Broken door knob - repair or replace?

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Sekhmet
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:27 am
Location: St. Louis, MO

Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by Sekhmet »

A few of the knobs in my house fall off in your hand. The one on the front door is particularly problematic because it needs to stand up to heavier use, ie pulling the door soundly closed to be able to lock it. It looks a lot like this one (which is on another door in the house):

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We had a locksmith out right after we bought the house, to change the locks, and I asked him if he could fix the knob on the front door. He did not really look at it every closely; instead he just said that with old knobs they get to a point where they cannot be repaired, because they are stripped inside. Is this true?

Will I probably need to just replace the knob?

If I do need to replace it, I figure I will find another antique knob just like it - this style seems to be plentiful. I'll put the old one in a zip-loc bag, label it "front door," and stash it away in the basement for posterity.
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The Edward A. Ohlms House, c. 1908
Historic Old Town, St. Charles, Missouri

SkipW
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Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by SkipW »

I have repaired several old knob systems in our 1907 house. It just depends on how far you want to go, I suppose.

The worst case is that the threads on the shaft or knob are stripped as the locksmith said, but I have found the shafts available at just about any antique or consignment shop. Also, many times, it's just the area where the set screw lands is rounded out. It takes a bit of searching, and you may have to buy a whole set to get parts but they are generally reasonable.I have also re-drilled holes for set screws in shafts and made new set screws from modern ones. The knob does not have to be set on so tight it takes Superman to move it, just locked to the shaft to prevent spinning and/or sliding off.

As an absolute last resort, you can drill through the shaft and send a pin or screw all the way through to hold the knob.
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Texas_Ranger
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Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by Texas_Ranger »

Actually I prefer the pin version over the set screw - maybe a bit harder to get out, but usually lasts much longer. Here set screws first showed up in the 1950s and the originals are typically shot - trying to tighten the set screw strips the threads from the knob, meaning you'd have to redrill and tap for a larger set screw. Happens quickly with some cheap ones - we had a 1998 handle fall off a few years ago.
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Sekhmet
Posts: 272
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:27 am
Location: St. Louis, MO

Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by Sekhmet »

Thank you both, this is a huge help. Obviously the first thing I need to do is take it apart and see what I can figure out about its status, what might have been done to it before, etc.
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The Edward A. Ohlms House, c. 1908
Historic Old Town, St. Charles, Missouri

McCall
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Location: Cape Cod MA and Weirton WV

Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by McCall »

BEFORE you take it apart, check online for repairing old door knobs info. I found several good pictures when I searched for images, as well as some instructional stuff. and as you disassemble things take pictures so you can see how things went together.
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lisascenic
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Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by lisascenic »

I'm guessing that your locksmith isn't an old house lover.

Sombreuil_Mongrel
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Re: Broken door knob - repair or replace?

Post by Sombreuil_Mongrel »

If the knob threads onto the shaft and the setscrew is in a threaded hole in the knob, it's possible for it to be worn out. The wearing out usually happens after years of being loose.
If the setscrew tightens into a threaded hole in the spindle, it can usually be doctored. First, orient the spindle and knob so the setscrew is not facing down; this will save it from being lost, but it is a bit unsightly because you can see it if you look. With knobs in sound shape, it's nicer to orient the setscrews so they face down and are almost invisible.
If the knob screw is loose, you can apply a locktite product the secure the threads so it's basically fused in place. Superglue on the threads works also.
If the shaft has in/out play between the doorplates or escutcheons, it's possible to tighten this up outside the limits of the various patterns of optional shaft holes; you can buy doorknob washers that function as shims to optimize the fit of the shaft and knobs. Getting rid of the play is important on a knob that is used to forcefully pull shut an exterior door. I bet Killians has them, since they seem to have everything. :)
Casey
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