Replacing an Antique Lockset

After my earlier success with repairing a lockset, I thought I’d fix a number of other locksets that were causing us issues. The first one, our back door, was starting to only open when the doorknob was turned in one direction. In the other, it didn’t work. It turned out that the single screw holding the cover of the lockset case on was loose. This allowed the mechanism inside to slip when the knob was turned one direction but not the other. Tightening this screw fixed things right up.

The second issue was with our basement door which has not worked at all since we moved in. I was hoping that a simple repair was in order. As you can see, that was not actually the case.

When I removed the lockset, I found it was actually in pieces. The damage had clearly happened long in the past as there was already a makeshift metal strap in place holding things together.  There was no repairing it so it needed to be replaced.

Finding a Replacement Lockset

The best case scenario would be to simply substitute in a replacement lockset and have done with it. Unfortunately, for some reason, the lockset in this basement door is different than all the other ones in the house. As a result, I couldn’t use any of the other ones that I had on hand (bottom two in the image below). All were too large for the mortise or the location of the spindle would have required making an new hole in the door. This type of modification would have been very difficult to hide.

Luckily, my father had collected the locksets from my grandparents now abandoned farm house so I had some additional pieces to work with (top right in the above image). It turns out that they were small enough to fit the mortise in the door and had the spindle in the right location. On the down side, the face plate of the lockset is much smaller and thinner than the original.

As a result, I was forced to make some changes to the door mortise to accommodate this.

Resizing the Door Mortise

I started with the empty mortise.

First step is to inset a piece of wood to fill the cover of the mortise. I used some salvaged antique pine that I had in my breaker pile.

Once the glue had dried, I trimmed the patch flush with the original door. I followed this by cutting out an opening to fit the new, smaller lockset.

You may be able to see some additional new wood along the bottom of the mortise. Since the new lockset was smaller, I glued in a strip of wood to take up the vertical play in the mortise.

Next was to mark out the location of the new lockset face plate for the inset.

And use a chisel to create the recess for the new plate.

I know that some of the break out looks bad here but it now fits the new lockset very nicely.

All that is left is to use shellac with various dyes and earth pigments to make the patch look like it was part of the original door.

With the lockset back in place, you can hardly tell that it is a replacement other than that it works.

Repairing the Strike Plate

I figured since I was doing the door mortise, I should likely do the strike plate are as well. As you can see, the strike plate had been moved around quite a bit over its life. As a result, the wood was pretty messed up.

To get started, I needed to square up the cavity so that I could fit in a wooden patch.

As there are two levels of cavity, I had to glue in two different patches to fill the space.  As with the door mortise, I used antique pine from my breaker pile. First was the deeper cavity – I glued in a patch and then trimmed it flush. I also enlarged the repair area upwards. This is to fix the damage visible near the top of the above image.

I then glued in a second larger thinner patch to fill the remaining space.

Once the glue had dried, I trimmed the patch flush with the original wood and formed the front edge to match the existing edge.

Next was to mark out the position of the strike plate and form a mortise to fit it. I measured for the screw locations and pre-drilled them.

Making the New look like the Old

At this point the wood was ready to put the strike plate back in place but the new wood was painfully obvious. Using a combination of shellac, dyes, and earth pigment to make the new patch blend into the existing door frame. The idea is not to make things perfect but rather to make it look like it has been used and abused for the last 130 years as is the case with the remainder of the door frame.

Finally, I put the original strike plate back in place. I think I was pretty successful. Amelia was unable to tell where the patch began and ended. Undetectable other than the fact that the door now works properly.

My “Painting” Supplies

I mentioned earlier that I use a combination of shellac, dyes, and earth pigments to recreate the finish and patina of the original components. Here is the setup that I use in doing that work.

The shellac is in the baby food bottle. I pour a bit out onto a plastic plate which I then color to the needed tone. The dyes are in dropper bottles that I can use, as needed, to adjust the base color. I then add in powdered earth pigments to adjust things and provide some opacity that the dye doesn’t allow.

Shellac works well for this because it dries so quickly. This allows me to build up layers of color, making small adjustments until it matches the original color. It is much more an art than a science and something that I find I truly enjoy, particularly when I manage to get the color “just right”

Thanks for watching!

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