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Grandfather clocks are freestanding floor clocks that typically stand about 7 feet tall, with their clock faces about 5 feet high. A grandfather clock has a tall case enclosing its pendulum and weights, and is also known as a tall case clock or a longcase clock. The center section, or trunk, of the clock case has an access door to allow for pendulum and weight adjustment. The long case protects the long-running 8-day movement, pendulum, weights and pulleys from dust and from disturbances by children or pets.
Longcase clocks were invented in 1658, around the same time as the pendulum, by an English clockmaker named William Clement. The first clocks had short pendulums and verge escapements and were housed in narrow cabinets. When the more accurate anchor escapement replaced the verge escapement, the cases became wider to accommodate the pendulum. The dials also increased in size, and a diameter of 12 inches was common by the beginning of the 18th century. These clocks became known in America as Grandfather Clocks after Henry Clay Work wrote the song My Grandfather's Clock in 1876. (For a livelier rendering of My Grandfather's Clock, visit the Antique Grandfather Clocks website.) Many people appreciate the elegant appearance, the restful tick-tock, and the mellow chimes of a grandfather clock, as well as the dignified ambience it brings to a room.
Some of the early longcase clocks were made of solid oak, covered with walnut veneers. Decorative floral marquetry was added toward the end of the 17th century, first as small inset panels and later as designs that covered the entire clock case surface. Between the middle of the 18th century through the entire 19th century, mahogany was widely used for longcase clock cases. More recently, many grandfather clock cases have been constructed from maple and cherry woods. The tops of these longcases often feature decorative pediments and finials. Because grandfather clocks are designed to back up against a wall, their wooden backs are usually unfinished.
A grandfather clock requires special care to keep it in tip-top condition. Its exterior case should be dusted and cleaned regularly, but the internal cleaning and repair of a grandfather clock are best left to specialists. In addition, while some clocks are kept purely for decorative purposes and are not kept wound, it's a good idea to run them every once in a while to keep rust at bay. Finally, any time a grandfather clock is moved, the pendulum and weights should be removed for transport.
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