How to Tighten Hands on a Clock

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Don't let a stopped clock wind you up. When the hands of your clock droop down, it doesn't always necessarily mean you need to replace the ticking item. It may simply mean it's time to tighten. If your cuckoo has gone silent or the chime in your grandfather isn't regular, approaching the face and finding the issue can be a simple fix to a cherished time piece.

How to Tighten Hands on a Clock
Image Credit: selensergen/iStock/GettyImages

First Things First

You should first assess the situation before you completely dismantle the inner workings of a clock. Most clock faces are relatively simple mechanisms. Although there are many different types of clocks, they all have key components in common that can be manipulated if the clock isn't functioning properly: Encasement, face, dial, hands and movements. The encasement is the housing of the clock – its aesthetic. The face is the piece behind the dial, which is the part that displays the hands and numbers. The hands point to the numbers, and are connected to the hand shaft that extends from the back through a hole in the center of the face. The movements are the internal workings of the clock that keep it all in good time.

Know Your Type

A spring-powered clock has a ribbon, either metal, wire or plastic, that is coiled into a tight spiral called the mainspring. The mainspring is attached to the inside of the barrel and the shaft. A weight-driven clock has a series of hanging metal weights that pull on a chain. Both of these types of clocks can be easily fixed if the hands go south but the movement is still sound.

Hand Works

If it's simply a matter of tightening the hands, push the hour hand against the clock shaft first. The hour hand is held to the shaft via friction. A small push can give it the connection it needs to get back in time with the second hand. Hold the second hand and tighten the tiny nut at the end of the shaft with needle nose pliers. Make sure to push the tem on the back of the minute hand into the shaft opening. Check that the hands are straight and don't catch on each other as they meet up throughout the day. Be careful not to bend them further as most hands are rather delicate and thin.

If the hands continue to fall, you may need to replace the nut at the base of the shaft. If all else fails, a new mechanism can be bought at most hobby or craft stores. Take your old mechanism with you, including the hands, to measure for length and shaft size so that it fits well with the encasement.


Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at

View Work