How to Wind an Antique Mantel Clock

Updated February 21, 2017

Antique mantel clocks use a system of springs and gears to drive the timepiece so that the hour and minute hands on the clock face rotate at the correct speed to mark the passage of time. These clocks work with a metal key that may be removable or permanently attached. Turning the key winds the springs that drive the internal mechanism. Some clocks have three keyholes that must be wound to separately activate the hour and minute hands, as well as the chime mechanism that marks the quarter-hour, half hour and top of the hour marks.

Turn the clock to locate the keyholes or installed key on the back or face of the clock. Westminster-type chime clocks for the mantel typically have keyholes built into the lower half of the face of the clock.

Insert the metal winding key into the first hole on the left or grip the flat handle of a permanently attached key on some mantel clocks.

Turn the key clockwise. You will hear a series of clicks as the key rotates and winds the mechanism. Stop winding when you first begin to feel resistance; do not forcibly turn the key.

Pull out a removable key and insert into the next hole, winding slowly until you feel resistance. Repeat with the third keyhole, if your clock has one.


Turn the minute and second hands on the clock face clockwise only to adjust the time. Turning the hands in the wrong (counterclockwise) direction can damage and possibly break the mechanism.

Things You'll Need

  • Clock winding key
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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.