Packing Lessons Learned

Things I have learned in 3 years
of having clocks shipped to me

(See here for photos of disasters)

I collect antique European clocks and love to have them shipped to me from Germany and Austria.  It makes me happy to be the first American to have the honor and privilege to  hang a beautiful hand crafted antique clock on my wall.    Most of my clocks arrive in just fine (65+) not damaged condition.  I have had some (7) disasters and many more “almost disasters”  and this the tips below are from some of the most painful experiences I've had over the past 3 years of getting clocks. 

Perhaps it will be of some value to you to hear what I have learned. 
Below I make some suggestions that may help with shipping:  Many of these you will already know, most are common sense, but perhaps if you find one that is new to you it will be worth reading this. 


So far, as a general rule, (for clocks others pack and ship to me)  1in10 clocks that come to me are disasters, 1in10 need serious work, 2in10 have a little damage.  The rest are usually ok.

You should never send a clock HOPING it will be all right. Pack properly and PLAN for it to arrive undamaged.


1. Don't wind the clock before shipping !! It is always better to allow the clock to run down before shipping it.  For weight/string clocks - if the weights are at the bottom, don't wind it up, as the string can easily get tangled around the winding arbor when on it's side causing a lot of trouble to get it right.  It's better for the new owner to get it stable on the wall and then wind it slow and evenly himself, this will avoid that problem.  I'd rather deal with tangled line outside the movement than inside.  With spring wound clocks, it's better to have the springs loose as a fully wound spring can and will apply a lot of pressure to the movement that can suddenly release and break gears and bits when jostled in shipping.  If I know that a clock is sold and I will be packing it soon, I will allow it to run down as much as possible.


2. Pack padding on both sides of the glass. I have seen glass break from force pressing to the inside and also from the opposite force pressing on the outside.

3. Put "masking tape" on both sides the glass (perhaps in a X on the large face glass, both sides) to help keep the glass intact and to help resist sudden shocks. (I'm not sure what masking tape is called in Austria) but it is not the plastic packing tape used on the outside of boxes... the masking tape stuff comes off easily. You might in desperation be able to use "scotch tape" clear tape ... The tape used for taping 2 sheets of paper together. You want a tape that is strong but comes off easy. I hate spending hours getting all the bits of tape off a clock glass :(  Some people use a thin sheet of plastic wrap on both sides of the glass.  This has been effective in some cases.
(But this is better than having broken glass)

4. Be sure not to let any tape touch the wood, it strips the color away from the wood when you take it off several days later. This is sad and very bad.  Do not touch tape to the back of the clock either; even though nobody sees it, this can make a clock less valuable.

5. Put a little "masking" tape on the crutch (the bit attached to the brass that moves back and forth) to keep the escapement from moving during shipment.  Be sure not to put tape over any holes.  The escapement can be taped at the point near

6. Do not leave the pendulum attached to the "suspension spring" metal. It will always break the suspension spring....

7. Pendulum rods break very, very easily and are rather expensive to have remade.  If it is a valuable clock or a particularly heavy pendulum bob, consider removing the round bob from the rod and packing it separately. Be sure to baggie the little screw parts so that they don't get lost.  These are impossible to duplicate.

8. Put the mechanism (movement) in (clean) plastic bag to help keep packing bits from getting into the movement. This is even more important if glass breaks.  It is terrible when there is glass inside the gears of the mechanism.

9. Try to keep the gong part from moving around and making noise....  Some of the clocks have 'tuned' chime rods and if they chip or get broken, much of the sound quality is lots.  A little tape or cardboard in place can be good for this.

10. Do not ever, ever, ever, ever, put the weights inside the clock wood case.  I have seen and heard more than one time where even when packed good, those weights came loose , rolled around and break the glass and movement. This happened in one of my disasters.  See the photos.
I think the best place to put them is near the top CENTER of the case in such a way that there is no place for them to be able to move should the case (and it will be) tilted left, right, or upside down.

11. Do not ship the clock "upside down" , that is how my last clock the bottom base broke off...

12 – Use some heavy/stiff cardboard to brace the heavy bottom base as it will try to bend downwards while the lighter part of the middle->top of the clock will bend up, causing the heavy bottom to break off.  This is a very common mistake I have seen many times.

13. Use a very cloth or soft padding around the face and hands to help it avoid shocks. I've seen pieces of loose clock parts clock damage the face.  It is good to have a little soft paper between the hands and the porcelain/enamel dial to keep the dial from getting scratched or the hands bent.  I had one dial get rust on it from moisture that was on the steel hands.  I also had some hands bend and break from downward pressure on them.

14. If you leave the movement attached to the clock mounting bracket, Use some "bubble wrap around the top area between the movement and the wood and sides to protect it in case it comes loose.  The movement should not be able to slide around even if the clock is tipped longways or upside down.

15. Pack the inside of the case so that it is full of padding. This helps avoid inward pressure on the clocks.  Do not put too much padding inside or there will be too much pressure outwards which can cause glass, hinges, and wood to break.

16. Lots of padding on the bottom and sides of the clock. The box more likely to be set down hard (or dropped) than to have something heavy put on top of it. Bubble wrap is wonderful for wrapping all the way around a clock to protect it.  Use lots of this, it is well worth the money. Newspaper and "styrofoam" are good, but alone is not enough to cushion against all shocks.  Packing “peanuts” or small bits of soft material can slide away from the bottom over time , so that after a few days there is no “peanuts” on the bottom any more.  I see many clocks with lots of padding on top, but very little on bottom.

17. Be sure to write "FRAGILE" , "GLASS" , "DO NOT DROP" "THIS SIDE UP" , "DO NOT CRUSH" with arrows pointing to the top all over the box (on all sides).

18. I have had much better success with clocks being air shipped to a freight company at the airport than shipped to my house.

19. If there is space underneath a movement inside the case where if the box dropped, it will come loose, (eg: a picture frame clock" or a mantle clock, put something underneath the movement it to protect it from moving in the case....)
I have had gongs come loose and rattle around inside a mantle clock breaking things.

20. Take a digital picture of the clock in packing should you need to help make an insurance claim. This will help prove that it is packed well.

21. The enemy of a clock arriving in good condition is , if anything inside the box has room to move at all. But do not pack so full that there is too much pressure from the inside to the outside of the case.

22. Again, Lots more padding , esp on the bottom of the box, below the case... Styrofoam only, is not enough to protect it from a drop.

23. Some antique clocks have old glass in them.  This is glass with bubbles, flaws , streaks, and waves in it and is usually thin compared to newer glass.  This is wonderful !!  I love this old glass , and when glass is broken, I replace it with a similar, but not as good type of glass here with bubbles and streaks.  This antique "old style" glass cost $20.US per square foot.  (>$200. sq meter)  The average front door glass cost more than $70 to replace this way.   It would cost $4. to replace with new glass.  Just thought you would find this interesting.  This is why American collectors care about “old” glass so much.

24.  If a piece comes off, like wood or the veneer, no matter how small, please send it along also.  Sometimes it can be glued back on and it is always easier to glue an original small piece than to try to match it with a new one.


25.  Remove the maintaining power from the movement.  This is especially important as arrresting the crutch to keep the verge from crushing those very delicate escape wheels, and of coure, smashing the pallet jewells




If you have read this far, thank you for your patience....   If any of it is not good for you, just ignore and do what you think is best.  This is just my ideas from experience on the matter of packing clocks.

See ya' and Good LUCK !!!


Last updated: 11/20/2002 07:27

Copyright 2002, Dean Kinard, All rights reserved.