Thread Number: 78501  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
1963 modernist House--Any experts on Mortise door Lock Entry / Entrance ?
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Post# 1025120   2/19/2019 at 18:18 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Hi All,
Recently, I purchased a fantastic early 60s custom home. If you're super astute, or a fan of vintage design magazines, you may recognise the door details from a feature in 1963 House Beautiful--the place is a design by Loch Crane (famed San Diego architect and Frank Lloyd Wright pupil).

I Am slowly going through the place taking notes on all the projects I need to complete. My front entry door (which is actually in the garage/carport) has a Baldwin-style mortise lockset. I'm not sure who made it (Could be Yale or Sargent?).

Because the door is basically functional and because you can have problems if you remove this stuff the wrong way, I do NOT want to remove the mortise assembly yet.

I know that doing so is vital to verify size/mfg., but the lockset has NOT got a knob on the exterior side. So, I'm not even sure if it's a 2-1/2" or 2-3/4" setback. What I would like to know, before I do any removals, is what I might need to determine in order to just fit a front knob (or thumblatch type?). My preference is to do that vs. replacing everything with brand new lockset and knobs.

As of now, I can open/close it with no issues (from inside the house), and always leave it "off the latch" using the push buttons when I go outside--leaving a cardboard wedge to keep door from blowing open when I'm outside. Obviously, I'd really like to be able to fit a proper exterior doorknob, and for now anyway, would prefer not to replace the whole assembly unless I absolutely have to. The exterior face or the door is covered in decorative panels (See pic--I have all the missing ones in a box). Because I want to retain the original panels, there is precious little room to fit certain styles of knobs and/or trim plates, etc. I *could* do so and just leave one panel out, but it's gonna look odd that way...

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Post# 1025122 , Reply# 1   2/19/2019 at 18:23 by Maytagbear (N.E. Ohio)        
Could you

Allen, post a photo of the key? It could be a Sargeant(sp), Master, can sometimes tell from the head (finger end) 0f the key.


Post# 1025123 , Reply# 2   2/19/2019 at 18:28 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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No keys. Isn't that great?!?!?

Post# 1025124 , Reply# 3   2/19/2019 at 18:33 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        
Deadbolt lock

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on the front door has no key. I can easily replace that small lock and actually lock up properly when I leave, for a change....but I still am just most curious as to what type of exterior knob I can put on's very hard to see the internals on the closeup pic of where a knob USED to be...I don't know the proper terminology for all this stuff, but I'm thinking there is a special threaded spline type thing on that side which is either broken, missing?

Post# 1025135 , Reply# 4   2/19/2019 at 19:50 by Maytagbear (N.E. Ohio)        

you need a highly reputable, bonded locksmith.


Post# 1025136 , Reply# 5   2/19/2019 at 20:03 by wayupnorth (On a lake between Bangor and Bar Harbor)        

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That lockset with those 2 pushbuttons lock from the outside only but you can open from the inside. We had one of those on our front door as a kid but no deadbolt and more bother to go to the back door until someone opened the door. I'd replace the whole thing and get a safer locking system. Who knows how many people have keys?

Post# 1025140 , Reply# 6   2/19/2019 at 20:28 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Thx for reply. The aluminum tone lock cylinder that you can see in one photo--those are simple to replace--they thread into the mortise lock itself. I'm not worried about that too much. If I elect to remove the mortise from inside the door, I would just replace that lock anyway. What I DO want to figure out is if I can simply add a doorknob of my choice or if it has to be a special type in order to fit this existing internal mortise box within the door. Yeah...agree on those pushbuttons. If you're not thinking about it, it is far too easy to lock yourself outta the house!

Post# 1025141 , Reply# 7   2/19/2019 at 20:32 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Thx for reply. The aluminum tone lock cylinder that you can see in one photo--those are simple to replace--they thread into the mortise lock itself. I'm not worried about that too much. If I elect to remove the mortise from inside the door, I would just replace that lock anyway. What I DO want to figure out is if I can simply add a doorknob of my choice or if it has to be a special type in order to fit this existing internal mortise box within the door. Yeah...agree on those pushbuttons. If you're not thinking about it, it is far too easy to lock yourself outta the house!

