Remember that first time holding hands – how time stopped?

I do.  It was Tyneside, a bitter cold Autumn afternoon, the wind driving horizontally off the North Sea.  We were first year undergraduates on the same course and heading out to the shops together for cheap coffee and chocolate digestives.  She was beautiful, confident, widely fancied, way out of my league.

“My hands are cold,” she said. “Can I share your donkey jacket pocket?”  Where my hands were already dug deep.  I felt her gentle first touch, then her fingers intertwine with mine and purposefully, firmly grip.  And time stopped.  45 years may have passed, but I still remember the moment as if it was yesterday.

Hands intertwine.  And it is one reason why a clock, and time, stops.

Do the hands hold the key?

There are others.  Quite simply, it could be that the clock needs winding (no need for a blog post on that one – the solution is quite simple, even for the absolute novice!).   Maybe the movement is out of balance and the clock lacks the power needed to maintain its uneven tick and tock.  That takes a little more sorting.

But first, look closely at the hands.  Has the clock stopped with the hands together – say at ten to ten, or around quarter past three for example?  You may see that they are tangled, that the minute hand is catching on the hour hand.  And that could be the problem.

With patience and care it is easily rectified.

Three things to consider

On many clocks the hour hand is on a sleeve which can be pushed back towards the face of the clock to keep distance between it and the fixed in place minute hand.  Try this gently, but be careful not to push too far – you don’t want the hour hand to catch on the face or dial of the clock from its new more deeply seated position.

Alternatively, you can gently remove the minute hand (it will be held in place with a small hand-turned nut or with a pin (if it is a pin, remember it will be tapered so will only come out, one way, and go back in likewise – it is a delicate operation, use good tweezers).  Note where the hand is pointing before you remove it.  On striking and chiming clocks it is important, for synchronicity, to put it back in the same position. Place an appropriate small washer on the cannon pinion onto which the hands are located, between the hour and the minute hand, to create distance.  Carefully replace the minute hand in the same place from which you removed it.

But if the hands are both firm in their location – there isn’t much play on the minute hand – it may be simply a matter of slightly bending the minute hand from the top, gently away from the hour hand.  Think carefully before you do this.  There isn’t much leeway between achieving your goal and snapping the delicate hand.

Whichever method you choose, once you have done it, gently push the minute hand, (clockwise only and pausing before each strike or chime sequence then letting each sequence play out before moving on) around a twelve hour cycle to check that the hands are at no point catching.

Job done.  Time can resume its inexorable passage.  Although for me, time still stops exquisitely each time my wife and I hold hands.

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