What It’s Like to Go To An Auction & Buy A Clock. By Accident.

I went to an auction. I didn’t need an old clock or even have anywhere to put an old clock.  Therefore – I bought an old clock.  Feel free to insert a rolling eye emoji here. Here’s how that little escapade turned out.

And that right there is how you get a post on the dangers of auctions AND how to fix an antique clock. Let me explain a little bit about how small town auctions work.

They all start the same. There’s a bunch of garbage that somebody else didn’t want in a room.

You enter the auction hall, in this case a community centre, and you walk around.  You might see something that you remember from when you were a kid.  Or a strange kitchen tool that your grandmother used.  At this point you start to soften to the garbage a little bit.  It’s not so bad.  It’s fun to just look at if nothing else.

You then get further into the garbage, picking through stuff and auction fever washes over you like the plague.   Say goodbye to your normal personality of easy breezy, happy go lucky gal – you are now a born killer with a pathological desire to win at all costs.  Yes.  To win the garbage.

To be fair, at this point suddenly it isn’t garbage anymore, it’s gold.

You cannot BELIEVE your good luck at stumbling upon all of this junk that some idiot didn’t want.  Within the first pass of all the auction contents your heart is racing, you’ve registered to bid and you’re ready to gouge the eyes out of anyone else who dares to bid on the slightly chipped, incomplete service of plastic dishes that are inexplicably covered in in Disney stickers.  They’re a pretty colour.  You like them.

You’re worked up but you’ve promised yourself you won’t go over the price you set in your mind for any of the items on your list.

Hahahahahahahaha!

Of course you go over.  You have auction fever you idiot.  The number one symptom is loss of self control.

That’s basically how I ended up with an 1852 Seth Thomas wall clock.

I had seen the clock immediately among the hundreds of other clocks at this auction.  There were fancy clocks, old clocks, new clocks, clocks with dancing ladies … just a veritable flock of clocks.

But I liked this clock. It was plain, in good condition and obviously old.

The only problem was I had no idea if it worked.  No one knew if any of the clocks worked.  That’s the MAGIC of an auction.

YOU JUST DON’T KNOW.

Some higher end auctions, where they don’t sell old porn and rusty medical devices would actually put the clocks together and test them.  But that takes ALL the fun out of it and it’s why I like auctions like this.

It’s basically gambling but you don’t know if you won or lost until you get home.

I bought my clock for $40. Which was $5 more than I had planned to pay. The clock was disassembled for transport, so when I got it home I started putting it back together to see if the $40 clock (I didn’t need or have any place for) was going to work.

Antique Clock Repair (for beginners)

 

  1. For travelling, weight driven clocks need their weights and pendulum taken off.  That means once you get your clock home you need to replace those things after you hang it.
  2. Hang your clock (before putting the weights or pendulum back on.)
  3. Replace the weights on their hooks. This is literally just a matter of hooking the weights on hooks. I also noticed that the string holding one of the weights was off its pulley so I put it back on.
  4. Now put your pendulum bob on (that’s the round thing at the bottom of the pendulum.)


5. Make sure your clock is level on the top …


… and the side.

6. Now wind the clock.  With a 2 hole clock like this one the right hole winds to the right, to lift the right weight.  The left hole winds to the left to lift the left weight.

7. You can now gently push the pendulum to get it running and see if it works.

If it runs but the ticking doesn’t sound even try pushing the clock from left to right from the bottom of the clock. It the ticking sounds better when you’ve pushed the clock (and therefore it isn’t level) then you need to get your pendulum in beat.

If your clock sounds better when you tilt the right side of it up, that means you need to gently push on your pendulum a little bit to the right to help it get into the proper beat. You might feel a bit of resistance.  Go just a bit further past that.  Then test the clock again to see if it sounds right.  If not, repeat. If you go too far then you might have to readjust it by pushing the pendulum in the opposite direction.

You should be able to hear the difference between the clock ticking properly and ticking off beat in this video.


K. Is your clock running and keeping an even beat?

If it is GREAT.  But hold on a few minutes before you skip down the street screaming at all the suckers in the world who didn’t buy this great deal of a clock that WORKS.  Because it still might not work.

 

8. Check after half a day to see if it’s keeping the right time.  Chances are it’ll be running either too fast or too slow.

The speed of the clock is adjusted by the pendulum bob.  The lower it is, the slower the clock will run.  Therefore the higher it is the faster the clock will run.


An easy way to remember how to adjust the speed on a pendulum clock is you want to speed UP and slow DOWN.  To speed it up the pendulum goes up, to slow it down, the pendulum goes down. 