Post# 1025148 , Reply# 8   2/19/2019 at 21:38 by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

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I am in agreement with (the other) Lawrence - look for a reputable locksmith.  Back in the 'old days' I'd say check the yellow pages, but now do some online searching and try looking for a firm that handles architectural hardware.



Post# 1025152 , Reply# 9   2/19/2019 at 22:08 by RP2813 (Too many people know the way)        

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I'm amazed that those old school mortise locks were still being produced in 1963!  I grew up in a 1927 house that had them (Russwin IIRC) on the front door and the door between the service porch and the kitchen.  As a result, it's automatic for me to check the buttons upon exiting the house we bought last year, which has a Schlage mortise lock on the front door. 


I can't offer any advice, since on the exterior of our front door there's an ornate handle with thumb activated latch mechanism.  Based on the photos, your door just used a knob on the exterior.  It must have been a one-piece assembly so nobody could remove the knob from the outside, but there's no trace of an escutcheon so it's an unusual arrangement.


Start googling images!



Post# 1025161 , Reply# 10   2/20/2019 at 00:37 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Those mortise locks are still produced and sold today, even. They've always been popular (though way less common to find in shops) for my door, I can see that there once was a knob on it, but the searching I've done in the past couple weeks turns up results that I won't be able to verify until I pull my existing mortise assembly out--and I hate to do that just yet as I'll be screwed should I throw something outta whack in the removal process.

I'm pretty positive I can just put on a different knob, but it may involve some process requiring total disassembly and removing the internal knob to do it.

Hoping someone up here might have enough familiarity with this stuff to say "yeah, can be done but you need this bit and that to do it". I'm not totally averse to just replacing all of it with new/similar stuff...but would really like to keep what I have as it does actually work (minus the exterior issue). Out here in the rural sticks this stuff is thin on the ground (and so are the people who know it). A shopping spree on fleabay would probably sort me out quick enough should it come down to that...

Post# 1025182 , Reply# 11   2/20/2019 at 07:30 by neptunebob (Pittsburgh, PA)        
Could be hope yet..

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At the retirement facility where I now work, which was built in 1985, all of the doors are kind of like that, with a handle and a keyhole and nothing else on the outside.  I will get a picture next time I work.  It might be a Schlage, but I am not sure and I will tell later.  The door would be a steel one, and it would have 2 about 1.25 inch holes in it and the cavity for the mechanism.

Post# 1025203 , Reply# 12   2/20/2019 at 15:22 by sfh074 ( )        
Home Depot .....

here in Atlanta stock all the bits and pieces associated with old school mortise locks. I was surprised to see it in the store a couple months back while looking for sliding glass door hardware. Found in the same area of the store.

Keep the locks original if you can! Keep the character and charm.

Post# 1025211 , Reply# 13   2/20/2019 at 16:54 by RP2813 (Too many people know the way)        

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I'll bet Urban Ore in Berkeley has something that will work.  Too bad they're 000s of miles away.


Allen, I've never known mortise locks to spew parts when they're extracted.  Is there a particular concern about components I'm not aware of?

Post# 1025214 , Reply# 14   2/20/2019 at 17:25 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        
Ralph~spewing parts...

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HAHAHAH! Love that visual your reply gives me. I don't know for certain that anything would happen, I just have an ancient memory of my father working on one and him telling me that if you don't remove certain set screws at just the right time or in just the right way, that hassles would ensue. Though I realise I could just extract the bloody assembly and replace it with new, I'm just not going that route until I have a replacement assembly right here at hand. I moved to a very small town (less than 1300 people here), so as long as the door opens and closes just fine, I'm not attempting any "fixes" which could potentially leave me with a door that won't stay shut.

However--I have time to kill at night around here, so curiosity may get the best of me and find me pulling that assembly out just so I can at least verify make and measurements...

Post# 1025300 , Reply# 15   2/21/2019 at 19:33 by zenithtv (Chicago, Illinois)        

Those types of locksets typically used a two-piece shaft for the doorknobs, split in the middle so the inside knob could turn while the latch was locked. Sometimes one side of the shaft was larger than the other to help keep it in position in the lockset. The missing piece looks to have been a knob or handle, not a thumb latch. It is strange there is no sign of any kind of escutcheon around it.

