House and Home

Old House Hardware

There is something wonderful about old house hardware. Well, actually, there are usually many things wonderful about old house hardware. For instance, it is usually built to withstand long periods of (ab)use, constructed of robust materials, and generally easy to maintain and repair. Sometimes, though, the abuse is too much, and the hardware becomes unusable. Such was the case with the window latches from the large single-hung window in the parlor. When we were restoring this room, I had to remove the latches from the sill and sash so that we could strip the paint from the wood and refinish. At the same time, I figured I would strip the paint from the latches and put them back into service.

I tried many things to strip the paint from the latches, and kept coming up short. When I did finally get the paint removed, the bronze hardware was in pretty sorry shape. The springs cracked and fell out the first time I compressed them, and both pivot pins were quite loose. I realized that this hardware was probably not salvageable for regular use. Without latches, the sash wanted to ride up in its track about an inch above the fully closed position. In the mild weather, this was never a problem. As soon as the weather would chill, though, I would pull the sash chains down, take pins, and insert them into the chains near the sheaves. This prevented the weights from pulling the sash up, and effectively closed the window. Then, every spring, I would have to reverse the process so that we could use the window. It wasn’t a particular hardship, but it was a pain.

I went searching again for the right kind of sash lock for a single-hung window. These things are pretty hard to find. I could always find plenty of different double-hung sash locks and lifts. The old hardware was a combination latch and lift, and I was really hoping to find something that was at least similar. I was happy to find a combination lift and lock recently at a place called Historic Houseparts.¬†As it turns out, I had been searching for the wrong type of thing for a long time. This seems to be a problem I run into on occasion when working on our old house. I happened to be browsing this online catalog of old house hardware, and saw “single-hung window hardware.” I said to myself, “what the heck is a single-hung window?” So I go on to read that it is a window with a single moving sash. BINGO! This is what I was looking for this whole time, but I didn’t know it was that functionally different from a double-hung window as to have its own section of hardware!

In the catalog, I found what looked like a match for the combination latch and lift that we used to have on the front window, and I ordered a pair. When it arrived, it looked awesome–solidly built, with a good brass finish ready for the tarnish of years of use. I couldn’t install it right away, so it sat until today, when I finally had a chance to install it. I was worried that I would have to mark and drill for this new hardware, but was surprised to find that it was AN EXACT FIT. FOR OLD HARDWARE MADE IN THE 1930’S. I never would have guessed that! I was set for all sorts of tedious mounting work (I’m a little OCD about hardware installation), and here all I had to do was put in four period-appropriate slotted brass screws.

Photo Nov 18, 18 47 37The fit and function are perfect. Our front window is now fully functional again, in exactly the way it was designed to be. Well, at least in the way the 1920’s replacement was designed to be. See, another interesting bit of old house history on our old house: The front window and its stained glass transom are not original. They were installed sometime in the 1920’s or early 1930’s, along with some other work done on the house. The original front windows were double-hung and were symmetric with the windows on the second floor. The only trace of those windows is the rough fill-in plaster to the left and right of the current large window.

Jonathan does a lot of stuff. If you ask Jenny, maybe he does too much stuff.