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What I did on my Internet vacation

What I did on the first day of it, anyhow. On Saturday I turned this:


… into these.


I’m particularly pleased with these (below). I had no idea such pretty two-toned brass designs were hidden under decades-old globs of paint.


It took about three hours and involved rounds of various nasty chemicals — one of which was elbow grease.

In the afternoon and evening, I inserted the mortise lock into the new door on the new bathroom.

I did the major bathroom work last fall, but left an old wall and a doorless entryway until this month when a sort of wandering monk person tore them out, framed the final wall, and worked with me to hang a door. Now I’m drywalling and doing other finishing.

Anyhow, installing the new assembly didn’t go as well as the cleaning. Back to that in a sec. First …

This next was complete serendipity, but when the monk left the space above the door open instead of putting in a center stud, I went and got ideas. So I’ve drywalled and textured around the interior of that space and now I’m going to put in some sort of kludged-together transom window. Not sure what I’ll use. I have colored plexiglass squares but the thought of how to frame them hurts my brain and I may have something better, besides. I think I’ll use a pair of matching picture frames I got at a garage sale and put colored cling-film on the glass. Then the bathroom will get colored light from the rest of the house during daylight and give colored light to the house when the nightlight’s on inside. Still be private, though. Cool, eh?

Maybe it would help to see what I’m talking about. Keep in mind that this next shot isn’t some blurry mistake. It’s … um, Art. Yes, True Art. (Because if you saw what a construction zone I’m really shooting into, which you would if I used the flash, it would be hideous. This is … evocative.) And see the transom-to-be?


But back to that mortise lock. Weird. It works perfectly when it’s outside the door. Stick it in the door and the key won’t turn. Pull it out, key turns. Stick it back in, won’t turn. I’ve checked to make sure the keyholes are unobstructed and there are no stray wood chips getting into the mechanism. The key appears to be fitting in the lock exactly as it should. But … while the knob and latch work, the deadbolt is … dead.

I do have detailed instructions for fixing old locksets. And a rusty old lockset I could experiment on:


But given that the instructions are real big on lines like “be careful that the springs don’t fly into your face,” I’m reluctant to make the attempt. And the thing does work. As long as I don’t install it.

Still, even with deadbolt weirdness, the door closes, latches, and will eventually be pretty.

I put quotes on “new” when I mentioned the door because it’s actually from an old Craftsman house. Yeah, the doorknobs and plates are more Victorian, which clashes with Craftsman. But then, my house is Early Hodgepodge, so it’ll work. Nothing terribly Craftsmanish about the door, anyhow. It has a lovely beveled mirror built into it, but other than that, it’s just a door.

And that’s what I did on the first day of my Internet vacation. When I wasn’t either basking or going bonkers. More about that in my next post.


  1. CB
    CB February 23, 2016 4:30 am

    I had old door hardware with coats of paint like that. I used an old pot (and I will never use for cooking) and boiled the hardware in water for a few minutes. The paint softened and cleaned right off.

    Keep pushing! That’s beautiful work you have there. What a special place you’re making for yourself.

  2. Pat
    Pat February 23, 2016 4:32 am

    The hole bored into the door (or the frame) for the lockset may be an nth of a degree off-center. My son has this problem with his front door deadbolt, and is always fighting it. When the house was built, the locksmith goofed by an nth. In his case, he has to pull the door extremely hard toward him while turning the key to get the key to tumble into place.

    The colored transom is a great idea – serendipity, indeed.

  3. R.L. Wurdack
    R.L. Wurdack February 23, 2016 6:53 am

    Do not lose any of the machine screws (if there are any). Some old locksets use uber-wierd sizes and threads. I’ve had to machine special threads for the locksets in this old house.

  4. A.G.
    A.G. February 23, 2016 8:33 am

    Great post, funny title. Thanks for making my morning.

    Monk dude sounds interesting.

  5. Joel
    Joel February 23, 2016 9:34 am

    First house I ever lived in had a whole bunch of those faceted transparent doorknobs. We used to steal them from the doors and pretend they were diamonds. Used to get in big trouble for it, though I don’t recall it ever deterred us.

    Could the deadlock be working, but just not aligning with the hole in the doorframe?

  6. MJR
    MJR February 23, 2016 12:12 pm

    I see a few of the other comments have mentioned alignment issues with mortise locks. I will add that they are probably right. The other issue with these locks is if you tighten up the screws a little too much when installing the added pressure on the lock can cause the mechanism to bind. Mind you the binding doesn’t happen very often so I would not worry too much about it. BTW don’t forget to hit the mechanism with some lubricant like Wd-40 or CLP before you put it back in the door.

  7. LarryA
    LarryA February 23, 2016 6:14 pm

    Have you tried installing the lock in steps, checking the key at each step?

    Place the lock in the hole, check key. Barely start wood screws, check key. Screws mostly in, check key. Screws snug, check key. One screw tight, check key. Other screw tight, check key. Both screws tight, check key.

    That should tell you more about where the problem is showing up.

  8. old board
    old board February 23, 2016 7:56 pm

    Alignment with the door jamb strike is a good place to start. Also, some of the old locks have an internal ‘piece’ that protrudes from the lock and rotates as the key is turned. If that’s the case, a “groove” in the mortise needs to be chiseled to accommodate it. I’d turn the key with the lock in your hand and look at both sides to make sure that is not the case. If the mortise is not parallel to the face of the door and is hence” tweaked”can cause the symptom. If you have to somewhat force the lock in, chisel the mortise until it slips in easily. After all of that, what Larry A says is good advice. For hardware that has been around forever and is relatively simple, they can be quite “touchy” . Maddeningly so at times.

  9. capn
    capn February 24, 2016 6:12 pm

    Yep … what Pat, MJR, Larry A and old board said.
    So … I won’t say a word … Uhm … Oops.

    “ahem” HI Claire! Nice handywork with the refurbishment project.

  10. capn
    capn February 24, 2016 6:15 pm

    I MAY have a couple of those beveled glass doorknobs kicking around. Do you want me to look for them? They would just be the knobs not the rest of the lockset.
    Shoot me a note if you want me to look for them.


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