 

9. To change the speed there will be a nut on the bottom of the pendulum. You can adjust the nut by turning it to move it up or down in order to speed up or slow down the clock. Just turn the screw a few times so the bob either rises up or down.

This is what the bob would look like if you wanted to slow down the clock a LOT.

And this is what it would look like if you wanted to speed up the clock a lot.

You just have to play around with the pendulum until it keeps time properly. It took me 4 days or so until I got it just right.

striker too close to wire

10. Adjusting the gong.  The clock makes it’s “gong” sound on the hour by a striker hitting a wire or bell.  In this case it’s hitting a wire.  The striker should be around 1/8th of an inch from the wire (or bell) for it to have a nice clean sound.  If it’s too close the gong will sound dull and more like a thump. You won’t hear the ringing, just a bang.

striker just right

You can gently bend the striker wire by hand to pull it into a proper position. (1/8th of an inch away from the wire) Now it should give off a nice gong sound that rings instead of thuds.


As it turns out I love my clock.  That isn’t always the case when you randomly bring stuff home from an auction. Oftentimes your auction fever breaks the instant you walk through your front door and you sit staring at the thing you bought wondering why it isn’t glittering anymore.

At that point you either stick it straight in your basement or hide it under a bunch of other stuff in your garbage.

And then?

Then you go to another auction.

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Have an old clock you love but doesn\'t work quite right? Yeah. Me too. So I figured out the basics of fixing them from making them run on time to putting the pendulum back in beat.  Here\'s how ...
#diy #clocks #repair

73 Comments

  1. Paula says:

    Wow! What a score. Inside my head at an auction-you described the emotions perfectly.

  2. billy sharpstick says:

    kewl looking clock! I would be too lazy or spaced out to wind it every day. Could you rig up an electric motor to wind it? Better yet, program an arduino to calculate the time and display it between the hands?

    • Karen says:

      All good options …. or I could just look down at my cell phone. I’m to give them all some serious consideration! ~ karen

  3. Kristin says:

    I have clock envy Karen!
    And your floors look good too!

  4. Kristin says:

    I have clock envy!

  5. Kris Wilson says:

    It looks perfect by your door! Turns out you did need it, maybe it found you!
    Good tutorial too!

  6. Jane Baker says:

    It looks perfect, therefore you needed it. 🙂

  7. Linda says:

    You got a Seth Thomas clock for next to nothing? Who cares if it works?

  8. Ann Marie says:

    Wow just lovely…I am one of those people who keeps random stuff around just for the looks of it ( bakelight moonbean clock sitting on my buffet not working). The ticking would drive me slowly insane but your clock looks damn beautiful. You must tuck a secret note in there somewhere for the next owner to find for when you tire of it or die of a zombie attack or something.

    Good to find your blog. I was one of those boy crazy teens that wrote in and dedicated a video to my crush decades ago I believe that was one of your shows…did not go over well…missed the episode that day and went to school the next day to be greeted by giggles and whispers. Thank god the internet had yet to happen…I hated high school. Looking forward to the next entry…do you mind me asking how old is your house?

    • Karen says:

      My house was built around 1840. I really should figure out the exact year but … 1840 is what I’ve been told so that’s what I go with. 🙂 ~ karen!

  9. M J Korbol says:

    I love, love your “new” clock 🕰❣️ Will you please do us a favor & video it when it gongs❓ I so want to hear it GONG❣️❣️ Fabulous find Karen ~ you are the best shopper…eclectic❣️

  10. Grammy says:

    You needed that clock. Right by the front door. I’m so glad it found you. Beautiful piece, and your instructions are perfect, as usual.

  11. Marna says:

    Gorgeous! Love old clocks. I have my dads old quarter hour chiming clock. It has three places to wind it up, it has a pendulum too. My husband bought an old WWII aged mantel clock, it chimes also. I would love to go to an auction, sounds fun, watch some on TV, but I can see how it would make a person go out of control with the fun of bidding! 🙂

  12. Patty DeMaria says:

    30 years go my husband and I did the rounds of auctions in rural Indiana in search of a dining table for our 1889 house. We wound up with an antique corner cupboard, a 9 foot tall Victorian secretary, a pump organ, and the skin of an unfortunate black bear.

  13. shoshana leeder says:

    Auction fever! you described it perfectly. And clocks! I am an official clock fanatic. Oh I know digital ones are all over everyones’s house. but sorry. simply not the same as a ticking chiming clock. What a find. Here in Lancaster Pa we have many Amish clock makers. I would have sent it off to one of them. So cool you can do it for yourself. Did you know that in one of those palaces where Queen Elizabeth lives there is a guy whose job it is to wind all 300 and something clocks? I only have 3

    • Karen says:

      I did not know that and I can’t even imagine that being my job! He for sure has carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact he probably developed it his first week on the job. ~ karen!

