The Return of the Mortise Lock
Once upon a time the mortise lock was the standard lock of choice for both homes and businesses. After the invention of the bored cylindrical lock by Walter Schlage in the early 1900's, the mortise lock gradually began to fall out of favor with builders. Today, however, the mortise lock is making a grand comeback.
Once upon a time the mortise lock was the standard lock of choice for both homes and businesses. After the invention of the bored cylindrical lock by Walter Schlage in the early 1900's, the mortise lock gradually began to fall out of favor with builders. After all, the bored cylindrical lock was easier to install and provided adequate security against tampering and break-ins.
Today, however, the mortise lock is making a grand comeback. They first began reappearing in significant numbers upscale homes in the mid to late 1990's. They continued to gain popularity in the new millennium. In fact, it's not just upscale home builders who are installing them. Mortise locks are being installed on midsize suburban homes in substantial numbers today.
While bored cylindrical locks still outsell mortise locks, more modern builders are choosing mortise locks because they provide better security. They also add an extra measure of strength due to their design and build.
Mortise locks consist of four major components: the lock body, the lock trim, a strike plate or box keep, and the keyed cylinder. This type of lock gets its name because the lock body is installed inside of a "mortise" or cavity inside the door. The strike plate/box keep is embedded in the door jamb opposite the lock body. Since these components are recessed within the woodwork of the door and frame, they are much more difficult to tamper with than a bored cylindrical lock. The result is a locking mechanism that is difficult to pick and even harder to break with human force.
Mortise locks are also gaining more widespread popularity because of their aesthetics. They offer a unique look with a touch of nostalgia. They tend to be favored by builders and owners with a taste for fine quality and detail.
The major disadvantage of using mortise locks is that they are more complicated to install. While a do-it-yourself novice may be able to easily install a bored cylindrical lock, he may find frustration trying to install a mortise lock. This is because it takes a certain degree of woodworking knowledge to do so.
Installing a mortise lock requires precision measuring and cutting in addition to knowledge of basic nuts-and-bolts work. Mistakes in cutting, such as creating a cavity that is too deep, high or wide can lead to inadequate performance of the lock, or simply being unable to install it at all. Of course, mistakes in cutting are very hard to repair, and even the most professional repair job will still lead to a weakening of the structure of the door. It's usually recommended that mortise locks be installed professionally. The lock will be stronger and will last longer when installed correctly.
It was the complicated nature of the mortise lock that led Walter Schlage to invent the bored cylindrical lock. As Schlage's lock gained recognition and underwent design improvements, use of the mortise lock, particularly on new homes built after the 1940's, began to wane. Builders favored the ease of the bored cylindrical lock.
Companies like Schlage which manufacture both mortise and bored cylindrical locks have made more design improvements to both types over time. Thanks to modern technology, mortise locks are easier to install than they once were. This, along with their unbeatable strength has brought them full circle as viable components to home and business security.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jenny Schweyer is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest.
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