Monday, November 28, 2005

A Diamond In The Rough

I decided the $425 Pocket Door Locksets were just not in the budget at the moment. Not a real surprise to many of you, I’m sure. Frankly, even if I had the money, that seems a bit steep. With a little effort and a lot of time I’m sure I could get a nice set on Ebay for half that. Not only that, but this Friday I have to go to the stupid County Building and pay my stupid property taxes, so I really don’t have the money. I think they should start holding elections the day after property taxes are due. I have a feeling a lot fewer bond measures would pass.

So the $425 set is out. I started last week looking on Ebay and nothing grabbed my attention right off the bat, so last Saturday I made the rounds of the local shops to see what was in store. I did not have high hopes and that proved to be wise. In the 3+ years I was looking for the actual doors I only saw 3 sets of doors so there wasn’t any real hope of finding locks for them.

There are really only 4 shops in town that would carry something like this. My favorite place, Empire Furniture, where I got the doors, doesn’t deal in small hardware items so I didn’t even bother going there. I first went to my friends Chuck & Wendy’s store. There stuff is always very nice and always out of my budget, but they have given me a discount the rare times I have bought from them so what the hell. They had one set but it was from about 1910 or so and was not really suitable for my house. I need Eastlake or Aesthetics design.

The next 2 places I went had squat. The guy at the second shop even told me the locksets are hard to find in this area. It seems odd because there are so many Victorian homes in this area. Victorian homes had pocket doors. This means that either the homes all still have their pocket doors or the stories I hear of big fires of ginger bread and Victorian trim during the 50’s when many homes were Eisenhowered are true. They just torched it all and slapped on asbestos siding.

The third shop I went in to, which I forget the name because I rarely go in there, I asked the owner if he had any pocket door hardware and he asks, “Is this for new doors”. Uh, hello! I’m in an antique store! He said he didn’t have anything and suggested I go to San Francisco. That’s only an 8 hour drive one way. It’s funny how none of them suggest Ebay. I can’t imagine why.

The last place I went to is a place I call “The Junk Store”. Again, I forget the name of it, but I actually go in there fairly often. I’ve mentioned this place before. It is one big junk pile. Literally, without exaggeration, a third of the store belongs in the dump. There is a large section of the store that is completely inaccessible because the junk is just piled up. I’m surprised the fire marshal doesn’t shut him down.

In the back there is a row of all kinds of tools and machinery parts and some household hardware. There was a wooden box about 1X2 feet and about a foot and a half deep. It was filled with old mortise locks in various states of disintegration. From what I could see on top they are all for standard doors but I figured, what the hell, I’ll dig through it anyway.

About half way down I found two unmatched of pocket door locks. One was small and had a broken face plate, and the other was absolutely caked in paint. I continued to dig. I had locks all over the floor and on adjacent shelves. Towards the bottom I found what appeared to be the mate to the one caked in paint. It was the same size and also caked in the same amount of paint. I could see no detail to them so there was no telling what era they were. I thought about them for a few minutes and then decided not to buy them. I threw them back on top of the pile and walked out.

Today at work I started to think about them some more. I figured I could get them real cheap. I decided I would go in and offer him $10 – take it or leave it. I was not in the mood to haggle over something that I may not be able to use, may not work, and may not even be a matching set. I went by there after work and they were still sitting right where I left them. They were worse than I remembered. Five dollars was now my top price.

I took them up to the counter and told the owner I’d give him $5 for the set. I could tell he was trying to think of a positive spin to put on them to see if he could get a few extra bucks but it was a waste of time. Both of us knew it. He talked about how I could take them apart and clean them up and I just kept saying, “Five dollars”. That’s what I got them for.

The pictures below speak for themselves. They turned out to be late 19th century, Eastlake, nested pocket door locks. It took 2 and a half hours to strip the paint off, clean and oil the guts, and put them back together. They look very cool and they are a great match for the house. The bail handles pop out when you punch the little buttons on the front. I don’t have a key for them but that’s minor. I would have to say this was the best $5.00 I’ve spent in a long time. I need to polish up the brass a little and after that they should really look good.


Joan said...

Wow, you rock!

Patricia W said...


The lockset is beautiful! I knew you could do better than the outrageous 425.00! I had found that same set some time ago and frankly it pissed me off that they are asking so much money for it. I know, they are in good condition and the whole set was there but honestly, $425 is awful. Look at what you saved!!!!! Great going!

Nick said...

Wow, Greg! You should go back and buy the rest of the store for $5, then sell it all on Ebay!

Jenne said...

how did you know what would be under all that paint?

ps - did you make your own butcher block countertops? Rob and I want to do that..but cannot find any directions online...all the DIY sites say, "go buy the butcherblock at the home improvement store"..then go on and on about how to install it. I wanna make it!