  14. Suz says:

    Now if only that would fix the mantel clock that didn’t work for years and then suddenly started working when dd dusted it and continued wor king for 6 months and then stopped again.

  15. canadamsel says:

    Lovely clock! I have been going to auctions since I was 16. Now in my 60s and looking at moving. Downsizing is a challenge, but I have managed to divest myself of my clocks. Well… most of them. 😊

  16. Elissa Rioux says:

    I love clocks too! Maybe now there is a chance of getting the one I inherited from my mom to work again! Thanks Karen 😘

  17. Mim says:

    OMG! THANK YOU! I inherited my mom’s grandfather clock and by the end of each week, it has gained about 7 minutes. I never knew I could adjust it. You have made me so happy.

  18. My in-laws have many, many antique clocks as my dad-in-law collected them. They also have a grandfather clock that was his pride and joy. He passed away in Sept 2017, and as he wasn’t around to keep the clock ticking properly, it stopped chiming not long after he passed.

    This past month, the chiming has returned, inexplicably. We are loving the quarterly chimes once more, and each time we hear them, we remember John.

  19. Suzie Rials says:

    I have a cheap replica of that type of clock, got so tired of having to wind it up…and couldn’t tolerate the ticking. So now it is a medicine cabinet.

  20. Marilyn Meagher says:

    Really lovely clock.

  21. Terri Skinner says:

    Nice auction score!
    Love your chandelier too!

  22. Eileen says:

    The things I learn reading your posts!
    Now I just have to start going to auctions (NOT!!!)

  23. Heather says:

    I’d say, “Lucky you!” But you work way to hard to ever be called “lucky.” Amazing! And gorgeous! And really inspirational!

  24. Debbie says:

    Beautiful clock. Love old clocks especially one that chimes. My parents have a Herschede grandfather clock with tubular bells on it. LOVE that clock. Nothing sounds better than a clock with tubular bells in it. Already have been told that I won’t inherit it. Sigh. I think your clock looks fantastic and love where you put it in your house. Congrats!

  25. K says:

    Um…did you say auction and clocks in the same sentence?

  26. Norma Gibson-MacDonald says:

    This is an ogee clock I believe. My father was a clockmaker as is my brother so I grew up surrounded by clocks. You’ve got a wonderful clock and it fits so well in your home. We had my grandmother’s clock at home and for some reason it was called “Old Dave”. My brother still has it. It’s an ogee as well. https://www.britannica.com/technology/ogee-clock

  27. Carol Kesteloot says:

    I never knew exactly how to wind and adjust this clock. Now I do. Thanks. Carol

  28. Dawna says:

    Great tutorial on adjusting pendulum clocks. Had no idea it was even possible. I can relate to auction fever. Been there. Done that. Thanks for the education!

  29. Dawna says:

    BTW, in regards to a previous post on cleaning unseen, high places, recently. I couldn’t help but notice your front door in the photo showing your new old clock displayed beautifully next to it. The door has a dark edge where it is handled. Now I am NOT a clean-freak, mind you…jut sayin’.

  30. Crafty says:

    My ex and I went to an art auction years ago where they served free wine. We bought 3 items, and I ended up with my favorite two after he moved on. After 30 years, they still look great even without the wine.

  31. Kim says:

    My father collected antique striking clocks all my life. I have helped him work on movements and refinish cases many times. That is a beautiful find. And your instructions are spot on.

  32. susang says:

    you are such a star congratulation beautiful clock and where you placed it just looks perfect

  33. Kim Jordan says:

    My father has collected antique striking clocks my entire life. I have helped him work on movements and refinish case many times. That is a beautiful clock you have there. And your instructions are spot on.

  34. Bonnie Gutierrez says:

    Perfect rendition, Karen, I thought you were describing my thoughts and actions when bit by the auction bug! Isn’t it fun!

  35. Linda Weber says:

    I absolutely love the character that describes your decor throughout your house starting with your foyer! I wonder 1. Was the wood of the clock refinished do you think? and 2. Is that the original front door of your house?

    • Karen says:

      No, I don’t think the clock was refinished. And I don’t know if it’s the original door, I suspect not but have no idea. It is however a very, very old door. At least 100 years old I would say. ~ karen!

