How German Cuckoo Clocks Are Made – Designed in Time
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How Cuckoo Clocks Are Made

Posted by Megan Mahoney on

You may take a first glance at cuckoo clocks and think "oh that's nice!"

But really.

There is a LOT more that goes into it than you might imagine!

It takes more than a few days to finish a cuckoo clock and that is after all the materials have been gathered.

As an authentic Black Forest cuckoo clock must be 100% made in the Black Forest (with the exception of the swiss music box) the factory must first get all of the necessary material from the Black Forest. 

So How Is It Made?

Ok, here are the finer details-

Cuckoo Clock Making

First, we will examine the creation of the carvings on a chalet cuckoo clock.

The artisan begins by traces the area they wish to carve with a stencil.

Then, using a jigsaw, they cut out whatever object they are making. For efficiency purposes, they will usually cut out several at a time.

After the object has been cut out, they use over 50 different knives to sculpt the texture and detail into the object.

Cuckoo Clock CarvingCuckoo Clock Carved

This process is very long and takes incredible skill.

A wood carver-to-be must have three years of experience before they can even be considered an apprentice!

This is by far the longest process and the cuckoo clock will appear to be complete after this stage.

The case itself must also be carved by the same carvers that create the trees. The case is usually made out of a pine wood found in the Black Forest. This is called Linden wood.and then is painted with a darker finish.

After the cuckoo clock has been carved it is painted with a finish. The color of the finish will often vary, but it is often darker on carved cuckoo clocks than chalet cuckoo clocks. 

Cuckoo Clock MakingCuckoo Clock Maker

Once the cuckoo clock has been carved, the only other exterior work to be completed is attaching the clock dial.

Cuckoo Clock Dial

Attaching the hands is one of the final stages of the cuckoo clock making process, as they are likely to break when the clock is turned on its face.

Shield Clock Painting

 

On shield clocks, however, there is no carving to be done. Instead, artists decorate the clocks by painting elaborate scenery and flowers.

 

This also takes years of skill to master and no two models are ever decorated the same.

 

Even after the visual artistry is complete, a fair amount of technical skill is required to make the clock function.

The main interior of the clock is the mechanism. Inside the mechanism is a 1 day or 8 day movement.

The difference between the two is only that the 8 day movement has to be rewound once a week and the 1 day must be rewound once a day.

Cuckoo Clock Mechanism

As authentic cuckoo clocks are 100% mechanically operated, they do not have any batteries, but rather their movements are made up entirely of tiny gears and levers.

These are encased in the mechanism and attached to the outside is the mechanism that times the chime.

On top of that is the steel perch for the cuckoo clock, and finally, the wheels that move the clock hands.

Attaching the cuckoo bird

Next we must mount the cuckoo bird to its perch. The bird is secured with a screw so that it doesn’t fly away and the tail of the bird is trimmed to fit the case size.

The cuckoo bird’s tail is surprisingly long and about four times as long as the part of the cuckoo you see pop out on the hour.

By now we have made all components of the cuckoo clock, but we haven’t yet completed the wiring inside the clock mechanism.

The chains that hold the cuckoo clock’s weights are then threaded through a hole in the bottom of the clock case and through the gears in the clock’s mechanism.

S hooks then are attached to the end of the cuckoo clock’s chains to hold the cast iron weights. The weights are very important as they make the cuckoo clock’s mechanism turn.

Cuckoo Clock Chains

Another finishing detail is wiring the cuckoo bird and door to operate together. This is essential for the door to open for the cuckoo bird.

 

On either side of the cuckoo clock’s mechanism are the bellows.

Bellows are essential to any authentic cuckoo clock as the cuckoo bird’s call is the result of air moving through the bellows. The bellows are attached by wires to the clock mechanism and, on the hour, open and close producing the cuckoo call.

The final step to making a cuckoo clock involves running a wire from the top of the clock mechanism to the pendulum.

To be qualified as a Black Forest clock, it must then run flawlessly for two days before it can receive the seal of being an Authentic Black Forest Seal.


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