Serpentine Clock Assembly Tips
For Jeff Schierenbeck's Wooden Gear Clocks


By Jim Hartsell, Aug. 30, 2010.

These tips are based on the assembly instructions copyrighted 2004 that I received in Feb. 2010.

I worked slowly, thinking ahead and being careful not to make a mistake. Assembly went well. Good instructions. With various other things interrupting, the project took less than 4 weeks to complete. I am extremely pleased with the results.

I chose not to stain any parts. My wife said the plain wood made the clock look subtle. She actually wanted it hung it in the living room! The laser-burned edges give the clock an interesting contrast when viewing it from the side. Ticking is quiet.

I just did a light sanding, doing the gears while still in the panel. In order to make the dowels fit into the parts, avoid sanding too much. Keep a tight fit.

I bought a 48" 1/4" dowel for the pendulum, rather than trying to glue the two halves together. It turned out that a dowel piece was missing, so I cut it from the supplied 2-piece pendulum dowel.

When hammering dowels into the parts, be sure the dowel goes in straight, especially into the set washers.

Pendulum (p. 17): After the glue on the hanger bracket sets, lay it on the bench with the hanging bracket on it's side. Mark a spot on the dowel about 5" from the bracket. Sand the dowel about 1/2" on both sides of that spot, and on the other side of the dowel, until it fits loosely between the dowels of the Crutch.

Winding Mechanism (p. 23): These spools must rotate freely on the dowel. After the glue sets, you can ream out the holes with a 9/32" drill if necessary.

Minute Pipe (p.25): With the "good" side up, tap the minute pipe into the 32 tooth gear until it is flush with the back side of the gear.

Mid Wheel Arbor (p.27): After assembly, I needed to spread the gears on the arbor so that they were 1 11/16" apart, with equal lengths of dowel on outside ends. You can do this now.

Escape Wheel Arbor (p. 29): After assembly, I needed to move the 8-tooth gear slightly closer to the Escape Wheel. The gears needed to be 1 11/16" apart. The front-facing side of the Escape Wheel is toward the 8-tooth gear.

Escape Lever Arbor (p. 30): The dowel should be a tight fit into the Escape Lever. I recommend using a toothpick to dab a tiny bit of glue at the joint after assembly. Don't sand the Crutch end of the dowel too much because the crutch will need to be a fairly snug fit.


First check that the strut forks already attached to the front frame will fit semi-snug into the rear frame slots. You will probably have to detach the front frame for adjustments during final assembly.

Step 5 (p. 36): For insertion of the second (non-ratchet) dowel into the 1/4" hole, I hammered this one in. A tight fit is okay. See next tip for the other end of the dowel.

Step 7 (p.36): Before attaching the front frame unit, the hole where the dowel for the second (non-ratchet) winding spool goes should be enlarged with a 9/32" drill so that the front frame can be removed for adjustments after assembly.

Step 8 (p. 37): First check that all gears mesh, and that there is a proper amount of play so that the arbors can be jiggled back and forth between the frames. I had to take it apart several times for adjustmets, but with my tips above, you might get lucky. This could save you a lot of grief for Adjusting and Regulating step 2 below. You can hold the clock up by the bottom of the frames, keeping the front and back frames squeezed together.

Step 11 (p. 37): Using the pre-drilled holes in the upper hanger bracket as a guide, I drilled pilot holes in the strut for the screws.

Mounting Instructions:

Step 2: Have the screw positioned in the left-right center of the slot on the upper hanger bracket for alignment later. At first I had this screw all the way into the slot, as well as the bottom one. When I had to move the bottom of the clock to the right, there was nowhere to go, so I moved the top of the clock to the left.

Step 5: I assumed the picture on the front cover of the instruction manual showed the clock straight up and down. It appears that the center of the frame at the top, where the frame curves left, should line up with the center of the frame at the bottom. I used a plumb bob to position the clock vertically. Mark the spot for the lower drill hole in the left-right center of the slot on the lower hanger bracket for alignment later.

Step 6: The pendulum hanger bracket needs to be perpendicular to the front face of the pendulum bob. For my clock, after regulating it, I ended up with the top of the pendulum bob 37.5" from the top of the pendulum hanger bracket.

Adjusting and Regulating:

Step 2 (Verify proper play in arbors): This is where I suggested above checking the play of the arbors.

Step 9 (Winding the clock): At first it took too much force pulling on the rewind pull and I was afraid of breaking the cord. I rewound by turning the lower spool by hand, holding the clock steady with the other. After a few days I was able to use the rewind pull.

Step 10 (Final gluing): There is no way I was going to remove the crutch to glue it at this point. I used a toothpick to dab glue at the front joint, and on the back of the crutch. I didn't glue any set washers.

Dial (p. 43): This took and hour or two to decide its position, so these tips could be useful.
Marking the 12-3-6-9 hour positions on the dial:
On a piece of paper I drew a line across at the center, then a perpendicular line at the center. From the intersection of the lines, I made marks of equal distance left & right, top & bottom, a little less than the inside edge of the dial. I layed the dial on the paper and positioned it according to the lines. I marked the 12-3-6-9 hour points with an awl. If you want all the 5-minute positions, use a protractor to draw 30-degree lines on the paper.
Creating a reference line for leveling the dial:
On the wall behind the great wheel arbor, I put a horizontal piece of masking tape. I measured from the floor to the center of the great wheel arbor (dowel), then drew a horizontal line on the masking tape at that height. With this, I could eyeball the dial being level using the 3 and 9 hour points against the horizontal line on the masking tape on the wall.
Positioning the dial on the frame.
I used a clamp to hold the dial on the frame for the positioning. I measured from the great wheel arbor (dowel) to the inside edge of the dial at the 3 and 9 hour location. I measured from the dowel to the inside edge of the dial at the 12 and 6 hour location. Measuring and moving the dial got me to the correct position. Then I could mark the dial and frame for gluing using masking tape on the dial to protect it.