Many old houses throughout Sydney especially in the Inner West still retain their original locks. Often they only require minor repairs and new keys to be fully operational. Home renovators sometimes choose to replace old antique locks with cheap inferior locks to cut costs but in fact old antique locks generally outlast cheap replicas.
Antique lock restoration is becoming increasingly difficult especially when it comes to providing keys due to the discontinuation of key blanks or importation. Also a lack of knowledge and skill contributes to the difficulties of having these locks restored. These necessary skills come from years of experience of working with these locks.
Antique cabinet locks are usually small and delicate and often require special care when dismantling. Common problems are missing keys, broken springs, missing posts and the occasional broken bolt. Most of these problems can be resolved and is a better option than trying to replace the lock. Antique cabinet locks come in many different shapes and sizes, which makes it very difficult to find a replacement.
Antique rim locks are often found in old federation houses and are more a feature than the working lock for the door. These locks are generally large, rectangle in shape and are mounted on the back of the door. On the outside there is a keyhole and a handle to raise or retract the latch. Making keys to these old locks requires plenty of skill to ensure later down the track, the blade or flag does not break away from the pin of the key.
Current rim locks are smaller in size and are more rounded at the back than square. They are generally light in weight and sound tinny when tapped. It can be hard to distinguish if these locks are an original or a replica. If the key that operates the lock is made from a soft cast rather than steel, then it could be a replica.
Antique mortice locks are most commonly found on bedroom doors of old houses. While most of these locks can be replaced, it is sometimes better to have the original lock restored. Problems that may result from renewing the lock include; the new lock won’t align with the old strike therefore the old strike will need replacing which may not cover the cut out of the old strike. Sometimes the spindle hole is rotated 45 degrees making it a diamond shaped instead of square. If the knobs are oval in shaped, they will tilt 45 degrees if refitted with a new mortice lock. In some cases the keyhole of the new lock won’t realign with the old keyhole of the door.