How to Set Mantel Clocks

Updated July 11, 2018

Adding a mantel clock to your fireplace mantel or a shelf can add a touch of antique class to your home. Setting a mantle clock is much different than setting a wristwatch. The procedure isn't that complicated, but mantle clocks do require care and weekly winding and possible resetting.

Put on soft gloves or wrap soft cloths on your hands to protect the clock. Open the front or back door, or the back access panel.

Look for a pendulum; if the clock has one, gently remove it. It's most likely hung on the pendulum rod. If your clock doesn't have a pendulum, you will see a balance wheel; you don't need to remove this.

Check the surface on which you wish to place the clock. It must be completely level. Move the clock to the surface.

Re-hook the pendulum onto the pendulum rod and close the door. Turn the clock around to face front if you were using a back panel.

Move the minute hand only, which is the long one, around to set the time. Manufacturers vary in how they want the hand moved; some require you to wind the hand clockwise and stop for each chime on the quarter hour, and others, such as Howard Miller, say to turn the hand counterclockwise, without chimes. If you picked up your clock second-hand and don't have the instruction manual, and the clock is modern, gently move the hand both ways, but don't force it. If you know it's antique, use the clockwise method. Set the time.

Tip the clock to one side slowly and back if it has a pendulum. This starts it moving, although it may take a few hours to settle into a regular chime pattern, especially if it's a pendulum clock. Balance wheel clocks should just start up without tipping.

Insert the clock key into the keyholes in the front. There may be two or three and may be round or another shape. Wind the key in half turns clockwise until tight. You must wind the clock every week at the same time and on the same day unless the specific manufacturer instructions say otherwise.

Check the time on the clock every few hours for the first few days and compare it to that on your watch. Mantel clocks can have a few minutes of variation, but if the clock is way off, adjust the time.

Speed up or slow down how fast the clock keeps time by finding either the pendulum adjustment nut or the time adjustment lever in back. This will differ by model. Click the lever up or down to speed or slow the clock; turn the adjustment nut to raise or lower the pendulum, which will speed or slow the clock respectively.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Level
  • Soft gloves
  • Clock winding key
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About the Author

Suzanne S. Wiley is an editor and writer in Southern California. She has been editing since 1989 and began writing in 2009. Wiley received her master's degree from the University of Texas and her work appears on various websites.