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In my 100+ year old house, every interior door is made of solid wood. Their locksets have glass knobs connected by a square threaded rod which actuates the latch.

I have found replacement parts at hardware stores, however they have lasted only a couple of months.

Is there a way to install a modern knob in one of these doors?

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The problem is the current knobs fall apart and quit working after only a couple months of use. –  STEJ Oct 15 '13 at 22:12
    
What fails the new knobs or the new shafts? –  mikes Oct 15 '13 at 23:49
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You can bore the door to fit modern locksets, but there will likely be extra holes and change in finish left from the original lockset. These can be plugged and finishes matched to disguise the change, but it's exacting work that will not totally hide the scars, unless the doors are painted, in which case you will never know something else was there. –  bcworkz Oct 16 '13 at 2:35
    
I'd put the old ones back on but I don't have a time machine. The new shafts fail. –  STEJ Oct 16 '13 at 10:52
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@STEJ A photo of a failed shaft will help us understand how they are failing. It could be that the set screws are not getting tightened in the proper location, or that there's too much torque from your latch mechanism getting jammed and it needs repair. –  BMitch Oct 16 '13 at 11:15
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3 Answers

You can easily install modern locks into an old door, but that would be an awful thing to do, in my opinion. It would really not look appropriate in an old house. Check eBay, craigslist and local flea markets - you can easily find old mortise lock parts(often in big lots) Sometimes it might even be new old stock. Those parts would be of much higher quality than the crap they sell nowadays.

I'm actually in process of doing pretty much the same thing in my old house. At some point one of the previous owners installed hollow core 6 panel doors throughout(not only they don't even deserve to be called doors IMO, but also they absolutely don't match the house style) I sourced some reclaimed solid 1 3/4 doors and have been installing them instead. So far I've had good luck finding appropriate vintage mortise lock sets on eBay.

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"House of Antique Hardware" (houseofantiquehardware.com) sells knobs in several quality grades. –  Bryce Nov 25 '13 at 1:53
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To answer your question, yes you can install modern knobs. DeWalt sells a kit that I have used with great success, and it is really simple (albeit messy).

http://www.dewalt.com/tools/drilling-accessories-bi-metal-hole-saws-hole-saw-sets-d180004.aspx

Knob Drill Set

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Three options:

  1. Buy vintage glass knobs and shafts. These are widely traded on eBay as of this writing at about $40/pair. If it survived 50 years in a different house, chances are it was well made.
  2. Buy better quality reproduction glass knobs. The item you pictured is looks like plated brass. Get the solid brass stuff for more money.
    "House of Antique Hardware" (http://www.houseofantiquehardware.com/) can get you set up just fine. The cheap stuff is about $35, the good stuff more like $45 a pair.
  3. Get reproduction or vintage cast iron or steel knobs. These won't break, even with a hammer.

If you get glass knobs DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN THE SHAFT. It will contact the back of the glass knob and break it. Mark the depth of the shaft before threading! Tighten your set screws properly. Tighten set screws so they hit the flat, not the angles, of each shaft. If the turning pressure is too high take the lock apart and find the problem (lubrication is optional, but chances are a spring is jammed in the works or something is bent). These locks are simple to take apart.

The extra effort to use vintage is worth it: the house likely won't look right with modern knobs. See also Fixing vintage glass doorknobs with loose glass to brass connection

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