Sleeping with Noisy Clocks (#002)

Have you ever dealt with this? It’s bedtime and just as you’re sliding into a blissful sleep…gong, gong, gong, gong, gong, gong… Needless to say, the bliss turns into irritation.

002 - Clock Noise 3 Blured Small

As a clock owner – or if you’re considering becoming one – you should know that the auditory experience is part-and-parcel to the heritage, elegance and science of clock ownership.  It’s a fabulous thing and part of the attraction you have with them.

But certainly there is a time and place for a “silent” clock.

Even if you’re fine with the night-time noise, your family may not. Consider if it may be harassing and uninvited during “quiet” hours.

You need to tread wisely to turn that avoidable “bother” of the silent peace into a valued auditory experience for your household. This is at the heart of the matter!

Increase the value of your clock by learning how to best preserve its place in your home.

Therefore, learn the best way to experience the sounds coming from your clock without stopping it at night or giving it up all together. Stopping the clock movement should not be one of your options.

When I first began collecting clocks, my routine was this: at bedtime, stop the pendulum; in the morning, start the pendulum and set the time – if I remembered!  After several months doing this I realized it made little sense.  What was the point stopping the clock at night?

Fast forwarding through my experiences with a multitude of different clocks I learned that each clock I dealt with was different and that I couldn’t apply the same solutions to each one.

Further, it wasn’t just about the sounds coming from the clock(s).  Many times I had to deal with home acoustics or family expectations.

How then do you keep close company with your clocks at night, in spite of their sounds?

Due to the variety in types of clocks you’ll have to adapt what is suggested here or try something creative.  Please share any of your lessons or working ideas in the comments.

Experience through trial and error is the best teacher.

Keep in mind: 1) Stopping the clock is not a long-term solution; and 2) Never ever do anything to your clock that is irreversible.  Preserve your clock!

Consider the Sounds to deal with:

  • The Movement.  This is the “tick tock” sound of the clock movement moving forward. 
  • The Strike.  This is the hourly, quarterly, or half hour chime, bong, gong, cuckoo or melody.  Some clocks do not have a strike mechanism. But many that do have a strike do not have a melody, like the Westminster melody.

Focus on Placement, Strike Control and Sound Control:

1. Find the Best Placement.  

  • Be deliberate and thoughtful about where the clock will be displayed.  Every clock should have a place.  This should be within the balance of where you want it and where its sounds will work in your living environment.

  • Think twice about keeping a functional mechanical clock in a bedroom, or in a media room (you don’t want the clock chiming in the middle of important movie dialogue – my family hates this!)

  • Walls, floors, doors, furniture and carpeting serve well to dampen sounds to acceptable levels.  For example, hanging a clock where the gong is projected away from sensitive living areas, by a wall, works well.

2. Control the Strike. If your clock does not have a strike control mechanism (to stop it or interrupt it)…improvise!

  • Replace metal tipped hammers with hammers that have plastic or leather tips. This should soften the intensity of the strike.  Your local clock shop should have a good stock of hammers.  You can also purchase individual hammers or a set with different sizes and types from one of the major clock part suppliers, like TimeSavers.

002 - Hammers

  • Place a sound dampener over the hammer(s). Felt tips, tissue paper, foam or cloth can be easily secured around the hammers or between the hammer and the bell or gong (Note: this is meant to be temporary; keep the original hammers with the clock). I found lanyard rope, cut into small pieces, fits nicely over a hammer.  These can be easily placed at night and removed in the morning.  You should be able to find these materials in your local store chain or craft store.

002 - Dampers Small002 - Lanyard

  • Turn the hammer(s) 90 degrees or 180 degrees by loosening the retaining screw.  This may adjust the amount of contact on the bell or gong to soften the strike.

002 - Hammer Turned 90 Degrees

  • Bend the strike arm back, as another way to soften the strike, using pliers or a hammer adjusting tool.  This is a typical method used to adjust the strike for the desired sound.  Small craft pliers, you can find at your local craft or hardware store, work fine.  You can also find pliers and bending tools from one of the major clock part suppliers, like TimeSavers.  This video, by Al Takatsch of Jefferson Clockworks, provides a good understanding of this technique.

002 - Bending Tool

3. Control the Sound. 

  • Weave your clock sounds into your environment slowly. Your household may just need time to acclimate to the sounds.  Start by placing the clock in a room that allows you to close out the sound.  If you don’t have room to do this, you can stop the clock at night and over time gradually stop this practice as the sound becomes part of the environment.

  • Mask the Sounds with White Noise.  You can purchase Sound Machinesthat produce White, Pink, Brown and other sounds that help to drown (or cancel out) other background noises.  This is very effective for sleeping children.  Use this link to see some Sound Machines on Amazon (Note: this is an affiliate link explained below).

  • Smart phone apps – like White Noise by TMSoft – provide a cheaper alternative to a Sound Machine with the same effect.  I’ve used this and found that it does do a good job to cancel out ticking sound, but is less effective to ward off louder bell chimes.

  • Air Conditioners, fans and soft music are also another way of canceling out unwelcome night-time sounds.

Trial and error is key.  Over time you’ll learn what types of clocks fit within ear distance of your quiet zones.  But since your clock is a treasure, it’s worth exploring what will work best for you.

The sounds your clocks produce are part of the experience of clock ownership! Good luck.

Remember to share what you’ve learned from your experiences in the comments.

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