Vintage Crystal Doorknobs

E & I wound up at our local salvage shop, George’s Alternative Uses Architectural Salvage, and George knew exactly what we were looking for and all the functional issues of returning the door to its original look. The doors are original to the house, and had 70 years of paint to prove it. I spent yesterday sanding through driplines of 6 colors (blue, olive green, apple green, mist green, pink, white), but mostly flattening out the roller texture of the last layer of white and adding bondo to rebuild corners and dings. A primer coat of Kilz and a coat of white enamel and I was out of paint. It still could use one more coat of enamel. This was the door to the bath picured in the previous post that was gross-out-yellow.

The glass handles came slathered in layers of paint, with the brass fittings painted and tarnished and stained. The door plates were also painted, and entirely blackened with age. I spent the last 4 hours getting the handles clean and shiney, then cleaning off the paint on the plates, buffing them back with scotch-brite pads, then 00 guage steel wool.

The goofy handycap accessible universal design doorhandles they replace have a 2″ bore straight through the door, the vintage handles only needed an inch at most. So that was a structural issue to fix, but that is where a shop full of tools comes in handy- the longest setback was driving back to Home Depot for matching aged brass screws.

E made rhubarb home-made syrup & rhubarb waffles for breakfast, and a gourmet lasagne for dinner- so it was a good Hobbit day for fiddling with old treasures.

There were two sets of doorknobs, the other set was fused together (maybe they cut the door apart to get the handles off?) and I let it sit with w-D40 overnight. No difference. So I took it out into the shop and started fiddling around. The trick is not shattering the glass or shredding the brass, but applying twisting force. I heated up a side and got a vice-grip plier on the center rod, then put a bolt in the tightening eye for the handle and used that for leverage. The bolt bent but I finally got a micro-turn. I removed the bolt and saw that any more force in that manner would balloon out the soft brass sidewall. I re-threaded the hole, and the set-screw had just enough left to grab on- so I hadn’t ruined it! The wrench had slipped and bit into the brass- dang. So I went for a small pipe wrench, and with some monkey-strength the knob slowly let go and spun off. I cleaned out the knob and it spun back on and off easily. The othe side was still fused in place, so I tried the same thing. No budge. So I tried some monkey-strength, and things started to spin, then the steel shaft sheared off inside the handle. The spin had been the steel shaft twisting. I killed it. That is a stubborn old handle that would rather just die than ever work again.

 

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