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Knob Won't Turn on Entry Door

My front door has a mortise lock on it that's probably 80 years old. About a week ago, I was unable to turn the inside door knob to open the door, nor push the lever on the exterior handle. The door locks and unlocks just fine. I took off both the handle and knob, but the spindle was stuck. I was able to use pliers to turn and remove the spindle (it's a split spindle), but still no luck on opening the door. The latch bolt seems stuck.

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed that a screw on the plate near the latch bolt was protruding. I think my door is shifting a bit. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with it, but there is enough clearance for the screw to pass through the entryway, so I don't think that's the problem.

A locksmith claims that he can remove it, but it'll cost over $100 just for him to remove it and near $400 bucks to replace it. Any suggestions?

Re: Knob Won't Turn on Entry Door

On the edge of the door there are two buttons. Pushed one way, it allows both knobs to open the door. Pushed the other way, it allows the inside knob to open the door, but not from the outside. The split shaft needs to be lined up correctly in the hole so that this function will work. At least that's how it's SUPPOSED to work!

There are two cams inside the lock body. Each half of the split shaft actuates one cam. Make sure that the split shaft is properly aligned so that the inside portion of the shaft engages ONLY the inner cam; and the outside portion engages ONLY the outer cam.

Providing that nothing is broken INSIDE the lock body, I suspect that you simply have a misaligned split shaft and the "lock" button on the side of the door got pressed. Once you get the door open, push the "unlock" button on the side of the door to allow the outside knob/lever to work.

There are a couple of other things you can try to get the door to open. Some of these locks allow you to insert the skeleton key and turn it past the "unlock" position to pull the latch bolt back. That should allow you to open the door. Another thing you can do is use a bent coat hanger to get between the door and jamb to press the button on the edge of the door.

Re: Knob Won't Turn on Entry Door

In addition to the excellent advice Fencepost has already provided: there may be two slot-head screws on the lock edge faceplate that correlate to the position of the lock cylinder (the thing the key goes into) which are the setscrews for holding the cylinder in place so it doesn't spin. To take the lockset out, these have to be loosened, which will allow the cylinder to be unscrewed (it has a threaded body which screws into the lockset). On newer Baldwin locks, these may be hidden under the outer faceplate.

The push-buttons that Fencepost refers to engage the outer shaft of the split spindle. If over time the split spindle has worn or has been taken out and put back wrong, the point at which the locking device engages the spindle may have moved, and it may be locking the whole spindle. Sometimes the flat springs inside will break in half, and the fragments can jam the mechanism. These locks usually last over 100 years, the one on my back door is 1884, and still working properly.
I really enjoy working on old hardware.

Re: Knob Won't Turn on Entry Door

Some commercial mortise locks have a screw which can be tightened to hold the plunger back so the door can be used latch-free with a spring or closer to shut it. You mentioned a loose screw so I presume you tightened that. If you did, try loosening it one turn and see what happens,

The older good mortise locks last darn near forever. Their only drawbacks are short plunger and bolt throw plus flat springs which sometimes break. You can't buy their equal today but enough money can get you some which are pretty good. IIRC Baldwin is now made in China like everything else, a sad state of affairs if it's true.


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