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.


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.


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


  1. Lily Mazurek says:

    Hi, I have a very similar Seth Thomas, possibly a little older and more beat up, that I inherited from my father and grandfather. Problem is, my brother never gave me the 2 keys to wind it up. Where can I get the 2 replacement keys? Thanks so much!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lily! The keys are pretty standard. The first place I would look for one is either on Ebay or at local flea markets/antique shows. ~ karen!

  2. We have a good number of auctions happening in this area, and I’m half tempted to look for a clock like this. But did it have to be disassembled to get it home? Would not want to have to do that.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Pamela. The weights and pendulum always have to be removed when the clock is moved whether it’s from an auction to your home or from one wall of your house to another. ~ karen!

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