DIY Video: Installing a Mortise Door Lock

You may have started to get the impression that all I do around the Liberty House these days is paint stuff and talk about the never-ending list of updates from the bank that has basically consumed my life for the last month. That’s mostly true, but I also found a little time a couple of weeks ago to make sure the sweaty, awkward, and somewhat incoherent bit of awesomeness that is me on a Saturday afternoon was captured for posterity on video.

In between the awkward and incoherent parts, I do manage to install “new” old-school mortise door hardware on my front door, which had been dismantled and nailed shut since I moved in back in March.


Apparently at some point the bank or auction company I bought the house from said to themselves, “Instead of just changing the locks or leaving the current hardware in place and nailing the door shut, it makes more sense to remove the knobs and lock, throw them away, and then nail the door shut.”

And this is what I was left with in the door:


So, yeah. The logic in that is just… astounding.

I finally decided to pry the door open, remove the hardware, and go on a hunt around town to try and find something similar that would work in the door. Probably I have a better chance of getting struck by lightning on any given day than I did of finding the exact hardware from this door in working condition… and I did. In, like, under two hours. To say I hit the jackpot would be a serious understatement.

As I was examining all the pieces and parts to try and get the new hardware installed it occurred to me that this little bit of figuring-it-out-as-I-go may be helpful for someone else out there, but, two caveats before you watch the video:

  1. The transitions between some of the shots are horrible, and I know it. Unlike with the last DIY video I didn’t call in the professional and awesome video guys that I work with for this, so I’m just working with my iPhone camera and some crappy editing software on my laptop. It’s not pretty and I’m not under the impression that it is. But, you get the point.
  2. I think this is my favorite quote in the video:  “I am not a locksmith. I am not even a person who installs door hardware frequently. I am just a girl with a bunch of tools and the desire to have a front door that isn’t nailed shut.”  And it’s true. This isn’t me trying to be an expert on installing door hardware, this is just me and my stubborn streak, trying to figure it out as I go.

So. Enjoy.

17 Responses

  1. Nicely done. Haven’t seen hardware like that since browsing a reclamation shop. The rest of what you need is out there – keep looking.

  2. When searching for the door knobs keep and eye out for the exterior decorative face plate that goes behind the cylinder and the exterior door knob. The ‘hole’ or gap around the the lock cylinder that you were showing us is covered up by the decorative face plate which was screwed on the surface of the door in 4 places, by the two screw holes on the face of the door above the handle and the two below the lock. The plate would have two holes (of course) one for the knob and one for the cylinder and would match the finish of the knob.

    1. The door looks like there was a decorative face plate on the interior also.

      Fingers crossed that you’ll find an awesome set of door knobs and interior & exterior face plates!

    2. Yep, could be I’ll have to make one, but since the old ring covered the gap in the lock hole I may keep it sans-plate when I refinish the door. The hardware will likely get finished an oil-rubbed bronze at the same time, but I’m really enjoying my channel-lock handle at the moment.

  3. I love how you do a project on a glass table. I did that once. Once is the key word as we no longer have a glass table.

    1. It never even occurred to me that that would be a problem. lol. I’ve had my hammer sitting on that table for like a week now. Perhaps I should put it back in the tool box…

    1. Ha. Thanks Sarah. I have no comment of substance in response to that, but it never seems to stop me.

  4. When you find the back plates and doorknobs they will probably be covered in 100 years of paint – Take an OLD saucepan and boil them and they will come mostly clean. Then they may or may not need a coat of that wonderful oil-rubbed bronze spray paint (one of my very most favorite things in the paint aisle). (BTW – I bought an old pan at Goodwill specifically for this so I wouldn’t walk in the kitchen to find doorknobs in my good pans anymore).

      1. I keep an old crockpot in the shop to clean paint off old hardware, but instead of water, I use vinegar. Really! Put the crockpot on low, eight hours later the paint peels right off, though a little scrubbing with a brass brush is necessary for the crevices.

  5. I enjoyed the video, particularly your explanation of your thinking process as you figured it out. I have used Bondo to partially fill in the hole under the side of the door thingy. I have also used it to repair a rotten window sill. After it dries and hardens it can be sanded and painted just like wood. Thank you for keeping us up to date on your progress. Oh, I wonder if a iPhone tripod wouldn’t stand you in good stead? MD

    1. Thanks Margaret!

      The iPhone tripod is a good idea, but I do have an actual flip cam that goes on my actual tripod and I still tend to just rig things up instead of hunt down the proper equipment. I can’t tell if it’s because I like a challenge or I’m just being a lazy-ass.

  6. So I realize that this is like 6 months too late, but I just found your blog today and I absolutely love it!!! I have a TON (and by a ton I mean like 10 bc I am an exaggerator) of mortise locks and knobs from the house I bought. They are all in working condition with the face plates and everything, I just installed different doors. If you need one/some please let me know and I could probably send them to you.

  7. My sister and I replaced a similar lock. To get it installed right we had to drill another hole to install the lock right side up. We installed a dead bolt in the other lock hole. A lock when installed upside down makes it easier to break into a place. I’m not saying that is going to happen, but it was something we didn’t want to have to worry about, and a dead bolt never hurts. And on the plus side we got to use an old crank drill since we didn’t have bit large enough to fit in the electric one to make the hole for the lock part to come out of. Not the one for one for the main hole, we used the electric one with a bit made to make holes for that one.

  8. You can buy all the antique hardware you need at VanDykes on the internet. Door hardware by the ton.

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