  36. Lin N says:

    Beautiful clock, excellent auction score! Enjoyed learning about how to set up a pendulum clock. Thank you! Love auctions…have scored some great stuff over the years. The bidding always makes my heart beat fast…not sure if it’s excitement, dread or I’m having a heart attack! 😄

  37. Margaret says:

    Was thrilled to see your new (old) find. I too love antiques and was fortunate enough to inherit the same clock as yours from my grandmother (and likely her mother-in-law before that). Unfortunately the inside of mine is too faded to read the manufacturer or date. Enjoy! It looks lovely in your home and I’m sure will be cherished for many years.

  38. Kristina Horner says:

    Fabulous clock! Could you next buy an old anniversary clock and post a tutorial on how to fix it? I’ll be waiting… :p

  39. Vikki says:

    I think you scored on this clock. It’s a nice clock—but not as nice as the door next to it. Beautiful!

  40. Susan says:

    I love clocks! We have at least one in every room. We had a wonderful grandfather clock in a godawful French provincial finish. I painted the cabinet black and in retaliation, the clock started chiming repeatedly in the middle of the night. Sadly, I gutted it and its out in the garage now but I’m thinking of turning it into a curio cabinet.
    Will you be stripping your door to match the floors? I think you mentioned not liking that orangey shade, on the floors at least.

  41. Shelagh says:

    Great find! And such a good match for your house. Were you able to find out any of its provenance? The clock I mean.

    Keep your eyes peeled for a mechanical doorbell or striker….it would suit the house!

    • Karen says:

      My sister has one of those doorbells, love them. Hers is a reproduction but it looks original. No idea about where the clock came from at all I’m afraid. ~ karen!

  42. Lynda says:

    I love taking newbies to auctions just to watch auction fever take hold. The funniest was my sister at her first auction–a souvenir spoon rack containing one lonesome spoon came up on the block. My sister’s hand shot up and she bid furiously until she got that sucker. I asked her if she collected spoons, and she said, “no, but I might”.

  43. Kipper says:

    Such good advice I had to bookmark it for future reference, as I have done with many of your tutorials on various things! The website Clockworks.com has been helpful to me. Clockworks sells new movements and also has very helpful staff to answer clock questions. Unpaid endorsement. I don’t work for them nor do I have friends or family who do.

  44. Karen Murray says:

    I work at an auction company, and grew up in the business. You describe the “fever” perfectly. It’s like you think you are the only one to make a great discovery and try your best to play it cool….act uninterested, but deep down! No one else is as smart and savvy a buyer as you at that moment. If they only knew what they missed….
    It’s great fun, even if you don’t go home with anything (but who are we kidding, you will). And…that was a great deal you got! 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Karen! What’s funny is if I really want something I do NOT play it cool. I stick my hand up in the air and just leave it there. As in, yeah, I don’t give a shit, I’m buying this so go ahead and TRY and outbid me. ~ karen!

  45. Ann Brookens says:

    At the bottom of this post was a link to this: https://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/how-to-make-a-tea-towel-apron/ . When I got to the last picture, etc., I about died laughing! Had to share it with my daughter. SO FUNNY! Love you, Karen!

  46. Leslie says:

    Neat clock. It’s the week for blog clocks. I just read Miss MustardSeed who also bought an antique clock. https://missmustardseed.com/week-wall-clock/

  47. Mary W says:

    Why am I reading this when I don’t own a clock, don’t go to auctions, don’t want to know the time, and don’t want to learn how to fix one? I just love reading your instructions – very well done. I admire your ability to not only figure it out, but to clearly and with great patience and details, elt me know what I need to know about whatever. It is weird that I read to the end. But I was enthralled with your seemingly effortless ability to let me understand what you are doing. TALENT! Thanks, you are special.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well I don’t know if I’d be able to get through an entire article or post on something I cared nothing about. ~ karen!

  48. Jenn says:

    Hey Karen,

    Great find! I grew up with clock fanatics and there were probably 5 sets of Westminster chimes at any given point in my upbringing. Then my dad bought a ships clock and I had to learn a whole new way to tell time by chimes. Every clock has a name. I’ve put dibs on Seth, a mantle clock given to my great-grandfather by my great-grandmother for either their wedding or an anniversary.

    Anyway.

    One thing I learned is that clocks despise vibrations. Don’t be surprised if your clock is unhappy being on an exterior wall near a door.

  49. Shelley says:

    I grew up in the next town over from where that was built! 😀
    My grandma always told me that Seth Thomas and Eli Terry were business partners that had a falling out, and that’s why the Thomaston and Terryville sports teams are still rivals today.

  50. Jacquie Gariano says:

    My son-in-law collects clocks and we have them in every room and then some. Only he takes care of winding, adjusting and cleaning them. LOL Last year when he and my daughter went on a cruse for a week or so, the clocks wound down and the house was so quite it was scary.

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