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An Eye On Design:

February 27, 2014

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Hidden Treasures: the Victorian Mortise Lock Set

November 4, 2013

What I love most about working with older furnishings is uncovering their hidden secrets.

Like an archaeologist in search of the forgotten treasures of the past, I lovingly and gingerly unveil what lies beneath, (in this case layers and layers of decades old paint), to discover what was long ago forgotten.


I would have never imagined what 25bucks on craigslist would get me; yet as pleasantly surprised as I was to come across that posting for an old solid wood cabin door, I've been even further intrigued by what I have uncovered in my mission to restore and refurbish the piece.


Let me start by saying I love well-crafted old things! I love their history, their artistry, the love someone from long ago put into them. It's like watching a love story play out before your eyes, you can see the care and passion put into them; they have life, heart, and character... they inspire.



In the midst of refurbishing this antique door that dates back to sometime between the late 1800s to the early 1900s, I removed its hardware to give them some much needed care and attention (pictured to the right).


At some point in time someone decided it was easier to paint over the hardware, than to simply unscrew and remove it before they repainted the door. This is actually a common problem I've seen all to often, yet it's still difficult for me to understand the motives behind not doing something so simple. This goes for painting anything with hardware and faceplates... something that goes without saying in my opinion, yet I feel it needs to be said "For the love of god, REMOVE HAREWARE AND FACEPLATES before painting walls, doors, cabinets, and other furniture items!" Not only does it save time and money, it upholds the integrity of a piece and looks a million times better, and it's also just simply the right way to do things.


But I digress...


With a few simple tools I uncovered what I was soon to find out was Y&T hardware that dates back to the late Victorian era. Sadly the lock itself was pretty rusted, so the buttons on the side couldn't be pushed in, and a piece of it broke off as I removed it from the door (as you can see in the picture above). However everything else, all things considered, were in great condition and just in need of a bit of TLC.


To clean the hardware I used:

  • paint stripper

  • a paint brush

  • scrapper

  • non-scratch sponge

  • terry cloth towels

  • an aluminum tin

  • a pair of rubber gloves

  • and soap and water

It took about a day to fully clean all the hardware, yet I was quite happy with the end result. Without the layers of paint on the faceplate, intricately designed details emerged from beneath that resembled open clam shells and waves at the top and bottom of the plate. Also uncovered were beads bordering the sides of the plate, traveling up and down the sides perhaps to resemble pearls. I was able to get the beauty of these antique pieces to once again shine through, despite the neglect they had seen over the years.


Victorian Hardware


Finding a new mortise lock.

When I first took the lock out of the door I didn't know what type of lock it was or what I had found. After some research and a few informative conversations with antique dealers and hardware experts I learned that my lock set (including the handles and plates) were manufactured by the famed Yale and Towne Company, which was one of the largest Victorian era hardware manufacturers of its time. This type of hardware is identified by a logo of a clover with "Y&T" imprinted inside of it. Yale and Towne was founded in 1868 in Connecticut and is responsible for making some exquisite pieces during a time when artistic sensibility was on the rise.

Mortise Hardware Defined 

A mortise lock is inset, otherwise known as "mortised" (hence the name), into a door stile and only the faceplate is visible on the edge of the door. Some of these plates can be quite intricate with elegantly designed details and are primarily casted in bronze (the metal of choice during this era). Also a bit key mortise lock has a striker that holds the door when you close it and a deadbolt that is locked with a skeleton key. Which is the type of mortise lock I discovered in my door. However, the lock original to my door and the lock that I replaced it with aren't lucky enough to have one of these designs, though are still quite impressive. I learned that my double key mortise is a lot more rare and not as easy to find as the single key mortise locks. Even though the original lock can't be used (for the safety of my art studio) I fully intend to keep it as a reminder of what I discovered on my journey to refurbishing this door.


Liz's Antique Hardware

Pulling open the door to this beautiful antique hardware shop, I immediately fell in love with everything about it. The smell, the beauty, the history it held in its walls, the friendly and knowledgeable dealers behind the counter. The walls were lined with doorknob faceplates, keyhole plates, knobs of all shapes and sizes, door pulls, and the like. Old wooden cabinets displaying centuries of craftsmanship and artistry; and shelves were lined with beautiful treasures and fantastically crafted pieces of hardware.


Antique light fixtures and chandeliers hung from the ceiling boasting unique and whimsical designs from a time long ago. Everything about this shop speaks to me. You can almost hear each piece calling out to you, eager to tell you its story and history. It's like walking into a treasure chest. This is where I found both my replacement double key mortise lock and the silver keyhole plate (pictured at the bottom of this post). The new skeleton keys, however, I had made at an antique hardware locksmith called Carlos Castañeda Antique & Locksmith on La Brea across from Liz's Antiques.

Everything worthwhile takes love and great care, and I carry that fact into everything I do. Stay tuned for the last installment of "Stopping the Mocking: The Studio Door Project".


Happy Sunday!



For more information of these types of hardware here's a link to an interesting article about Victorian hardware:



For more information on Liz's Antique Hardware go here: http://www.lahardware.com/

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