The Victorian Ironmonger - Blog

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  1. Georgian Brass Cased Rim Latch

    First job is to make a replacement keeper for this original Georgian lock. The lock dates to around 1790 and probably originated in one of the many back street locksmiths workshops of Wolverhampton. All of the parts are totally hand made from wrought iron bar and sheet brass, the fine finish being achieved by filing and sanding. Even the screws were made to suit each lock with hand cut threads. Possibly the only thing out sourced in the smaller workshops were the keys, these coming from specialist key manufacturers. Later in the Victorian period these workshops were turning out so many locks, that is was said that if a lock was dropped, it was quicker to make a new one, than stop to pick it up.

    Anyway back to the bench. Making a keep isn't one of my favourite jobs, it involves a lot hacksawing, bending, cutting, soldering and drilling. The finished result is pictured here, and now along with a good clean of the lock internals, this original Georgian lock should now be good for another 200 years or so.

    When listed on site over the next few days, it will be found in our rim lock section  here.


    The next job is similar but on a larger scale. The making of a replacement keep for a large 10 x 7 inches early Victorian lockable rim latch with interior privacy bolt. Keeps of this size are almost impossible to find, and people never consider saving them when removing the lock. Many of the smaller keeps are now reproduced, but not these, so its time to get hacksawing again. I prefer to use old metal wherever possible for such jobs, and will often have to wait until it presents itself. In this case a redundant window shutter bar of just the correct width, all I have to is cut to length, position correctly, weld the joints, and drill the fixing holes. Again this will appear in our rim lock section soon.

    Another Victorian servants bell this week, slightly smaller than the one listed a couple of weeks ago, which sold within five days of being listed on the site. This one probably hadn't seen any attention since the day it was hung, perhaps a 100 to 140 years ago, the steel parts covered in rust, and the brass almost black. So the job is to strip it entirely, remove the surface rust and treat against further rusting, straighten the back fixing plate, and solder repair one small break to same. Polish all brass parts on the polishing mop, and reassemble. The bell now looks almost as good as it did when new, and has a delightful ring tone. Once listed on site it will be found here.

    The forerunner of the door bell, was of course the door knocker. Two to work on today, both quite straightforward. The first an unusually large and impressive Victorian iron one. This came in with its paint already removed, so just a case of cleaning and treating against rust, then a coat of clear lacquer. The fixing studs had been cut quite short to suit a relatively thin door, these were discarded and two new ones cut from 5/16 inch Whitworth threaded rod, with new nuts and washers. The second door knocker is of brass and dates from around 1900, this required the fixing holes re-tapped, new 1/4 inch Whitworth studs cut, and new nuts and washers, then a spruce up on the polishing mop.

    Next job a Victorian letter box for a new spring, hinge rod, and a polish. The hinge rod on this had virtually rusted through in the centre, yet seized in its locating holes. A quick blast from the blow torch, and a tap with the hammer frees this. While its apart its easier to polish, so another trip to the polishing room. A new rod is cut and the whole reassembled with a new spring, the fixing studs and nuts checked, cleaned, and washers added. Another piece of our Victorian heritage saved. Sood to be found in our letter box section here.

    A Victorian Gothic iron gate latch now. Seized and not turning as it should, but freed with some heat and penetrating oil, cleaned, treated against rust, and lacquered.

    A pair of Victorian pub door handles, sash window lifts, and some beehive pattern key hole escutcheons now to polish. For what I thought would be an easy but filthy end to a long day. Just my luck the brass on the pub handles had been hard lacquered and painted over, this took some seriously hard polishing to remove, but worth the end result, seen below.

    Victorian Pub Door Handles

  2. Old rim and mortice lock spring replacement.

    The replacement of antique lock springs

    The most common cause of failure in any old lock, is that of a broken spring. Although nearly always referred to as locks, they are actually latches i.e. they have a spring loaded latch to open and close the door, operated by a pair of door knobs or handles. They may or ay not be lockable, either by key or sliding bolt. It is the spring for this latch that will concern us here. Firstly we have to remove the lock or latch from the door. 


    Surface Mounted Rim Latch Removal.

    These are attached to the back surface of the door, and held in place by three or four slot headed screws through the latch case, with possibly another two screws to the door edge. Before attempting to remove these though, we'll need to remove the door knobs.

    A variety of methods have been used over the years, to hold door knobs in place on their spindle. The most common being tiny grub screws, both knobs may have these but we only need to remove one, so go for the one you feel confident with. Make absolutely sure that the screw slot is clean, and that you make positive contact with the screwdriver, pressing all the time. If the screw is stubborn to turn there are several things you can try:

    1. Tap the screwdriver with a hammer, this sometimes will jar the       screw free.

    2. Try a turn to tighten, then back to unscrew.

    3. Allow to soak in something like WD40.

    4. Apply some heat, a hot air gun or small blow torch is ideal, but   don't overdue it, apart from scorching the paintwork, some knobs       have soldered assemblies, which will become unsoldered!

    5. I sincerely hope you don't get this far! Drill out the screw.


    Some earlier screws may only be two or three threads in length, and easily lost if dropped. Spread some newspaper or cardboard under your work area. I tell you all these things from bitter experience, hours of searching to no avail, and having to make new ones. Others will go through the drilled spindle to thread in the far side of the knob stem, or into threaded holes in the spindle itself.

    More often than not with the screws removed the knob will slide off it's spindle, however in some cases the spindle is threaded and the knob screws on to it, if it won't pull off, look for the thread. Some have back plates, roses or collars on the non lock side of the door, these may hide the fixing method and need to be removed or turned to reveal it. If you're unsure of how it works email me a picture. Now that you've removed the door knobs, you can remove the screws holding the lock to the door. Refer to points 1-5 above for difficult screws. 

    Mortice Latch Removal.

    Remove the door knobs, one should suffice, once removed the spindle should pull through. If this isn't the case remove the other knob complete with spindle. Occasionally the spindle will be rusted in the latch, try tapping it lightly to remove, or soak with WD40 or similar.

    Most mortice knob fixings will be obvious with two, three, or four screws attaching them to the door. Sometimes however these aren't visible, in which case try unscrewing the back plate anti-clockwise, this will reveal the fixing screws. Also check for grub screws, fitting may be as in the rim type above.

    With the knobs and spindle removed, inspect the door edge, here you will find two countersunk screws hold the latch body to the door. Refer to points 1-5 above for removal and prise out the latch.

    Taking it apart.

    Place the lock or latch face down on a clean work surface. You should see a lock back plate, this is held in place usually by two screws, remove these and the back plate carefully. Ideally photograph what you see for future assembly reference or, draw a diagram. The offending broken spring should be obivous, as will be the years of rust, dust, chewing gum, pieces of paper, small coins and hair grips often found there.

    Referring to the above diagram, which we have taken from our 1913 edition of Benns Encyclopedia of Hardware, should give you the spring position. We don't sell replacement springs but, they can be found in good old fashioned hardware shops, and often seen on Ebay. Failing that try Googling 'old rim lock springs'.

    I have tried to describe a few hundred years of antique door locks and their fittings here in a few basic paragraphs. There are so many different types, sub types, and methods of fitting that I could bore you for ages with it. I could refer you to specific items in stock as examples, but the stock being original and unique, is ever changing, threfore any links would soon be outdated. What I will say is that if you have any antique door fitting problems, contact me, preferably with pictures of the offending object, and I will do my best to help.

    Dave Thompson

    July 3rd 2015