Parts of a Grandfather Clock: What Makes a Grandfather Clock Tick?

How many things do you have in your home that you love having around? More likely than not, your answer includes dozens or possibly even hundreds of objects.

Now, if we were to ask you how many of those things you understand the pieces and parts of, what would your answer be? It’s probably far less than the sum of all appreciable things in your household.

Our homes are filled with things that are convenient to us, and yet we don’t understand much about how they work. This includes the magnificent grandfather clock, an impressive decoration that has been around for hundreds of years.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the parts of a grandfather clock. While this may not give you a perfect understanding of how they work, you will learn a little of what goes into each one.

External Grandfather Clock Parts and What They Do

Grandfather clocks are well-known for their timeless exteriors. Most people choose to add one to their home because it has an awe-worthy appearance that ties together their home’s décor.

We’ll start by dissecting the parts of a grandfather clock’s outside. In this section, we’ll discuss the parts of the clock you can see on the exterior of the case…


Starting from the top of the clock, you have the pediment. The pediment is the decorative top of the case, and it is often carved into graceful arches. Some people also refer to this part as the fret of the clock.

For the most part, the pediment is a decorative component. It doesn’t serve any other purpose rather than looking nice and covering the top of your clock.

Read Also: Best Antique Grandfather Clocks for Sale

Side Access Panel

To the side of the dial, you’ll find your grandfather clock’s side access panel. The panel may be made of either wood or glass, but the function is the same: to provide you ease of access to the clock’s interior.

Use the side panel to open up your clock for repairs, battery changes, or wind-ups.

Upper Door

On the front of your clock, beneath the pediment, you’ll have a sheet of transparent glass shielding the dial, minute hand, and hour hand. Most grandfather clocks will have an upper door containing this glass panel.

The upper door should swing open, either by pulling a knob or by pushing your finger against an indentation carved into the wood. This allows you to manually adjust the hands as necessary.

Lower Door

The middle of your grandfather clock is dominated by a large front panel. Like with the upper door, its front is made from glass to provide you with an unhindered view into the interior of the clock.

This part of the clock is also a door. Usually, there’s some kind of knob or handle on the left that permits you to swing open the lower door. You can use it to gain access to the cables whenever you need. That may be necessary to wind the clock or perform repairs.

High-end clocks often have beveled glass in this lower door. That means it has a slant at the edges that connect to the wood. Beveled glass doesn’t serve a specific purpose, but it does look beautiful and add detailing to the glass on the clock.

Read Next: 10 Best Modern Grandfather Clocks for Sale


Below the front door, you have the base of the grandfather clock. It rests right on top of the toe molding and legs.

You may occasionally see carvings in the base to give the clock some more appeal. In general, however, the base is simply a supporting structure that the clock can rest upon.

Toe Molding

Toe molding is the part of the clock at the very bottom that’s not the legs. It’s the edge of the base that is raised off the floor between the legs.

Sometimes, there is some sort of carving on the toe molding. It may have a scalloped edge, a straight edge, or some other type of pattern carved into it.


The doors of grandfather clocks are often covered in intricate carvings on the corners and sides. This is called the clock’s inlay.

Like many other parts, it doesn’t serve a purpose other than purely aesthetic.

Internal Grandfather Clock Parts and What They Do

Every grandfather clock is so much more than meets the eye. If all you had was a complete case, you still wouldn’t have a working clock, as there is a lot that goes on beneath the surface.

In this section, we’ll dive into a few of your clock’s inside pieces. We’ll name them and describe briefly what they do.

Moon Dial

The most detailed grandfather clocks don’t just tell the time. High-end timepieces will have an extra half-circle shaped dial above the hands that portrays a moon.

The name for this part is simple: a moon dial. As you may have guessed, this piece shows the faces of the moon over the course of a calendar month.

Simpler or less expensive clocks will often lack this component entirely. Others still may have a purely decorative imitation of a moon dial that doesn’t move at all.

If you’d like to see some excellent examples of clocks with beautiful moon dials, check out our list of the best grandfather clocks for sale.


Directly underneath the moon dial, if your grandfather clock has one, is your standard dial. This is the part with the minute and hour hand on it.

Just like with any other clock, the dial is used to keep track of the time. On occasion, you may need to open the upper door to position the minute or hour hand manually.


Behind the face of your clock, there is a series of wheels and gears. These cogs turn continually to keep the hands on the clock moving.

We won’t dive too deeply into name and function, but you can see them slightly in the above video. You can click the video to watch the internal parts of a grandfather clock as it is striking the hour.

Winding Mechanism

The core component on the inside of your clock will be the winding mechanism. It looks like a cog with a large rod through the middle that has a weight attached to it.

If you have a mechanical clock, this is the part your winding key will connect to. It is where you will wind the clock once every several days.

Battery Compartment

Electric grandfather clocks will have a battery compartment inside them. Generally speaking, you find this compartment beneath the pediment of the clock, behind the dial.

If your clock has a battery compartment, you can usually access it by lifting the side panel. There may be multiple battery compartments for different functions, such as one for the dial, one for the chimes, and one for moving the pendulum.


A high-quality grandfather will have three weights inside it. These are another key component in the clock.

Each weight provides power to the clock for a different function. There is one that helps control the timekeeping, another that helps strike the hour, and a third that aids in making the chimes.

You may see something different in battery-operated clocks, however.

Cable Pulleys/Chains

Each of your clock’s weights will be supported by cables and pulleys. The main function of these chains is to support the weights and provide a way for them to move inside the clock.


There are actually three parts of the pendulum: the rod, lyre, and bob. For the most part, they’re self-explanatory.

The rod is the stick the pendulum is attached to. This goes up into the clock and attaches to the components that allow it to swing from side to side.

At the end of the pendulum, you have the bob. That’s the part with the rounded shape. Its middle may be covered in carvings or detailing.

Finally, there’s the lyre. Many grandfather clocks have lyre-style pendulums, which means that it has a lyre-shaped detail right above the bob. Some clocks do not have this decorative component.

Wrap Up

That concludes a brief list of a grandfather clock’s parts. Even if you don’t need to know this information in your day-to-day life, it’s helpful to have a general idea of what goes into your grandfather clock. Should you ever need to have your clock repaired, a basic knowledge of the clock’s parts will make it easier for you to communicate what’s wrong to the technician.

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