather clocks, exactly?
A grandfather clock is essentially a clock with a pendulum that is enclosed in a tall and thin freestanding wooden case. Other names for this type of clock include floor clock, tall-case clock, and longcase clock. The form of the longcase clock was developed by an English clockmaker named William Clement in 1670. The clock likely got coined with the name grandfather clock from an 1875 song by Henry Clay Work entitled “My Grandfather’s Clock.”
A typical grandfather clock measures about 6 to 8 feet in height. The wooden encasement of the clock face is called the hood or the bonnet. A grandfather clock typically comes with elaborate carvings on its bonnet, such as spindles. There are different types of wood used for the construction of a grandfather clock, but the most popular woods for making antique grandfather clocks are mahogany and oak. Antique grandfather clocks typically come with a painted dial or one made of brass. Some of these antique clocks usually come with a rocket ship or a moon motif.
Another feature of the grandfather clock is its striking: generally, it strikes the time at each hour or at a set interval for every hour. It comes with chimes that ring as part of the time announcement. Musical reeds or bells are rare among antique grandfather clocks, and these give them a sound like an organ.
Some grandfather clocks come with a moon phase dial, with a painting of two moons on the dial to serve as markers. This moon phase dial operates in the same way as the clock hands: as the minute hand makes one revolution every hour, and the hour hand makes one complete revolution every twelve hours, the moon phase dial makes one revolution at approximately every 56 days, given how the moon has a cycle of 28 days.
Antique grandfather clocks usually come with either an eight-day movement or a 30-hour movement. Eight day movement clocks may be wound with a key and come with two winding holes. There is a weight located on the front left side of the clock, and this makes the clock strike the hour; meanwhile, there is another weight on the front right side of the clock which keeps it moving and lets it tell time. These weights are essentially what make the clock hands turn.
Meanwhile, a 30-hour movement clock may be wound with a rope or chain, and not with a key as is the case with eight-day-movement clocks. This type of clock only comes with one weight that operates the clock and causes it to strike. This type of clock typically comes with a lower price than the 8-day clock.
The pendulum was introduced to the grandfather clock in 1656, which helped it to be one of the first accurate clocks. It was during the 1600s when a Dutch astronomer by the name of Christian Huygens speculated that the movement of a pendulum would be a more accurate way to measure, and consequently, tell time. In a large grandfather clock, the pendulum may make one swing every two seconds, as contrasted to one per second for a wall clock, like the Beautiful Kassel 15-day Wood Wall Pendulum Clock with Glass Front. Meanwhile, for a smaller cuckoo clock, the pendulum may swing twice per second.
A grandfather clock is a great addition to any home with a traditional feel, although it will likely be out of place in a home with a contemporary feel. Still, even modern homes can have a touch of the old perhaps in the study or in a den, and a grandfather clock is a classic piece if there ever was one. In fact, there are even more modern-day renditions of the grandfather clock, with the clock running on digital format but structured like a longcase clock with a swinging pendulum! It would seem to be the perfect choice for anybody who wants a nice, tall centerpiece in any main room in the house!