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How original Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks are made?


Original Black Forest German cuckoo clocks are manufactured not as mass-production clocks, but as hand-assembled masterpieces. The manufacturer´s philosophy is to achieve highest quality with his clocks. Wood-carvings and clock cases are produced only in the Black Forest and thus are known around the world for their quality workmanship.

Most clocks are handmade according to century-old tradition. Until the finished clock can be displayed in a store or at your home it have to surpass a lot of different production steps. We will try to explain to you in the next chapters some of the production steps. The pictures you will see – are like many of the pictures seen in the internet – are taken out of the actual catalogues of the manufacturers Herr, Schwab, Schneider and Hönes. Individual pictures are very rare to find or to get because visits and tours through the production places are not allowed and thus not displayed to the public due to security reasons.

First step – where everything starts – is the wood which is used for the clocks. Most of the cuckoo clocks are made of Limetree (or Linden Tree, Latin name: Tilia). Those trees with their heart-shaped leaves are quite common in Europe and their wood can be used very well for carvings. After the trees are cut down the wood is pilled up and needs years to rest. Than the chances that the wood will move are low.
The wood will be cut into appropriate pieces corresponding to the size of the clock. The basic pieces which are coming out of the sharper are checked carefully to avoid cracks or irregularities within the wood. Before the clock is assembled all pieces are finished in different working steps.
For example the roof-shingles covering the roof on many so many clocks are cut then clued-on by hand. If you look closely to your clock you will see, that you all the wooden parts on your clocks have little traces that they are cut by hand and not by machine.
One major part of the cuckoo clock manufacturing process is the carving of the front plate and some of the basic parts like the cuckoo. The front plate gives the individual touch to each clock because the case of the clock is not more than a square box. In connection with the roof the cuckoo clock gets its special appearance. The carving of the plate is done by experienced wood carver – which do their job still with special knifes.
Nowadays – like in most industries – to save costs some manufacturers tend to use beside wood plastic parts. So sometimes the clock dial, the cuckoo or the dancers are made out of plastic.
In the meantime the inner life of the cuckoo clocks will be assembled. The different movements and the fine mechanics which will give live to the cuckoo and the dancing figurines on the front side of the clock will be put together. This requires a lot of subtle intuition due to the small and fragile parts used.
The metal parts used within the clock are also done mostly by hand – for sure there is some support by machines but the work needs really a lot of experience.
The heart of each clock is the movement. A lot of manufacturer work very close with Swiss clock manufacturer, which provide certain parts of the movement or produce the whole part. This allows the clock manufacturer to give also on the movement a full two year warranty. In direct connection to the movement, which powers the clock dial, comes the cuckoo and the dancers. But to assemble these extra parts lies in the responsibility of the clock maker.
When all the different parts are put together – some of the clocks will be painted – but most of them stay as they are. The different wood colours – like light or dark brown – makes the cuckoo clock so special. Thus most of them stay in their natural colour. Each clock will be carefully inspected over and over to prevent that the clock colour is changing within the clock. If this is the case special colours will be mixed together to colour the clock.
Before the clock will be boxed and ready for shipment a quality inspector will check every detail of the clock especially the tune of the cuckoo and the melodies.
When the clock fits the requirements and quality expectations of the manufacturer that it gets boxed and shipped to the dealers, where they are waiting for their new homes. Nowadays each year over 60.000 clocks are produced world wide and sold to new customers.

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