Recently we had a very interesting project that took some creative solutions. We do a lot of work with vintage hardware and antique mortise locks. We got a call from a new customer in Shaker Heights who was looking for some help. It was a beautiful classic Shaker Heights house built during the great depression. The interior knob would occasionally slip off. This is a common occurrence with these types of locks. Typically, the set screw holding the knob on backs out over time causing the knob to gradually loosen over time until one day it slips off. The set screw was not in the best condition. However, we do stock a lot of set screws and other replacement parts for these types of locks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a set screw to match this particular knob.

The plot thickened when I examined the threading inside the knob. It was worn out which caused the knob the slip. It wasn’t just the set-screw, the knob itself needed replaced. The mortise lock used a split spindle that was a little bit larger than the split spindle on a typical lock. We spent a lot of time looking to match the current spindle with a new knob. We eventually found one that matched the split spindle threading and looked almost identical.

During this process we also removed the cover from the lock and cleaned the internal parts with a lubricant. It probably has not been serviced since it was installed in the 30’s. The locking mechanism handles and outside thumb depress worked significantly better after being properly cleaned.

The mortise lock installed in the lock was an older style Yale lock. It was a Y2 key blank to be specific. This lock also required some lubrication and now works well.

One thing that we commonly find in this locks is that someone applied graphite as a lock lubricant. Graphite powder was commonly used to lubricate locks. A very small application of graphite can be beneficial. However, we typically see locks that are absolutely loaded with graphite. The problem with graphite is that it can gum up. When the lock gets moisture in in the graphite tends to lump together. Combined with years of dust, pollen, spider webs, car exhaust and other debris in the air it forms a sticky mess that really impacts the way a lock functions. What we typically do is completely flush out the lock with an appropriate lubricant. This washes away the graphite and other materials that have collected inside the lock.

People often as what lubricant we recommend. Not WD-40! Wd-40 is a water dispersant, it is not a lubricant. Something like PB blaster is actually a lubricant. Home Depot actually sells a small bottle of lock lubricant. We typically use a special lock lubricant called Houdini.

One interesting thing about these graphite clumps is where they form and how they impact the lock. Gravity pulls everything down. This is also true with graphite clumps. Additionally, without removing the lock from the door and opening it up., there are only so many places for the graphite powder to enter the lock. We typically see a lot of graphite sticking to the bottom of the lock where the toggle buttons are. These buttons change the lock from always locking when the door is closed (storeroom function) to not locking (passage function). Some customers completely ignore these buttons but some customers do like to use them. They’ll typically find that these buttons are very difficult to press and switch back and forth. Flushing the lock with lubricant and using a rag typically solves this issue completely.

At the end of the day the project was a success and the customer was very happy with the results. We truly enjoy servicing this vintage locks. It’s a fun challenge and people appreciate someone restoring a part of the home’s original aesthetic and charm. We look foreword to every call we get about vintage locks in Shaker Heights. If you have a mortise lock in the surrounding area feel free to reach out to use about how we can repair, restore, or even replace a lock if necessary.

Emtek is a high end brand of custom door hardware. They make custom deadbolts, knobs, and handle sets. By custom, I mean virtually custom. There are 20+ different finishes to choose from and you can mix and match back plates, knob styles, lever styles, and trim plates. Everything is assembled individually with an order. The products truly look amazing and high quality. However, there can be some issues.

I was recently discussing Emtek quality issues with another locksmith online. There seems to be some quality control issues. He showed me the back of a lock cylinder that was ground flat instead of being raised. Puzzling for a brand that strives to be a higher quality in a sea of poorly made products. This issue seems to be a one off machining issue, something I can understand but it is still troubling.

I recently had a lock challenge in Beachwood. Beachwood has a lot of Emtek hardware because it is a higher income area. The hardware does look beautiful on these homes and adds a lot to the entrance. The deadbolt suddenly stopped functioning. The bolt would only through half way with the inside thumb turn. Using a key to lock the outside was next to impossible. I disassembled the lock and everything looked fine. No visible issues. I re-installed the lock and adjusted it’s positioning and it worked fine. The hole for the deadbolt wasn’t additional, it was a factory prep by the door. It is possible that the factory prep of the deadbolt bore was off, but by eye it looked fine, and even if it was slightly off, that shouldn’t matter that much. All I could imagine is that the screws were not completely tightened and the deadbolt dropped to the bottom of the bore. The screws did seem tight enough though. The deadbolt now works and I hope it stays that way.

Emtek is in a unique position. It’s quality hardware at a premium price. Customers that buy it obviously are okay with paying a little extra to get the look and function they want. I think it would behoove Emtek to cater to that demographic and make sure their product is outstanding, every time. This issue I had in Beachwood doesn’t seem to be an outlier. I’ve had similar and other issues with Emtek door hardware. I find this odd because I almost find as many malfunctions with Emtek as I do with off the shelf brands. This could be for several reasons. 1) When cheaper hardware like Kwikset has an issue they just throw it out and replace it 2) Someone who is willing to call a professional locksmith is more likely to own Emtek. So the exact frequency of issues is hard to determine. I will say that I go to a number of homes for commercial property managers and see a lot of Kwikset and similar import locks that see to not have these issues.

I have not found these types of issues with commercial grade lever handle locks and deadbolts. It’s interesting that it is hard to get high quality products even when you are willing to pay a premium price. If you have any issues with Emtek locks please email me and let me know. I’m curious what issues others have encountered and how you got it fixed.

 

 

We have several mini blog sections now: the regular blog, Lab Notes, and now Field Notes

The purpose of Field Notes is to communicate we do on a daily basis, methods we use, products we use, and how we overcome challenges.

Many people do not fully understand the scope of Lock Alchemy as a company. We are a physical security infrastructure company. That means we physically install and service the full spectrum of a home or businesses security needs. We are one of the few companies that call do this.

For example: We can repair a door, install a new lock, install a restricted high security key, run cable for electronic access control, install an alarm system on said door, and aim a camera at the door. Everything integrated.