Buying antique style door hardware can lead to trapped fingers or a door knob that doesn’t work. But there are questions to ask which can prevent mistakes.
Door knob or door handle?
First thing to check is the measurement from the edge of your door to the center of the hole drilled for the lock. Check that it’s long enough not to trap fingers on turning a door knob. If the distance looks too short, get a lever door handle instead.
Old or new:
Do you need a matching set? There are few long runs of matching reclaimed doorknobs around today. If you have time to search, you might be lucky. Otherwise, it’s easier to buy new. Companies like Drummonds make indistinguishable copies of beautiful originals.
There is a mouthwatering variety of designs to choose from if you buy an antique knob. But you do need to get out there and search. And you need to check carefully that an antique will work well.
New door hardware is simpler to install and tends to work better.
This is a matter of personal preference. Ask yourself:
Do you want the style of the door knob to conform to the rest of the house
Do you want the style of the door knob to conform just to its door
Do you simply what to choose what you like, without regard for surrounding decor
Armed with your answer, look at what is available and select your favourite.
Brass, iron, wood and glass are the most common.
Brass is commonest of all. It has the big advantage of not rusting or rotting, it’s decorative when polished and acquires an attractive patina over time. It is also easy to plate for a silver or copper finish. Heavily polished knobs will tarnish to a wonderful patina as long as they are not lacquered.
Brass plate: Forget these. They are trouble.
Iron knobs need protecting except for pure black which is slow to rust. The most popular form of protection is to paint them, but oiling or waxing look more natural and wear to a nice patina over time.
Wood is also common. Ebony and fruitwoods are traditional but modern hardwoods are mainly used now, often stained to look like ebony. Cracks in these knobs are normally not serious and add to the character.
Ceramic or glass. These knobs usually have brass working parts. Look for hairline cracks. Small cracks are fine. Serious ones can be fatal.
Rimlock or a mortise lock? What are these? A mortise lock is set within the door thickness; a rimlock is a box planted on the door that catches in a box on the door frame.
This matters because a rimlock has different knobs on either side of the door, while a mortise lock doesn’t.
So you need to be sure that the knob you want is for your sort of lock. It may be possible to make it work anyway. Ask your supplier if it can be altered.
Check spindle size:
The spindle is a square metal bar which connects the door handles on either side of your door. If it’s too small for your lock, the knob will rattle and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Don’t buy this knob.
It doesn’t matter so much if a spindle is too big. You can file off some of the spindle, or open out the lock.
Problems with wear and tear:
Worn spindle: normally easy to replace
Worn sockets: rare but hard to fix
Grub screws/Set Screws: Are they all there and do they turn? Screws on old knobs may have peculiar threads so can be hard to replace. If you have to replace one, it is often easier to drill it out and re-thread it to a modern metric thread. At least you know it will work. And you know you can replace the screw if you lose it!
General wear and tear: some surface wear makes a old knob look as if it has been in place for years, so don’t write off an antique door knob only for being imperfect
So buy what you like. It should serve you well for years.