The following are questions I am frequently asked - with ANSWERS!

Table of Contents:

What is "antique" hardware? Vintage?
An antique, according to the federal government (United States Customs) is an item over 100 years old. For the purposes of dating antique hardware we typically rely on the date of an antique hardware catalogue which shows the item or, in some instances, the age of the building it was removed from.

There are as many definitions of "vintage" as there are queries. Within this web site I consider an item as vintage if it is over 50 years old.
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How can I tell what kind of metal it is?
Test with a magnet! A magnet will not stick to brass, bronze, copper, zinc, pewter, gold or silver.. It will stick to iron or steel. There are more metal types but those are the ones most used for antique and vintage hardware.

Brass or bronze? It's usually very hard to tell the difference but, in general, brass will have a yellow color and bronze will have a more rose color. The year it was made can also give a good indication of which is which. Brass was used almost exclusively prior to 1870. From 1870 to 1900 bronze was the metal of choice for the manufacture of artistic hardware. After 1900, both brass and bronze were used. Antique hardware catalogs always reflect what kind of metal was used for a specific piece. Sadly, people frequently search the internet using the keyword "brass" and consequently miss much of the truly fine antique hardware.
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What screws should be used? No screw guns!
After you've gone to all that effort of choosing the perfect old hardware please don't ruin it by using phillips head screws! To be historically correct a slotted screw is necessary. With cast iron or black antique hardware I suggest a dab of black paint on the screw heads for a more pleasing appearance. Also, never use a screw gun or drill! Brass & bronze are soft metals that are easily scratched and cast iron has no flex and will snap just like a piece of glass. That's where all the broken cast iron hinges come from! Pre-drill holes and use a hand screw driver.
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How do I determine the "hand" of my door?
Stand on the side of the door where you can see the barrel of the hinges. If the hinges are on the left you have a right hand door (you would pull it open with your right hand), if the hinges are on the right you have a left hand door (you would pull it open with your left hand). Almost all the locks sold here are reversible by simply removing the lock body cover and turning the strike over. I'll be happy to do this for you if you let me know whether your lock should be for a right or left hand door.
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What is a mortise lock? A rim lock?
A mortise lock is mortised (inset) into the door stile and only the faceplate is visible on the edge of the door. A bit key mortise lock has a striker (look at a modern door - the thing that goes in and out) that holds the door when you close it and a deadbolt that is thrown with a skeleton key. A mortise latch does not have a locking function and is much smaller and easier to install. Tip: You can use the latches with skeleton keyhole escutcheons if you like the look but don't need a locking function. Just paint the door behind the key hole with black paint or remove a bit of wood.

A rim lock is mounted on the face or surface of the door. A rim lock is also referred to as a box lock because the box (or body) of the lock is seen mounted on the door. It typically has the same functions as a bit key mortise lock but most times also have a night lock which is operated by a finger latch on the lock. This either stops the knob from rotating or throws a second deadbolt for privacy within the room. Smaller rim lock latches are without the skeleton key deadbolt. And, last but not least, are rim locks that do not have a doorknob and serve as a skeleton key lock only.
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Can antique doorknob locksets be installed on modern doors?
If there are no holes cut in the door it would be the same as with an antique door. If the door has a big round ugly hole it will need to be filled first. The easiest way is to cut several rounds of plywood with a hole saw the same diameter as the hole you are filling. This is the same drill attachment that you would use if you were installing a modern door lockset. Use wood glue to stack the pieces in the hole until they are flush with the door surfaces. On painted doors just putty and paint. With a stained door you will need to be more creative. The typical hole bore on a modern door is 2-1/8". Rosettes (small round door plates) average 2" in diameter and many rectangular doorplates are as small as 1-1/2". An edging of gold (or any attractive color) paint can be applied or a thin piece of wood a bit larger than the plate/rosette can be added to hide the plug.

There are also companies that sell retrofit hardware that will fit the 2-1/8" hole. They provide everything but the doorknobs themselves. Some are quite attractive but I believe that it's worth the effort to use all antique components. And we all know that nothing is easy in restoring old houses!

If you have a steel door, either use modern hardware or replace the door.
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How do I install a rim lock?
A rim lock is the easiest lock to install - bar none! It is also very forgiving with old houses settling as they frequently do. If your door has not been drilled in the past, all the better. If it has the large hole from modern locksets, see above for filling the hole. The side with the lock body will cover any repairs but you will need to be creative with the other side for the knob, rosette and key escutcheon if your door is stained. Actually, even if you leave the plug slightly showing these locks have a primitive feel and it will only contribute to the ongoing changes for the door.

For the actual installation, first lay the lock body in position with lock at the edge of the door and mark the location of the doorknob spindle and key hole on the door. Drill straight through the door for the spindle. Drill another two holes for the key and chisel out any remaining wood between the two holes. Screw the lock body to the door. Screw the rosette and key escutcheon to the other side of the door. The keeper or catch is typically installed on the flat molding that is flush with the door itself. Simply close the door, mark where the keeper is to go and screw it on. (See above - What Screws To Use)

Every once in a while I come across a door that is constructed in such a way that the door is not flush with the molding but is inset. In that case a strike plate can be substituted for the keeper. It is installed the same way as a modern strike plate. If you have such a door, let me know and I can provide the appropriate strike plate in lieu of the keeper.
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How do I install a mortise lock?
Ready for the hard stuff now? A mortise lock is definitely harder to install but is a must for the fancy Victorian hardware. With a little care and patience you can do it yourself but you can always call in your contractor for help. Again, fill in any holes that may already be in your door. See lock diagram following for definition of terms in these directions.

The position of the lock is typically in line with the door cross stile. Mark the top and bottom of the lock casing on the door edge. Add 1/8" at the top and bottom and use a square to draw two straight lines across the door edge. Add a vertical center line to aid drilling. It is best to secure the door before drilling. Make a series of drill holes along the center line. Tip: Mark the drill bit with a strip of tape to know how deep to drill into the door. Use a chisel to smooth the sides of the mortise slot so that the lock casing will slide neatly into the door.

Sit the lock in the mortise and mark the faceplate on the door edge. You must now make a recess in the edge of the door so that the faceplate of the lock is flush with the door. Using a chisel make a series of cuts down the length of the door where the plate will sit. Then ease out the indentations made by the chisel to give you your recess.

Hold the lock in position against the face of the door and mark the center of the handle spindle and the key hole. Using a drill, make holes through the door for the spindle and the key hole. Make the keyhole the correct shape by enlarging the lower half. Drill a smaller hole below the first and join them with a small saw or chisel.

Insert mortise lock and screw faceplate to the door. Screw door plates over the spindle/key holes and install doorknobs to finish the job.
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How to do I measure a lock? (See diagram below)


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How are antique door bells installed?

Antique door bells were most times mounted on the exterior door. A hole is drilled through the door and the ringer is mounted outside with the bell behind it on the inside of the door. I have included a scan from an antique hardware catalog that shows a typical gong type bell for reference. A twist type doorbell is the same basic principal.


There were also other methods of placement (with the bell somewhere else in the house) but that requires more specialized fittings and carpentry than most are willing to attempt. The twist type bells can be placed on an exterior wall next to the door with minor modification by simply adding length to the square spindle. If the spindle is permanently fixed to the ringer it would require some welding. If the spindle is loose, just replace it. A doorbell pull is also an excellent choice if you choose to have the bell and ringer through the wall rather than the door.




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