Meet Your Mortise

In the world of home improvement, door updates are one of the most commonly tackled projects. In many cases, homeowners are able to replace an outdated door for a modern style, or to update the hardware and replace the knob and lock for uniformity. Swapping in a new door handle is something you can do with relative ease.

But what about updating a mortise lockset? Sometimes, people like older things (raises hand!), such as beaten down doors that they find at garage sales or salvage shops, and suddenly find themselves carrying the door home and hoping to restore and install it to bring a certain charm back to their older home. Putting an old door in place of a newer door is an exercise in patience and will bring about any number of challenges, one being that many old doors are fit for mortise locks and handle sets, not traditional systems.

A new mortise knob installed in an old door.

When I brought home an old, to-be-rehabbed glass paned door, I had to learn how to strip peeling paint and then install a new mortise lock to make the old door functional. While they might not be as readily available as they once were, mortise locksets and coordinating handles can be found in salvage shops, and even common hardware stores are likely to stock brand-new models. In my case, I found matching faceplates at a garage sale, a reproduction-style glass knob and a newly manufactured mortise at The Home Depot, and was able to go about assembling the lock system myself in less than an hour.

Buying new door knobs for a salvaged door.

The lock system itself should fit right into your new-old door, if it had ever been fit to hold a mortise. You’ll be able to confirm that it’s placed in the right position if you can fit the key through the faceplate and into the lockset smoothly.

The knob attaches to the door on a spindle, a piece which connects the outer and inner knobs and operates the inner workings of the mortise lock.

How to attach a glass doorknob to a mortise spindle.

The inner knob is anchored in place by a screw so that the knob isn’t inclined to loosen with constant use.

Tightening a glass doorknob onto a mortise spindle.

The finished result is worthwhile. Having a new mortise and handle set system in place adds a lot of character to a home!

Installing a new mortise lockset to your home.

It doesn’t end at mortise. Learn all about other door hardware in the photo gallery below.

2 Responses

  1. Ben Meyers says:

    One should take special care while installing the gate for a garage, to ensure the safety of the expensive vehicles.

  2. Bridget says:

    What did you use to change the finish on the base of the handle from brass to match the other hardware on the door?

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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