Every Time I restore a chest of drawers or cabinet that has locks, I take the locks out of the piece, clean them, and, if no key is present, I cut a new key that works the lock. After I cut the new key, I always think to myself "I should have taken pictures of how I did that!". So this time, I did.
The lock in question was a lock out of an English armoire I have been restoring. The piece was signed and dated October 11th, 1902, so I know that the lock is about one hundred years old. The type of lock is called a lever lock, which I will describe below. If you are interested in learning a bit about antique locks, take a look at this article on them:
One of the most important things to have when you are making keys for locks is a large stockpile of keys of various shapes and sizes. I collect old 19th and 20th century keys that can often be re-cut to work a lock. I also have several new keys which look old and are uncut, giving me the widest range of possible cuts to make in the key.
Below is a photo of the lever lock, with the key I chose to work with to the right. This is a reproduction Barrel key that I chose because the outer diameter of the key shaft fit the hole in the lock case and the blade was a little too long, giving me plenty to work with. A barrel key is one where the end of the shaft is bored out so that it can fit over a post in the lock.
Once it was determined that all of the cuts and key adjustments were working I oiled the parts and put the lock housing back in place, putting the lever under tension. I then tried the key which operated the lock successfully. This can be seen in the last two photos below.
In the time that this furniture was made, it was important to be able to lock a piece of furniture that housed your personal belongings. In the 18th century, houses did not often have locks, and it would be an important security measure to keep you chests and wardrobes locked up. In today's world, this is not a necessity, but I feel that it is an important part of the restoration of the piece I am working on. If it is possible to get a lock (or locks) working again I will make sure they operate well.
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