There’s nothing quite like a beautiful older home, and the Twin Cities area has more than its share of charming antique residences filled with stunning historic details. One of the most coveted details in older homes is found on its doors. Door hardware details, like glass doorknobs and skeleton keys, are details rarely found in modern homes.
If you’ve recently moved into an older home, you may find yourself wondering whether you should replace your home’s antique hardware with more modern locking mechanisms. Although today’s door hardware is built for security and durability more than for craftsmanship, most homeowners are surprised to learn how many options are available. In this post, our residential locksmith experts at Minneapolis Lock and Key talk about antique door hardware and help you decide if you should keep or replace yours.
Ancient Door Hardware
Door hardware in residential homes has changed dramatically over the centuries. Locking mechanisms were mentioned in the Old Testament and commonly used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. One of the earliest door hardware mechanisms was a pull handle with a surface rim lock used by the ancient Egyptians dating back two millennia B.C.E.
The early Egyptian locks, as well as the keys, were crafted from wood. They consisted of nearly foot-long wooden bolts meant to secure doors, and large keys with toothbrush-like pegs, which coordinated with a series of pins and holes in the locks. The bolts were secured by the wooden pins dropping into the holes on the locks.
The Evolution of the Pin Tumbler
For the ancient Egyptians, the complex locking hardware was a crucial tool for protecting valuables as well as sacred religious items. Locked from the outside only, they provided powerful protection and allowed their owners to leave without having to place a guard to protect their property. From these early locks evolved the pin tumbler concept that remains widely used even today.
The Romans, who were known for improving on ideas invented by others, would later use bronze to create their keys and iron for the locks. They also developed smaller keys that could be worn on a finger in some cases, improving them with the addition of wards and corresponding bits. When the key with the correct bits passed through, these projections would rotate, throwing the bolt and opening the lock, a sophisticated method still in use today.
Changes in Residential Door Hardware
For many centuries, door hardware technology remained relatively stable. Typically, most homes used some variant of latching device to open and close doors. One of the most common was a metal pull handle. Additionally, many homes employed a strap of some kind, often leather.
Although locks and keys were important for securing a residence, this type of hardware could be expensive and cost-prohibitive for many. However, door hardware could be quite opulent among wealthier residences, as the decadent door latches and handles at Versailles demonstrate. These ornate gilded handles and locks were ornamented in floral details common among the 17th century’s wealthier homes and often included cleverly hidden mortice locks.
Here are just a few examples of historic door handles:
● Wood beams were used throughout medieval Europe
● Greek and Roman used metal door hinges
● Strap hinges were bolted into stonework during the early Renaissance period
Technology and Production Shifts
As modes of production changed, so too did the types of door handles used in most residences. In 1878, the first modern doorknob was patented in the United States by Osbourn Dorsey, an African-American inventor. Until World War I, doorknobs were typically created using metals such as bronze, iron, or brass.
However, during the war, this metal was needed for the creation of airplanes and other wartime necessities. During this period, glass doorknobs came into fashion and were commonly featured in homes until the middle of the twentieth century when metal knobs came back into vogue. Their shapes and colors varied, but glass door hardware remains a valued treasure today.
Preserving Yesterday’s Treasures
When homeowners purchase an older home, antique hardware is still considered one of the most valued features of these charming residences. But preserving this hardware can present unique challenges. Often, these stunning details encounter operational difficulties after decades or even centuries of wear.
Here are a few problems homeowners may encounter when dealing with older hardware:
● Doors fail to line up
● Locks are too tight
● Locks are too loose
● Hinges are stripped
Working With Antique Door Hardware
If you’re having trouble with your beautiful old door hardware, it may be tempting to simply remove it and replace it with updated technology. But before you take drastic measures, it’s a good idea to talk with someone who has expertise working with antique door hardware. At Minneapolis Lock and Key, we’ve been working with Minnesota door hardware for more than a century. Our expert residential locksmiths understand what it takes to preserve your unique door features and make any needed repairs. We can also replace or repair antique keys.
Contact Our Minnesota Residential Locksmithing Services
If preserving your home’s unique antique features is at the top of your to-do list, our experts in residential locksmithing can help. Whether you’ve got an antique pin and tumbler lock or a mortise lock, we can work with you to protect your original hardware and preserve your home’s special charm.
We can also help you create a unique security plan that protects your home without compromising its iconic style. Give us a call at 612.823.8148, or contact us to discuss your home’s door hardware.