The mortise cylinder looks to be a newer replacement. You can find older quality cylinders from Lockwood, Segal, Russwin, Sargent, Yale, etc. on ebay for prices similar to what you would pay for a new low quality Chinese cylinder at a home center. You will want to check how long the existing cylinder is, they are made in different lengths.

I have two doors on my house with that type of lockset. On both I disabled the buttons to lock the latch by removing an internal part so I wouldn't get locked out. I use just the deadbolt to lock the doors. I have several extra doorknobs and can post some photos of the shafts to give an idea of what to look for. A typical doorknob from an inside door on a single-piece shaft likely won't work.

Post# 1025878 , Reply# 16   2/27/2019 at 22:08 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Thanks for the reply, and pardon my lapse in acknowledging it. I took the mortise assembly out today. It is "E-Z Mortise" (made of Iron). It looks like 1930s or 40s manufacture to me (and in fact, a very old looking one identical to mine sold on ebay in Dec. for $220-odd)

I immediately saw what I *think* I need to do, but not completely sure. I've attached photos here. That shaft is threaded on one end for the interior doorknob, but not the exterior. I believe I could replace it with one which is threaded on both sides (and obviously longer than the one in pics in order for it to stick out far enough beyond the exterior door's face/surface to thread on a proper knob.

Also, I discovered pretty quickly that my lock has missing set screws which go through the brass plate.

Anyway...Miracle of miracles...I found an old "mom and pop" style hardware store out here in the rural woods and they have ACRES of locks and mortise related stuff I can pick through and maybe get what I need without spending endless time online hunting.

Would still like to know your thoughts--and feel free to send me pics of anything you have that you think might work.

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Post# 1025879 , Reply# 17   2/27/2019 at 22:11 by funktionalart (Rison, AR)        

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Seems to be who made E-Z Mortise...

Post# 1025883 , Reply# 18   2/28/2019 at 00:32 by RP2813 (Too many people know the way)        

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Allen, that is the strangest looking threaded shaft!  You shouldn't have much trouble finding one that's longer with threads at both ends.


One thing to consider is not only the length of the threaded section but also the depth of the knobs you want to use.  When we moved into our place last year, I switched around some of the interior door knobs (most are reproductions) and found that one vintage knob I wanted to use on a particular door couldn't screw on all the way.  Rather than start disassembling, I just used a different knob.  Bring your lock assembly with you and make sure the outside knob you choose will screw on as far as you need it to.

Post# 1026262 , Reply# 19   3/4/2019 at 22:58 by Northwesty (Renton, WA)        

have taken out and put in many of these mortise locks, as you mention they still make them. In some ways they are simpler than modern ones. I do agree that that shaft is really strange.

At the salvage yards here there are 100s of knobs and shafts and locks, though there are odd ball makes that there might be only one or two of. Looking at yours I am guessing that the new one with the threaded shaft will work but you are stuck with the glass handle it comes with. Brian

Post# 1028054 , Reply# 20   3/26/2019 at 18:47 by zenithtv (Chicago, Illinois)        

I apologize for not responding sooner, I lost track of this discussion. The shaft you have currently appears to be designed for an installation that only had a doorknob on one side. The shaft is split into two pieces that can be inserted from one side of the door, the tab on the end holds the shaft in the lockset. Since the latch on these locksets can typically be actuated with the key in the cylinder as well as the doorknob, it may be that there originally was no knob on the outside of the door, though that seems like a really easy way to get locked out.

I am including a few photos of different shafts from my "collection" of these. The first two show a shaft that is two different sizes, which is screwed together in the center. The third photo shows a standard size shaft that is also screwed together in the center. The fourth photo shows the inside of a lockset, showing why the two-piece shaft is used.

Also note when looking at knobs, sometimes the knobs are permanently attached to the shaft with a pin, this was typically used on commercial applications so the knob couldn't be stolen or removed to bypass the lock mechanism. The knob in the first two photos is attached like this.

I hope this offers a bit of help. Good luck with the project.

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