Repairing an Antique Lockset Return Spring

Given our house is 130 year old, it is not unexpected that some things are going to start wearing out. This is particularly true of mechanical components that get regular use such as locksets. The continued used eventually causes things like springs to fail due to metal fatigue. This entry discusses repairing an antique lockset return spring. I know this isn’t strictly a woodworking project but certainly peripherally related to restoration so I’ll include it in the category.

The lockset on the door leading from our kitchen to our mudroom began to fail to remain closed. The bolt was no longer extending automatically after the doorknob was turned,

As a result, it would no longer engage with the strike plate and the door would just swing open.

Diagnosing the Problem

Removing the lockset for repair requires removing one of the doorknobs and sliding the spindle out of the lockset. Then only two screws need to be removed from the face of the lockset and it slides right out.

Once you have the lockset out, there is a single screw that holds the side cover on.

Removing the cover lets you see the interior of the lockset.

If you are wondering what the white is, it is lithium grease. My first thought was that the mechanism simply needed lubrication but this was not the case. The actual problem was that the spring that returned the bolt to its extended position had failed. You can see the spring, a thin strip of spring steel, in both the relaxed and tension state at the bottom of case in the following images.

Repairing the Spring

Now here is the problem, how do you find a replacement spring for a 130 year old lockset. I’m sure that somewhere on the interwebs you could find someone that sells replacements. I’m cheap and impatient, however, so I went looking for something I had on hand instead. It turns out that an old hacksaw blade is the same thickness and spring as the original piece.

A quick trip to the grinder and I have a replacement piece for the lockset.

I then slip this into place in the lockset case and close it back up.

With the new spring in place, the lockset was back in working order. I expect that we can get another 130 years of use out of it now.

Thanks for reading!

Barrister Bookcase Restoration – Shelf Repairs (Part 2)

You can find part 1 of the Barrister Bookcase Restoration here.

The first piece of work I decided to take on was replacing the missing piece of wood on the front edge of one of the shelves.

Luckily, I had picked up a number of pieces of white oak for a couple of bucks each. This dimensions and grain just happened to match up nicely with what I needed here. The remainder will also be useful for the creation of the replacement cover frame later.

Preparing for Repair

When you are trying to splice in a broken piece of wood during a repair, things will go a lot easier if you can remove ragged edges first. By cutting a flat reference plane at the damage site, it is much easier to shape a replacement piece. So, out came a wide chisel and I formed a flat surface at the break.

It probably doesn’t look much different but it is. The flat surface allows me to use a plane to shape a matching surface on the replacement piece of wood.

Choosing the Patch

I could use almost any piece of scrap oak if this repair was on the side or back of the shelf. Since it is on the front of the shelf, it is important that the patch not only matches in shape but also follows the grain of the original piece. This will make it much easier to disguise the repair later during finishing. I cut a wedge shaped piece of oak on an angle that attempted to align with the grain of the shelf.

You can see that I was lucky enough to find a piece where the grain has a very similar character to the wood it is replacing.

Shaping the Patch

The next part is the tedious one. It involves the shaping of the patch to match the damaged area of the shelf. I do this with a combination of planes, chisels, rasps, and files. Th process is hold the patch in place, look for high spots where it meets the damaged area, shave off a little, and check the fit. Lather, rinse, repeat, and repeat, and repeat…

I’m sorry I didn’t take more intermediate photos but I got so caught up in getting things to fit that I forgot. In any case, here is a picture of the roughly shaped patch.

At this point, the flat angle on the back of the patch was mating well with the exposed surface of the repair while maintain grain alignment. Next step was to glue it into place and begin trimming it to align with the shelf surface.

Final Shaping

At this point, it is a matter of shaping/carving the patch to blend into the existing wood. Again, I use a combination of a block plane, chisels, and various rasps and files (conveniently held in my ABS Pipe File Rack). The front of the patch was actually pretty easy to deal with as it is mostly meeting flat surface to flat surface. The outcome looks pretty good and I think the refinishing should hide the patch nicely.

The bottom of the patch was a bit more of a challenge. There is a curved cavity under the front edge of the shelves. This is to provide clearance for opening the glass front of the shelf stacked below it. As such, I had to do a bit of carving to match the patch to the curve of the shelf to make sure there will not be any interference when it is complete.

I know there is a gap but that is only on the underside, it shouldn’t be visible once things are finished up.

One challenge down, a bunch more to go…

Barrister Bookcase Restoration (Part 1)

Quite a few years ago, my wife picked up a set of barrister bookshelves because we needed some shelves for the many books that we had collected over the years. The condition of these particular shelves left much to be desired but were still functional.

Only two of the sections actually had covers and, of those, only one with glass in it. Even that one pane of glass is missing a piece. There were also plenty of scratches, cracks, and missing chunks of wood. That being said, the price was excellent and they were still extremely solid so we used them without the covers for years as regular book shelves. As we’ve started to clean out some of our library, we’ve found that they aren’t needed anymore so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a barrister bookcase restoration to get them ready for sale.

What are Barrister Bookcases?

Barrister bookcases are a specific kind of bookshelf characterized by their modular nature. Each shelf, as well as base and top, are individual sections. As such, you can stack as many or as few together to build shelf of the size that is needed. This has the added advantage of making them portable. Each section is quite compact and light making moving less of a chore. In fact, the original design came out of a need to move books in an efficient manner. The individual shelves could be moved as is without even removing the books.

A second defining feature is the presence of a glass cover on each shelf. These covers lift up and then slide in over the top of whatever is on their shelves. This provides protection for the contents from dust and helps keep the shelves looking tidy in general.

Assessing the Damage – Covers

First step is to have a look at the various issues that will need to be addressed. As I mentioned, only two of the original 3 covers survived so I will have to build a third cover to complete the set. In addition, the glass will need to be sourced for all three as even the one that has glass is missing a piece in the corner.

There are some additional problems with one of the shelf unit’s hardware. The runners for the cover appear to be missing. You can see in the pictures below there is a metal rail for the covers to ride on for two of the shelves.

On the third one, there is only a strip of wood present.

It is possible that this third one is older and the wood is original while the metal slides were only introduced later. Given the three are currently together in a set, I think it makes sense to try and recreate a third metal slide here if possible. I’ll have to think more on this one before undertaking it.

Structural Issues

The next challenge is the damage to the front edges of a couple of the shelves. One is only cracked and can be glued back together followed by a bit of finish work to hide the split.

The other is actually missing a significant chunk of wood. I’ll have to patch in some replacement wood and try to blend it in so it’s not so noticeable.

Addressing the Finish

There is a significant stain on the top that I will try to bleach out and refinish to make it less of an issue.

The finish on the faces of some of the shelves has been damaged. I’ll address this as well. Should be an easier fix than the top I think.

Finally, there is a general mismatch in the finish on the sides of the three shelf sections. The grain and finish is very different for each section but they all look like oak. They may have all came from different production runs and later been put together as a harlequin set.

I’m actually not sure that I’ll attempt to do anything with this. The finish on the darkest shelf is badly orange peeled. I may strip the sides of it. I’ll see if I still have energy for it at the end of the restoration.

Next post I’ll get down to work…

Part two of the restoration can be found here.