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Antique Door Hardware Primer

Welcome to the door hardware primer page. Please read over this information carefully before ordering door hardware. The information on this page is divided into two categories, OLD DOORS and NEW DOORS. This refers to your doors that you are trying to find hardware for.

SELECTING HARDWARE FOR OLD DOORS (pre-1940)

Old interior or exterior doors are "mortised" (or cut) on the edge of the door to accommodate a "mortise lock". This term refers to the Iron and brass "BOX" that slides into the edge of your old door and latches and/or locks your door. In figure 1 below, there is a typical passage door mortise lock that was used on doors from 1850 through the 1940's.

 

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6

 

This mortise lock works as both a door lock and a door latch. To operate the door lock you need a skeleton key (Figure 3) to "throw" the lock bolt; to operate the door latch you use doorknobs that have a 1/4" to 5/16" square spindle joining them together to throw the latch bolt (Figure 2). A strike plate (Figure 3) is mounted on the jamb of the door to receive the latch bolt (shown in Figure 1).

So the first step in finding hardware for your old door is finding a mortise lock. You can buy vintage mortise locks, or reproduction mortise locks. You need to measure the hole (called a mortise) in the edge of your door to determine the size of the mortise lock that you need, because they come in all different sizes. You may also use our mortise lock search form to submit the size of the hole to our staff and we will search our inventory for an appropriate lock for you. This form also shows you the anatomy of a mortise lock and explains terms such as backset and spacing.

Once you have a snug fitting mortise lock in the door, you are ready to select your doorknobs and door plates or rosettes. For each door, you will need one pair of doorknobs, or two doorknobs mounted on a spindle which you learned about in Figure 3.

Because of the different manufacturing techniques, it is not always possible to mix different styles of door knobs on the same spindle. You will see some pairs of knobs threaded onto their spindles, usually with 16 or 20 threads per inch, so it is not always possible to mate different knob styles onto one spindle. You will also see some knobs attached by set screws (Figure 5) that thread through the doorknob's neck and into a threaded hole on the spindle.

For each door you will also need a pair of door plates or door rosettes, also called roses or escutcheons (Figure 4). Roses are the round escutcheons that the doorknob sits in, they serve the same purpose as plates. You need two per door. You may also mix and match and have a door plate on one side, and a rosette and keyhole escutcheon (Figure 4) on the other side. We offer a great selection of antique door knobs and plates as well as new or reproduction door knobs and plates to use with mortise locks. It is important that you measure the spacing (Figure 6) of your mortise lock to determint that the plate you have selected will work. Spacing is the measurement between the center of the doorknob hole and the center of the round part of the keyhole. Many of our reproduction locks have the same spacing as many old mortise locks. There are variations in spacings on some old mortise locks so be sure you measure carefully before selecting your door plates. If you have an unusual spacing, you may decide to opt for a rosette and keyhole because the spacing is variable with these pieces.

So, to summarize:

1. Find a mortise lock. Use your existing one, or choose a reproduction that will fit into the mortise already cut in the edge of your old door. Don't forget the strike plate and key if needed.

2. Choose a pair of vintage or reproduction knobs.

3. Choose a pair of plates or roses that match your spacing.

   
Figure 7 Figure 8
   
 Figure 9  Figure 10

 

ENTRANCE DOORS

Entrance doors need a more complicated mortise lock for added security. The primary difference between a passage mortise lock (Figure 1) and an entry mortise lock (Figure 7) is the deadbolt and the size of the mortise box case. Entry locks are usually larger, and the deadbolt is often thrown with a cylinder and key (Figure 8) on the outside, and a thumbturn (Figure 9) on the inside. Additional features such as night latches (Figure 7) may also be present on antique mortise locks. There are many different variations of exterior mortise locks that were manufactured in the late 19th and early 20th century. We offer both antique and new entry mortise locks.

When using an entrance mortise lock set, your door plates (Figure ) are going to be a little different than the ones you use on interior door. You need to have plates that can accommodate the cylinder lock on the outside, and also open the deadbolt on the inside. (Figure ). The entry mortise lock needs to have holes that match up to the holes on the doorplates that you are using, whether they are antique or new.

Please note: Many old entrance doors have the simpler passage style mortise locks (Figure 1). You can use a set like this, with the skeleton keyed deadbolt, but we recommend using an additional deadbolt for security.

 

     
Figure 11 Figure 12 Figure 13

 

SELECTING HARDWARE FOR NEW DOORS (post 1940)

New doors are often purchased "BORED", (Figure 11) or drilled with a 2-1/8" hole to accommodate newly manufactured latch sets. If your doors have this large hole, you can still use attractive old or new hardware, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

The tubular latch (Figure 12) is necessary to accommodate any of the old or reproduction doorknobs shown on this website. We have many styles of new door hardware that include tubular latches to fit new doors. These new sets (Figure 13) are made specifically for new doors with the 2-1/8" hole bored, and they come complete with all necessary parts: latch, strike plate, rosettes or plates, and knobs or levers.

If you really want to stick with antique hardware and your door has been cut with a 2-1/8" or larger hole, you need to select backplates or rosettes to cover up the large hole that is in your door. Check the diameter of the hole in your door, as well as the diameter of the door rose. Remember, you need to have enough wood in order to screw the rose onto the door.

If you are ordering new doors and would like to use old-style hardware, simply order them without the pre-drilled holes. They are referred to as slabs. Then, your contractor will have to drill the small mortise to accommodate the tubular latch.

Then, you can use either door plates or door roses, and you can select either vintage knobs  or reproduction knobs. 

 

 

Antique Door Hardware Primer
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