Repairing Old Glass door knobs/locks


Old 02-12-07, 10:53 AM
Tripod23's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2007
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Unhappy Repairing Old Glass door knobs/locks

So I have an old house with old glass door knobs (I love them) BUT the problem is that on some doors - you can turn the knob on the outside, open the door & get into a room, but if you close the door and then try to get back out, the door knob on the inside just turns and does not open the door (it will turn until it falls off, but the door won't open) How do I repair the old door knob/lock? (I just want to get in and out of my rooms without trapping myself!!!) Help?
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Old 02-12-07, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 1,210
Mechanically, the doorknob acts like a nut threaded onto the (square) bolt, which turns the latch, and has an identical knob threaded onto the other side. If the knob comes off, you can still turn the bolt to get out.

Now, this system failed over time, and both manufactures and homeowners tried some modifications to make it work. The knobs have always included a (slot-head) setscrew which you could tighten to keep the knob from turning off or overtightening. These fell out and got lost. Look around the base of the knob for a shallow hole this setscrew would have threaded into. Sometimes the bolt was drilled by homeowner or manufacturer to better seat the setscrew, this constrains just how far you can thread the knob on, unfortunately. Sometimes a replacement screw was used, an inappropriate one of course. One knob may be soldered to the bolt. If the knobs overtightened, the threads inside the knobs may be stripped so that only the puny setscrew holds the knob on the bolt - of course that loosens after much use.

Usually I see a combination of these problems and rude fixes.

This system was finally abandoned because no ingenuity could make it function well for generations, like it should. I'm sorry to say that there's simply no elegant repair that'll keep the doors working as designed (turn knob to draw latch), not for long anyway. You could do something irreversable with epoxy, but then removing or repairing the latch will be impossible.

You love the old hardware, so let's consider keeping it while still having a door that reliably opens and shuts: First, we immobilize the latch in the drawn position so it can't ever lock you in. Link a photo (knob & bolt removed, looking inside), and I'll get some ideas. Anyway, I'm sure the latch can be immobilized by some invisible, reversible means. Second, we fix the knobs to the bolt. We can use some of the shoddy means, above, because the knob won't be turned and so won't tend to loosen. You've probably got an idea, having read this far. If not, fill me in about the state of the knobs and bolt, we'll figure something out. Third, install an elegant means of keeping the door shut, totally separate from the old hardware. I suggest a brass bullet/roller catch, mortised into the door, with brass strike plate in the jamb. That'll smoothly catch the door shut, when closed, and resist just enough when you pull/push the door open.

Product examples here:

I'd suggest a large one, as you can always adjust for less tension.
Old 02-12-07, 07:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 34
when the knob comes off or turns off the spindle it is usually because of one or two common reasons.

1) the set screw has come loose; or
2) the threads on the spindle or the throat of the knob have worn smooth, if the knob will just slide onto the spindle without resistance this is what has happened.

Take the knob and spindle out of the door and take a look at both. Replacement knobs and spindles are both readily available. Usually they are packaged as a set of 2 knobs with spindle. If going this route look at the knobs, the better ones will have two set screws to hold them onto the spindle and this makes the chance of them stripping off less likely to happen.
Old 02-12-07, 07:23 PM
WGW is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Ontario
Posts: 313
Welcome to the DIY forums Tripod23

Before destroying what may be salvagable knobs, I'd suggest having a look at the threads on both knobs and spindles.
Many times, I've saved old hardware by simply retapping the knob retaining screw hole(the one that holds it to the spindle) to a slightly larger size and fit with an appropriate screw size.

Filing a slot into the spindle where the new screw will seat will give a little more holding power as the screw will be seated below the flat surface of the spindle, as well, coat the threads with Loc-tight before assembling so they won't loosen off as easily.

This should get you a few more years of use from those beautiful old glass knobs!

Let us know how you made out.

Old 02-12-07, 11:48 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 1,210
"Replacement knobs and spindles are both readily available."

@im3rd001: Great news. I'd always thought rummaging the local antique shop my only option. Share a link so I know where to get them?
Old 02-13-07, 07:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 34
Sets are available at.......

or if you are trying to match an existing.........

Of course, rummaging is always fun too, but I always seem to come home with more than I went looking for! In our town we have a salvage company that tears down a lot of the old houses and buildings and keeps ANYTHING they may be able to sell. Great source for hard to find items.
Old 02-13-07, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 1,210
Cool, thanks. The Van Dyke's knob sports machined brass, not pressed. This is how the originals should always have been made.
Old 01-25-14, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: USA
Posts: 1
I am inexperienced and new at this, but I repaired my 1940s home's pantry vintage glass door knob set that would not turn simply by removing the previous male owner's amateur sloppy door paint job off the entire set, cleaning/polishing the hardware, unscrewing it, and then only screwing back in position to where it would turn with the safety latch on the interior side, and then tightening the knob's screw at that position. The knob is a little wobbly, but it works fine again. I assume this is due to the spindle being stripped and worn from use at the original spindle position.

Can the spindle be saw shortened to accommodate the unstripped spindle position so I can then tighten it? I know I can always purchase another spindle, but I prefer salvaging the original spindle if possible. Thanks.
Old 01-25-14, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 1,196
A couple of photos would be helpful here. The problem is that several spindle designs were used with glass knobs over the years, but I think you can do what you're asking if you have the simplest basic spindle design, ie., one piece, threaded both ends, same cross-sectional dimension for it's entire length, each knob with it's own set screw.

The assumption then, is that you have already tried to screw either knob onto the spindle further than than you found it, but were unable to, due to "bottoming out" in the knob.

So yes, in this circumstance, cutting 1/2" or so off one end would then allow that end to be screwed on the knob further, placing it's set screw in a new position. Likewise, the opposite knobs' set screw will now be in a new position, as well. It will also place a new unworn section into the locks' hub, possibly giving a more snug fit there too.

But again, this is just a "stab in the dark" without pics.

If, after testing the mod. & it works well, I'd remove the set screws & apply a drop or two of thread locker, then reassemble & tighten securely.
Old 01-25-14, 06:59 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 4,946
You have to be careful whenever you cut something that is threaded. You will always bugger up the thread so you can't screw something back on. You will have to repair the the threads after the cut. Normally, you would screw on a nut, make the cut, and remove the nut. That will put the threads back into place. I don't know if you will be able to do that with a spindle. The other way would be to use a die.
Old 01-26-14, 10:16 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 1,196
Good point. Use a file (fine, mill cut if avail.) to de-burr or dress the cut.
Old 01-28-14, 02:53 PM
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 940
or just replace the spindle.
I have in the recent past, simply wrapped electrical tape around the worn spindle before screwing the handle back on and then replacing the grub screw with a new screw with a pointed tip.

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